L.E.K. Consulting’s Footwear and Apparel Brand Heat Index, now in its second year, helps brands and retailers identify which brands are gaining popularity across different generations of consumers. In a survey of nearly 4,000 U.S. consumers between the ages of 14 and 55, hundreds of footwear and apparel brands were evaluated by product category (athletic, casual, outdoor and dress), gender and generational cohort, namely, Generation Z, millennials and Generation X. Brands were then assigned a heat score based on their gains in popularity (i.e., their brand heat), expressed on a scale of 0-100. The higher the score, the hotter the brand. It’s important to note that the Brand Heat Index identifies brands on the most positive growth trajectory with shoppers, not necessarily their relative size or scale. Among all the brands evaluated, this report looks at the top 10 brands in each of 16 segments.
At a high level, a number of notable trends were observed in the 2023 Brand Heat Index. For example, while many of the top apparel brands vary depending on the gender of the consumer, some leading players are effectively serving both markets, especially in the athletic and outdoor categories, e.g., lululemon, Gymshark, The North Face and Patagonia.
Within each of the 16 segments, we identified which brands are performing differentially across genders and generations, how perceptions of these brands are changing over time, and the key drivers of that performance. For example, in women’s casual footwear, the hottest brands are those with distinctive and identifiable silhouettes. But consumers are increasingly demanding both style and comfort, with the top two brands — HEYDUDE and Crocs — frequently praised for their comfort. In 2023, these brands rank in the top five across all three generations but are especially popular among Gen Z and millennials. The brand heat for UGG, the most popular brand in our 2022 survey, declined during the past year, as did that for BIRKENSTOCK. Meanwhile, VEJA entered the top 10, while Rothy’s dropped out.
Our Brand Heat Index makes clear how material differences in brand momentum can exist below the surface and how consumer sentiment can change quickly. And as with the past year, generational differences in top brand rankings point to the importance of recognizing that consumers are not all the same and that a deep understanding of target audiences and tailored strategies are required to win.
To learn more about the footwear and apparel preferences across categories and generations, and how those preferences have changed over the past year, please download our analysis.