Women's fashion footwear is outpacing other sectors of the market with a double-digit hike in US sales in the three months ending in April, according to new data published today (22 June).

The NPD Group's Consumer Tracking Service points to a rise of nearly 24% in sales of women's fashion footwear, whereas men's and children's fashion footwear lags behind with growth of 7.5% and 1.7% respectively.

"As go women, so goes the fashion market," explained Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group.

"With women's fashion footwear currently making up just over 61% of sales and women buying 22% of men's and 79% of kids' footwear, it has been interesting to follow this trend as a leading indicator for the return of the consumer to purchasing."

The categories that are steps ahead in the fashion footwear market are casual shoes, up 25% and walking shoes (of which toning and shaping shoes are part), up over 100%.

Boots, too, have proven to be real winners, with sales up 30% for the three months ending in April 2010.

"Consumers love to spend on new and innovative products. They seek dramatic change in products. Spring boots are new, different and easy to understand," said Cohen.

"Shaping and toning is also about innovation, and consumers are responding to this perceived benefit."

Signs of recovery can even be seen in a number of the US retail channels - including the department store channel, which posted a 12.8% increase for the three months under review.

"Women are excited about buying shoes again," says Cohen.

"The element of passion has been missing for consumers for some time now. Other categories need to find ways to ignite consumers' passions; and if they do that, we just might see this recovery happen a whole lot faster."