The growth in Indian fashion and lifestyle market has given an impetus to the footwear industry as well. From a basic need-based industry, it has become an evolving fashion and style category. Many Indian and international players, apart from introducing their performance wear collection have started paying equal attention to casual wear. One such player is Skechers India who designs, develops and markets a diverse range of performance and lifestyle footwear for men, women and children. The brand has also recently launched apparel and accessories.
Its line of shoes, Skechers Performance, is available in India and over 160 countries and territories worldwide via department and specialty stores with more than 2,305 Skechers company-owned and third-party owned retail stores, and the company’s e-commerce websites. Furthermore, in India, Skechers is targeting about 500 EBO footprints covering all potential cities, markets and malls.
As more and more parents are getting inclined towards buying comfortable fashion footwear for their kids, Skechers focuses at offering value for money proposition.
In a recent interview, Lakshay Nijhawan, Associate Director – Merchandising, Skechers shares his insight on how parents are moving up the price value ladder and upgrading to brands.Excerpts from the interview…
Sports/athleisure wear is now a hot trend in the kidswear segment. Could you help us trace how the trend caught on, especially in India and the main influencers?
India today is at par with wider global fitness trends. The booming economy and changing lifestyle preferences have compelled Indian consumers to be more health conscious and add health and wellness routines to their hectic lifestyles. This trend has largely benefited the sportswear industry in India, which now is among the top in demand fashion segments of the country. Research also indicates that technological developments – designed to improve comfort and performance– have also led to growth in sales of sportswear including in the kids category.
How dynamic has been the growth of kids sports and athleisure wear in India in recent years? Could you give us an estimate about the growth in sales that your brand has registered over the last few years?
Up until 10 years ago, kids in India would wear whatever their caregivers decided was right for them. They were dressed in hand-me-downs, sensible jeans, warm outerwear and comfortable shoes. But gone are those days. Today’s child knows exactly what s/he wants. Growing exposure has led to parents and children being more fashion conscious, and higher number of double income parents has led to higher household and disposable incomes. All this has led to increased expenditure by parents on children.
The kids footwear market can largely be segmented into 3 categories –branded footwear, private labels of LFS players and unorganised players in the market which have the biggest share. This last is primarily driven by the thought process where parents do not wish to spend a lot on footwear since kids outgrow shoes quite soon at the growing stage. Customers are looking for more value for money products and at Skechers, this is exactly what we try to off er to our consumer – style, comfort and value. Another key factor in our growth story has been offering continuous innovation in our products which become a key pull factor for the young ones. Some examples include our Energy Light shoes which light up the outsole in 7 different colours and have USB rechargeable batteries too.
While the men’s and women’s segments in sportswear are growing fast, the kids segment is also registering a respectable growth. Tell us about how the modern consumer perceives kids’ wear. What are some of the most important factors influencing buying decisions in sports and athleisure wear segment?
For modern India, fitness and sports are not prerogatives of professional sportsperson anymore – they are lifestyle elements. This is due to the growing awareness for individual sports category like running, marathon, and other fitness activities. The kid’s segment is highly influenced by team sports as well – and the segment is growing fast along with the increasing popularity of cricket, football, etc. Further, more parents are getting inclined towards buying comfortable fashion footwear for their kids which offers value for money proposition. We can increasingly see that parents are moving up the price value ladder and upgrade to brands.
As the interest in this segment magnifies, a slew of brands has ventured into kids’ sports and athleisure wear. How has this affected your business strategy?
As a whole, the sportswear market in India has traditionally been dominated by the big international brands. Most of these brands entered the country in the 1990s and in the years that followed established their presence in the country. While on the other hand, Indian brands, although young, have an edge over their international peers – the price segment in which they operate. In past couple of years, we have also seen major shift of purchase towards online channel, though primarily it has been driven by discounting in the past. We have had to align our pricing strategy and become more competitive in the market. This has helped Skechers bridge the gap between private labels off ered by many LFS and the high price offered by branded players. Today, Skechers is in a sweet spot, offering the best prices to customers, and this can be seen through our sales growth.
Do you think that sportswear specific brands have an edge over others when it comes to kids gear? Does it influence purchase decisions?
A fitness fever has gripped the nation with celebrities and sportspersons setting and catching on to this trend.So widespread is the trend, that it is even is trickling down to the kids sportswear industry, influencing buying decisions. Customer needs are ever changing and a successful brand should be able to catch on to all trends and off er the right assortment at the right time to the customer.
Kids’ sports and athleisure wear is slowly moving beyond functional factors. What innovations are you off ering in your products?
Overall, the industry is poised to grow, and India will be a key market as awareness about sports and fitness increases and people are vying towards better health. In line with this, I feel that brands still have to make deliberate efforts in their pricing policies. At Skechers, our prices are far competitive with other international players in the market. We are able to connect with this consumer with wide offerings in casual/ sport/ lighted footwear for the age group between 2 to 14 years.
We have exclusive offerings in lighted footwear – a Twinkle Toes range for girls and Skech Air range for boys. We are also enhancing our product offering with our E-Pro shoe, with both upper and bottom that light up.
What are the top trends in this segment today?
While sports / performance clubbed together with fashion is the customer demand right now, another fast emerging key trend is street fashion. Indian kids want to associate themselves with the ‘cool quotient’, which is mainly influenced by the intense social media presence in our lives.