The Footwear evolution
Footwear has evolved from being a product to protect the most overburdened part of our body to one that projects our identity. From a protector for the hunter-gatherer to a fashion accessory for the millennial, its evolution has been as breath-taking as apparel. This category has all the nuances of apparel like fashion orientation, extended supply chains and low tech manufacturing, yet it is different because in fashion fabrics can be used across collections while shoes need specific material to be tooled by hand. Cut sizes are challenges at the retail point for both apparel and footwear but wrong footwear is very painful as compared to a wrong-sized T-shirt. Today while fashionable footwear is a marker, the growth in fashionable sneakers tell us that the function of walking comfort continues to be the most important criterion in making a buy decision.
The market sees stagnation
The global footwear market shrank by 13.3% in 2020 to reach a value of USD 279,081.3 million with a CAGR of -0.5% from 2016-2020. The CAGR is anticipated to grow at the rate of 2.9% for the five-year period 2020-2025, which is expected to drive the market to a value of USD 321.7bn by the end of 2025. Comparatively, the Asia-Pacific and US markets will grow with CAGRs of 4.6% and 1.5% respectively. and reach sales values of $112.1bn and $85.2bn in 2025. The large loss has been because of shutting down of brick and mortar retail outlets during covid. A rise in global e-commerce sales helped offset the loss of revenue generated from shoe stores.
28.4% of the global market sales comes from the US and 28.9% from the whole of Europe. The Asia-Pacific market will decline with a CARC of -0.8%, and the US market will increase with a CAGR of 0.3%, over the same period, to reach respective values of $89.8bn and $79.2bn in 2020. In China in the past, growth in this market was driven by a large growing population, whereas today it is being driven by the increased purchasing power of Chinese buyers. India has become a favourable market for fashion retailers on the back of a large young adult consumer base, increasing disposable income and relaxed FDI norms.
‘Athleisure’ the word coined for leisurewear designed using sportswear ideas has gained immense popularity. Exercising shoes has crossed the realm of being used just during training or fitness occasions moving into being used for general purposes. Adidas has leveraged this momentum and has gained large volumes of sneaker sales due to this trend. The cultural shift of athletic footwear being repurposed not only as everyday wear but as fashionable footwear has changed the dynamics of the footwear market.
Shoe technology and fitting guide
In contrast to apparel, the key attribute in footwear is the perfect fit. An improper fit creates functional disabilities and hence it has lots of engineering associated with its production. Shoemaking has been a skill, which even today in specialised material is seen as a handicraft. Shoemakers like, John Lobb, a London bootmaker established in 1866, will happily hand-stitch you a pair of Oxford brogues shaped around every dimple and bump in your feet, but they will cost £4,000 and may take six months to deliver.
Trials and returns
Trails before buying a shoe are the most critical aspect of the whole shoe purchasing process. While online businesses are challenging this attribute today, yet most of the footwear speciality stores thrive in aiding the consumer’s fit check process by providing them with trial shoes, walking and running spaces inside the outlet. While fashionable footwear has driven increased purchases, but walking comfort is experienced only post-purchase.
Footwear Categories and Segments
Shoes get categorised by gender, age, Usage occasion, material and type of soles etc. In speciality retail outlets shoes are also placed by their wear occasion.
A. Gender & Age
52.5% of the global footwear sales happens to be women’s while men’s account for only 29.3%. By 2020 Women’s Footwear will reach $145.6bn, equivalent to 52.2%, while Men’s Footwear will contribute revenues of $81.8bn in 2020, equating to 29.3% of the market’s aggregate value.
Men’s And Women’s Shoe Range
Boy’s and Girl’s Shoe Range
B. Usage Occasion
C. Design and Fashion
The sheer variety of footwear available today is mind-boggling. Helping make fashionable footwear choices without losing out on its functionality are itself is an industry today, with many how-to videos available on the internet.
Shoe design has been the key reason for the increase in footwear consumption. The United Kingdom was the leading country as of August 2019 by the number of per capita footwear usage with an average of 7.4 pairs of shoes in use per person. The United States was listed in second place with a difference of only 0.2 pairs. In Russia, only 2.4 pairs of shoes per capita were recorded on average. Women on average tend to hold twice the number of pairs as men in the developed and emerging countries.
The large variety means shoe purchases are both serious as well as indulgent purchases and consumes a serious amount of shopping time. With information over the internet now the process of search is not driven by need but more as an break time activity. Scrolling for footwear influencers on Instagram, creating own footwear boards on Pinterest and scouring social media for new arrivals is a continuous activity. The following tables show that while men look for work and combat boots women tend to be searching for regular comfort wear.
D. Innovation in Material
haveInnovation in the materials used to build shoes has seen some innovative developments. While Leather was the old school, rubber was the all-weather material. With innovations in artificial fibres and shock-absorbing material like foam, shoemaking has evolved into fine art. The type of soles and uppers make a dramatic difference to utility and fashion. Plastic and resin which had a douchy feel earlier now has upped their design and style quotient along with a feel-good skin touch. Brands like Crocs have contributed to making colourful lightweight fashionable footwear from resin.
E. Shoes for special needs
With ageing and more scientific understanding of physical challenges shoes for the aged or people with special medical conditions have seen good innovation, Medical focussed ortho shoe players like Dr Scholls, Velcro laced shoes and shoes with cork bases like Birkenstock have a distinct customer base.
F. Ethical Shoes and profitable businesses
With Sustainability and ethical practices impacting customer sentiments this is a distinct business model developing across the globe. Footwear players committing to using natural material, reduction in usage of toxic material and even building models around social causes have multiplied especially in developed countries.
Drivers of Footwear Buying Behaviour
The category largely gets driven by fashion, even though usage occasion of the products play a critical role in the choice of the footwear being made;
1. Differentiation by occasion
Boots in cold regions, rainwear in tropical climates, in-home-wear in cold regions. Elevator shoes for formal wear, Boat shoes are won on semi-formal times. Wearing different shoes for different occasions has been the marketeers startegy to increase the number of shoes in an individuals closet. By defining fashionable footwear as the one which should complement the dress worn for that occasion footwear purchases have kept their foot inside the fashion door.
2. Brand Influences
The sportswear category has been highly driven by brands and high decibel marketing. Nike, Adidas have now cult followings.
Jens Jakob Andersen did a study for runrepeat.com based on 134,867 reviews of 391 running shoes from 24 brands. this study compares the list price of running shoes with how well rated they are. The key conclusion is that expensive running shoes are not better than more affordable ones. In fact, inexpensive running shoes are better rated than expensive ones. We expected specialist running brands to outperform standard sports brands significantly, but looking at the data, there’s only a small difference. Running specialist brands perform 2.8% better than general sports brands.
3. Fashion – Category & Colour Preferences
Fashion plays a large role in footwear buying, especially in the women’s category. Styling, colour, heels and embellishments influence these purchases. Here large retail chains stores use their scale to build private label designs and sell them in limited quantity as women want their products to be unique and would not want to be caught wearing something similar to another lady in an event.
“In the West, the lion’s share of spending on luxury fashion and accessories is done by women,” says Winston Chesterfield, director of research at Wealth-X, a consultancy. “But in Asia, there are huge numbers of men who go out shopping for themselves, and who constitute a much greater percentage of spending in that market.” Brands are designing for their differing fashion footwear tastes.
Tony Gaziano of Gaziano and Girling a Bespoke footwear maker says that the Chinese men go for crazy colours. “Men are looking like magpies at images on Instagram and getting things they like rather than conforming to a fashion.” With Instagram helping niche, independent designers have given the style conscious rich men of Asia reach out to get custom designed footwear. They assert their identity through these bespoke products which are of high quality rather than reflect their value through wearing branded footwear.
Source: All graphs and tables – indix
Impact of colour on choices of footwear by gender and age
New Trend and Fashion Forecasts
A panel regularly forecasts trends for world footwear an organisation dedicated to collect footwear data and then redistribute it in an intelligible way. Their panel continues to believe that sneakers and other sports-related footwear, as well as other footwear with textile uppers, will continue to gain market share in the near future. On the contrary, perspectives for classic leather footwear, particularly men’s footwear, are getting gloomier as non-classic material combined with ethical issues are redefining fashionable footwear. Waterproof and other plastic or rubber footwear are now expected to evolve positively.
Innovations in Footwear
- W-21 in Amsterdam has the technology to scan customers feet by laser, make them run on a modified treadmill in a special pair of shoes stuffed with accelerometers, pressure gauges, thermometers and hygrometers and then design footwear accordingly.
- “Le Chal” (“take me along” in Hindi) pairs a smartphone app through Bluetooth with a small actuator and an obstacle-detector sewn inside the sole. It connects with navigation maps to signal for directions and warns about forthcoming obstacles either through vibrations in the footwear or through alarms in the app.
- Vibram, an Italian sole manufacturer, unveiled a prototype of their Five Fingers shoe, a glove-like slipper with individual toe compartments, at a trade show in Salt Lake City in 2005.
- Gaziano & Girling make a pair in 22k Gold. Another one of their shoes is made using a glinting stingray or with bite Burnhams in green alligator.
- Antonia Saint Dunbar, an entrepreneur, uses an app to create 3D images of the feet. Their shoes come with a heel cup and strips inside to stop the foot slipping around and getting blisters. Some of the shoes also come with adjustable heels: two inches for the boardroom, four for the nightclub, none for the schlep home.
- “Ugly” designs to create standout footwear is suddenly attractive. A Nicolas Ghesquière design for Louis Vuitton called the Archlight features a soaring, accentuated gothic arch instep and is easily the prettiest extreme trainer out there. Sneakers like Triple S by Balenciaga and B22 by Dior Homme all form a part of the “Ugly” is a distinctive style.
- A limited quantity of unique footwear is also an attempt by brands to create demand. The Triple S priced at UK Pound 600 was pre-ordered that there were none available on retail shelves.
- Sports shoes, sneakers which were first designed for sports and later used by regular customers for exercises and training morphed into regular wear because of their comfort and protection. With celebrities like Kanye West, a rapper and producer who has designed trainers with Reebok, Nike, Louis Vuitton and Adidas, marketing sneakers have now pushed themselves into teh fashionable footwear arena.
In the next part of this article, we will explore the new business models evolving in this category and the impact of technology on these startups. How technology can impact fashionable footwear will be one of the innovations to look out for.
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