The Great Recession that began around 2007 had both good and ill effects on the footwear industry. By some measures, the recession drastically harmed the shoe industry; however, in some ways, shoes became a popular way to splurge during tight times.
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Consumers purchased about 1 per cent fewer pairs of shoes in 2007 and 2008 compared to each previous year's numbers. However, many losses were concentrated in certain sectors, including athletic shoes. In a recession that hurt the housing and automotive markets, comfort and designer shoes largely maintained sales. Research conducted by the "New York Times" found that shoppers could indulge in these relatively more affordable luxury goods.
Stocks generally tumbled for footwear companies during the recession. In most cases, these losses were in line with other industries, though former shoe giant Foot Locker saw its share drop 60 per cent over one 12-month period, from 2007 to 2008. In a few cases, large corporations acquired struggling, smaller shoe companies. Wolverine World Wide, Inc. swallowed up Chaco Inc., for instance, saving the sandal company from going out of business.
Footwear factories closed and conducted layoffs throughout the recession, especially in Asia. A University of California-Davis study found that in 2008 alone, China closed about 100,000 factories, including thousands that produced shoes. In the United States, shoe manufacturing jobs fell by about 8 per cent, according to the American Apparel and Footwear Association.
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