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TÜV SÜD Safety Gauge: How safe are the shoes on our feet?

June 9, 2017 - TÜV SÜD

TÜV SÜD Safety Gauge: How safe are the shoes on our feet?

The TÜV SÜD Safety Gauge report investigates consumer sentiments on topics in product safety, providing businesses with deep insights into how their customer think.  The results have been collated from surveys conducted in 2012 and 2016, with the most recent survey gathering data from respondents in top-tier cities across China, India, the US and – for the first time – Germany.

We’re very excited to announce that the Safety Gauge footwear segment report is available here now.

Research Methodology

Consumer data has been gathered from two online surveys completed by 3,500 participants. Business data, on the other hand, was obtained through telephone interviews with more than 600 business decision makers. These were spread across different levels of seniority, and across different sectors of the industry, including manufacturing, retail and distribution.

Key Findings

Across footwear and all the other segments of the report (including consumer electronics, children’s products and food) the general theme is one in which product safety is growing in importance for consumers.

However, there are some very notable difference within the footwear segment to which we should pay close attention. In those non-footwear sectors, the most common challenges cited by business respondents were the sourcing of reliable suppliers and the steep costs associated with training staff in product safety.

When it came to the footwear sector, however, our business respondents said that it was a lack of interest and understanding on the part of consumers that presented the biggest challenge. A somewhat staggering 41% of respondents said that consumers didn’t understand the safety issues associated with footwear products, while 45% said that consumers weren’t interested in products with above-average safety credentials. Ultimately, it seems, consumers don’t see how or why they should care about footwear safety.

One of the study’s most surprising results is a stark discrepancy between consumer and business perceptions of safety. While industry representatives believed that customers weren’t interested in product safety, 43% of consumers actually ranked product safety as a ‘very important’ factor when it came to influencing their purchasing decisions. Further, this figure is projected to reach a full 50% over the next five years. Moreover, the majority of survey respondents claimed that they would pay a premium for product safety, from an overwhelming 91% in India to a still-significant majority of 62% in Germany.

Elsewhere, we see some illuminating differences of opinion between markets. For example, the proportion of consumers concerned about the safety of sports shoes for sits at 83% in China and 73% in Germany, whereas this is almost halved to 44% in the US.

Despite these differences, many concerns were common across consumers in all countries, in particular the quality and integrity of material used for manufacturing. Exceeding the expectations of the business sector, meeting product standards and concern over chemical safety were also identified among consumers’ definitions of product safety.

The aggregated average of surveyed consumers across all countries reported being primarily influenced by brand (62%) and product safety label (52%) when contemplating a purchase. Compared with the survey results in 2012, consumer understanding of product safety levels and their significance has increased by more than 50% in China and the US.

Consumers in India indicated the greatest understanding of product safety levels, at 76%. Across the board, consumers indicated that products with clear safety information listed on the product packaging and knowledge that a brand achieved higher safety standards than others increases the product’s desirability and therefore its competitive edge.


The global footwear industry produces billions of pairs of shoes each year, ranging from functional working footwear to designer high heels. This huge volume naturally presents major challenges with regards to product safety. The research findings here indicate a clear disconnect between businesses and consumers, in that businesses assume that there is a lack of interest and understanding about safety issues with regards to footwear. The consumer responses seem to contradict this.

A significant proportion of consumers indicated that product safety labels are very important to their purchasing decisions, and that they would be willing to pay a premium for products that attain exemplary safety standards. This discrepancy presents a major opportunity for footwear businesses to promote their brands and influence purchasing behaviour by investing in product safety, and therefore efforts to improve product safety should translate into formidable commercial benefit.

For more insights, download the full Safety Gauge Footwear segment report here.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FDRA.