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The days of just buying shoes at brick-and-mortar stores are over. For the past decade, more people have been purchasing shoes online. In fact, a recent article on Smart Company Australia’s website reports that the Australian footwear industry is experiencing a boom in online sales. But it’s just not Australians who are buying shoes online. According to industry research firm IBISWorld, in 2012, online shoes sales in the U.S. was expected to be about $7.8 billion – a 16.3% increase from 2011.

Each year the footwear industry generates $48 billion, according to the National Shoe Retailers Association and the U.S. Census Bureau. And Americans spend roughly $20 billion a year on footwear purchases from traditional brick-and-mortar stores as well as from online shoe stores. The percentage of sales by category for the industry are:

  1. Women’s casual and dress shoes (30%)
  2. Men’s athletic shoes (20%)
  3. Men’s casual and dress shoes (15%)
  4. Women’s athletic shoes (10%)
  5. Other styles (25%)

For more than a decade, the online shoe industry has been growing as more Americans shop online. In fact, every year, over 167 million people buy products online, making the online retail marketplace one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S. And with so many people shopping online, it should come as no surprise that they would want to shop for shoes online as well.

One of the key contributors to the online shoe industry’s rapid growth has been, a major online shoe retailer whose business model is to sell a wide selection of shoes in terms of brands, styles, colors, sizes and widths while providing excellent customer service. Seeing Zappos’ success, more footwear retailers have jumped on the online bandwagon to capture more sales revenue.

While, initially, many people thought customers wouldn’t want to buy shoes online since they would have trouble determining the right size and fit of their shoes, this issue has proven not to be a problem since many retailers now offer free shipping and returns. So shoppers now can order a pair of shoes in several different sizes, try them on at home and then return the shoes that don’t fit correctly free of charge.

While experts don’t foresee the online shoe industry replacing traditional brick-and-mortar stores, they do anticipate a new retail model where brick-and-mortar stores simply showcase their various shoe styles for sale and customers order their purchases, which are then shipped from a central warehouse – reducing the physical space a brick-and-mortar store needs.

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