U.S.-based Skechers says it is aiming to become the second largest sportswear brand in India in the next three to five years. Skechers, which sells mostly casual and sports footwear in India, is going to ramp up its presence on the accessories and apparel front.
“Our socks are already doing very well in India. We will launch bags in a month. We are testing apparel; we will launch athlesiure wear in the spring-summer of 2019," said Rahul Vira, CEO, Skechers South Asia.
India’s sportswear market, dominated by brands such as Puma and Adidas, is projected to see 12% compounded annual growth with sales expected to touch $8 billion. A recent report by Euromonitor said the Indian sportswear market grew 22% from 2015 to 2016, surpassing the global growth in the segment which stood at 7%.
Skechers will also focus on women’s and kids’ segments. Women’s shoes contribute around 46% of the total sales in India now, the company said. Interestingly, Marvin Bernstein, managing partner at Skechers S.a.r.l, the company’s Swiss unit, was told around 10 years ago that women don’t buy sports shoes here.
The contribution of kids’ shoes to total sales is in single digits now, but in six months to a year, it will hit double digits because the growth we are seeing is exponential,Rahul Vira, CEO, Skechers South Asia
“This was before we launched here, someone told me that women don’t really buy sports shoes here. They also told me that we will need to sell sandals at $10 (around Rs 680) to be successful. Everything I was told was wrong,” Bernstein said, adding that Skechers now sells sandals for $65 (over Rs 4,400) and they continue to do very well.
He went on to say that globally, the brand’s women’s business is larger than the men’s business and he foresees the same happening in India with time.
Skechers launched in India around six years ago. Since then, the company has opened 170 franchise stores across the country, and plans to take that figure to 250 stores by December 2018.
The other area of focus, kids’ shoes, was launched in India around three years ago, and the company says the growth in this segment has been staggering. “The contribution of kids’ shoes to total sales is in single digits now, but in six months to a year, it will hit double digits because the growth we are seeing is exponential,” said Vira, adding that the brand’s overall growth in India has been around 60-70% year-on-year.
An average pair of kids’ shoes at Skechers is priced at $50-60 (around Rs 3,400-Rs 4,200), which is slightly on the expensive side. However, Bernstein is of the view that the Indian consumer is willing to shell out big bucks for quality products. “I find in India that the consumer is very sophisticated. If you put a quality product in front of people they appreciate that; and I respect that,” he said.
The company is now focussing on offering innovative designs in order to tap into a more premium segment with higher price points. Latest designs include the “Luminators”, which uses fibre optics to light up the top of the shoe. Skechers recently launched a special collection in collaboration with the Japanese manga and anime series One Piece wherein the shoes are designed after the main characters of the show.
“The One Piece special collection ‘D’Lites’ have been doing very well in South Korea, China, Europe and U.S. We’re planning to bring the collection to India soon,” said Bernstein, adding that such collaborations have allowed them to explore the premium pricing space. A pair of shoes from the special collection costs around $110 (approx Rs. 7,500).
With India becoming a crucial market for the brand on a global level, the company also said it is looking to set up manufacturing capabilities in the country. “We are evaluating setting up a manufacturing unit in India. It is not on the cards in the short term, we are waiting for the right time to execute it,” Vira said.