In spite a tough economy – or perhaps because of that tough economy – consumers are looking for brand quality and value for their dollar when purchasing athletic and outdoor footwear these days, a clear sign that the new sustainability, or a consumers perception of a products longevity, is a key factor in making brand and product purchases.

These were some of the key findings in the recently-released 2010 Brand Strength Report published by The SportsOneSource Group. The report was based on the Brand Strength survey that was conducted in late November 2009 utilizing a third-party Internet panel provider.  A total of 4,003 responses were collected providing information on over 70 brands.  Respondents were age 13 and up.  SportsOneSource made every effort to control the demographics to best represent the U.S. population, but Internet surveys generally tend to skew to older, more Caucasian, better educated and higher income households.


The results of the survey can be projected to the U.S. population with a margin of error of +/- 1.5 percentage points.


Brand Strength Report survey respondents were asked to rate a list of factors with a 1 to 10 scale on the influence each factor has on their own footwear purchases.  Product Quality was rated as the most influential factor, with an average rating of 8.9, driven by 94% of respondents rating Product Quality as at least ‘Somewhat Important in the survey — even in a struggling economy. 


Consumers are apparently now more willing to pay the price for higher quality footwear product if they feel they can get a few more miles or a few more months — or years — with the brand.               


Supporting this observation is the fact that Value for the Price was rated as the second most influential factor when purchasing footwear, with an average rating of 8.5, significantly higher than Low Price, which ranked fifth with an average rating of 7.4 in the report. 


While consumers often look for the lowest priced footwear when shopping, they are not willing to compromise on product quality.  Often times purchasing a lower priced product can be more costly in the long run because of the low product quality associated with low priced footwear.


For each brand of footwear that respondents said they had purchased in the past year, they were asked a series of questions regarding specific attributes pertaining to each brand.  Respondents were asked to rate each brand using a 1 to 10 scale with an option of ‘No Opinion on seven attributes, which included Value for the Price, Product Quality, Style/Fashion/Fit, Past Experience with the Brand, Innovation/Technology, Environmental Initiatives and Athlete/Celebrity Sponsorship.


When looking at how individual brands stack up when measured against these key criteria, the Rainbow sandal brand, with an average rating of 9.0, received the highest marks with regards to the Product Quality of their footwear products. 


Ninety-three percent of respondents that had purchased Rainbow footwear in the past year rated the brand as at least ‘Somewhat Positive.  While Keen and Rainbow both received a similar number of positive responses for Product Quality, the significantly higher percentage of ‘Extremely Positive responses for Rainbow resulted in an average rating of 9.0 compared to 8.7 for Keen. 


After Rainbow, Timberland, Nike, Gore-tex and Jordan rounded out the top 10 when consumers ranked for Product Quality.