Global footwear brands rush in to gain foothold

GLOBAL premium and luxury footwear brands are queuing up for an entry into the Indian market. These brands are more than enthusiastic with the approval of 100 per cent FDI in single brand retail and are not worried about the local sourcing clause.

Small wonder, it was an English footwear brand Pavars England to be the first to apply for 100 per cent FDI. This category will be seeing lot of action in the coming days — with several brands entering the market, many others forming joint ventures and many going it alone.

Consider this, in the past few years India has been witnessing a rush of footwear brands. These include some of the well-known and also not-so-known brands such as Kenneth Cole, Cole Haan, Wolverine, Tommy Hilfiger, ASICS, Skechers, Aokang, Steve Madden, Timberland, Alberto Torresi, Diesel and Zara.

Some of them have been licensing or franchising the brand, while other have formed partnership with leading business houses. Steve Madden, Timberland and Kenneth Cole have partnered with Reliance, Wolverine with Tata, and Clarks with Future Group.

The ones that are doing the groundwork to enter the market include French brand Mephisto and the US sports shoe brand Airwalk.

Technova India, the consulting firm that has been facilitating the entry of several brands like Christian Louboutin, RG Berry and Allen Admond, and is currently working with over 10 brands, of which many are interested in having wholly-owned retail stores.

“Sourcing clause is not a deterrent for the category as most of the brands already source 30 to 50 per cent from the domestic market. Operating in stagnant markets like Europe, they are already upbeat about the consumption capability of the Indian market,” said Kanchan Lall, associate vice-president, Tecnova India.

“Having a distribution partner or a franchisee in the initial years will help the brand get a feel of the market. But once they understand the market, we will see lot of them going alone in retailing. Further, there are ways in which any brand can meet the sourcing clause by sourcing footwear fully or in parts,” said Harkirat Singh, managing director of Woodland Shoes.

Most of the foreign brands that are entering the country fall into the premium-to-luxury segment of the market. Of the total market of one billion pairs a year, mass market and unbranded female footwear account for 50 per cent, around 30 per cent are men’s branded shoes and the remaining 15-20 per cent is currently the share of premium and luxury shoes. This segment will be growing at a rate of around 35 per cent and will be occupying 30 per cent of the market in the coming years.

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