At Footwear Mart, sneakers lead the way

For Siddhant Shah, 26, a New Delhi-based product manager, though, sneakers aren’t just about comfort—they’re a “symbol of personality.” Last year, he spent 36,000 on a pair of a chunky Ambush x Nike sneakers—his most valuable pair. Between him and his partner, he has about 40 pairs of sneakers, from “a few pairs” of Nike’s Air Jordans, the iconic shoe that finds its origins in American basketball (and costs between 10,000 more 16,000) For a more colorful duo from the Asics-Sean Waderspoon collection 8,500.

Shah represents a shift in consumer behavior that is driving casual shoe sales. Most retailers and sportswear brand Mint have reported strong growth in sneaker sales in the past one year. Many people are doubling down on the category given the widespread consumer interest in the product.

Sports footwear was one of the top trending categories during the recently concluded flagship sale of online fashion retailer Myntra. Jubi Samuel, Senior Director, Category Management, Myntra said that, increasingly, shoppers on its platform are opting for chunky style and multi-colour shoes for office and workout as well as casual outings. Brands like Puma, Nike, Adidas, HRX, Skechers, USPA are among the best selling sneaker brands on Myntra. Between July 2020 and now, Myntra registered a 120% growth in the demand for casual footwear including sneakers; Demand was particularly strong in the mass premium and premium segments.

“Things are opening up, people are moving out more often, preparing to go back to the office, or attending social gatherings. But after two years of rebuilding her fitness regime, there has been a marked change in the lifestyles of shoppers. And so, this year the demand for sneakers has picked up further,” Samuel said.

Globally, sneakers are seen as a fashion accessory (and not just athlete-wear). Abhishek Ganguly, managing director of sportswear retailer Puma (India and Southeast Asia), confirmed that the trend has traveled to India. “There is an obvious contingency (of shopping choices) and I think this is an irreversible change,” Ganguly said, adding that consumers are not satisfied with owning a single, all-purpose pair of running shoes, but There are a selection of a range of products. “The share of sneakers as part of consumer-owned footwear is increasing,” he said. And so, in every style, price point and retail channel, they’re selling more, he said. Puma derives 55% of its sales in India from footwear; The category grew fastest for the retailer in 2021. Even mass market brands like Bata are following the ‘sneaker’ track.

chilling is chic

The growing demand for sneakers adds to a broader trend of “casualization” of fashion—the demand for casual, fuss-free casual apparel and footwear—which, despite its return to offices and social life, refuses to subside.

Simply put, a two-year pandemic has quelled the victim’s appetite for style. Joggers, tank tops and white sneakers—fashion trends known as streetwear or athleisure, as well as a common trend of dressing—have been around for more than two years now, enticing consumers to believe that Relaxation is really good. Retailers have caught on and are increasingly manufacturing and cataloging such styles. Pallavi Burman, Business Head, HRX, a fitness brand backed by Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan and Exid Entertainment, said that post the pandemic, loungewear looks are a way of life for a lot of Gen Z and even millennial consumers- Roughly older people between 18 and 40.

As a result, many formal clothing companies have forayed into loungewear, casual T-shirts, joggers, etc. In its annual report for FY 2011, Aditya Birla Fashion & Retail Limited (ABFRL), India’s top branded apparel retailer, which sells formal wear. Brands such as Peter England, Forever 21 and Van Heusen pointed to the trend of active wear and athleisure becoming more mainstream. The company has also actively tapped into the casual clothing trend.

In December last year, ABFRL acquired the distribution rights of sportswear brand Reebok in India and South East Asia, marking its foray into the fast-growing sports and active-wear segment. In 2016, it launched athleisure under its Van Heusen brand.

In 2021, management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group predicted that consumer wardrobes would continue to move towards more casual wear, with a greater focus on athleisure.

BCG attributed this to a larger youth population as well as a general tendency towards a healthy lifestyle and association with fitness-related activities. The consulting firm said the growth in this category will continue for a long time after the impact of the pandemic and hence is a permanent change. Categories like athleisure are expected to grow by 20-25% in the next 4-5 years.

“We believe that casual (apparel and footwear) as a segment will grow much faster than overall apparel and much faster than formal. Namit Puri, Managing Partner and Director, BCG India, said, “Casual is expected to formally grow almost one-and-a-half times in the coming years.” By 2025, the men’s and women’s casual-wear market in India is expected to grow. According to industry estimates, it has grown from $7.7 billion to $15 billion in 2020.

The casual segment has also seen a boom in footwear. Puri believes that while the overall footwear segment was growing from around 11% pre-pandemic, casual shoes were growing north of 15%. That number has just “exploded” after the pandemic, a trend Puri hopes will continue. “If you look at the occasions on which casual shoes are worn, they are much more than formal events,” he said.

This doesn’t mean goodbye to six-inch heels. Puri said the demand for formal footwear will not drop at all – it will grow at a slower pace than casual footwear.

From luxury to mass-market

Globally too, sneaker culture has lost much of its credibility, with some of the world’s biggest celebrities and luxury goods brands making them a staple of their looks and collections. A 2018 report by Reuters pointed to a growing interest from luxury good sellers such as Gucci, Prada and Balenciaga to launch expensive sneakers.

This has led to some high-profile collaborations between luxury labels and sportswear brands.

Last month, Adidas and Gucci “dropped” the pieces from their collaboration—take “sartorial streetwear” with a “spectrum of sports-inspired pieces” like jackets, bags, and sneakers.

On June 7, Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh posted on his Instagram handle featuring bags, sneakers and jackets from the latest collection, which garnered thousands of likes and comments.

Closer to home, celebrities like Virat Kohli, Diljit Dosanjh, and Ananya Panday regularly sport chunky sneakers and loose fits. These social media trends have clearly been tricked.

Devarajan Iyer, Vice President (Marketing) Retail Chain Lifestyle International said that comfort is becoming more and more important than style and when celebrities do it, it fuels the whole trend.

Iyer points out that while the casual footwear category was growing even before Covid, the volume of growth has increased significantly after the pandemic, with the demand for formal shoes declining.

India’s overall footwear market falls significantly from post-pandemic estimates 79,900 crore in 2019 to 53,300 crore in 2020 according to Euromonitor’s estimate. Meanwhile, demand for sports footwear declined by 28% over the same period; Before growing 10% between 2020 and 2021.

“During the pandemic, consumers shopped for a lot of athleisure and casual wear for home workouts etc. Then he realized that it was very, very comfortable. They are now running out of bars and coffee shops that look like this. Consumers are enjoying it; “Companies like ours are creating more choices. Lifestyle is doubling down on its collection of sneakers,” Iyer said.

Amazon said Millennials and Gen Z, who make up the majority of the customer base for these categories, are largely influenced by the latest trends, social media preferences and a wide exposure to fashion content across all platforms on a daily basis. Saurabh Srivastava, Director and Head, Amazon Fashion India, said, “Both athleisure wear and comfort footwear like sneakers have found a special place in consumer wardrobes.”

Retailer selling sneakers and casual footwear from scratch 199 and running up to 20,000 “We have many popular brands like Adidas, Puma and Campus, as well as high-end brands like Hoka, Brooks and Saucony for fitness enthusiasts,” he said.

Mass-market brands are also capitalizing on the trend.

The country’s largest footwear retailer Bata has succeeded in getting the company’s CEO to focus on the “casualization” of the footwear market. “The long-term trend we see is something I call casualization and sneakerisation. And that has been a big thrust area for us,” said Gunjan Shah, MD and CEO, Bata India in an earlier interview with Mint. Told.

For Bata, this means adding an extensive collection of such styles. “We have made a lot of changes in our casual portfolio. We have also launched something called Sneaker Studio, we have also launched some merchandise along with it; We have nearly 300 sneaker styles across nine brands, catering to a variety of uses, from lifestyle, casual, outdoor to walking, running, etc., and at all price points.

Casual footwear now accounts for almost 50% of Bata’s sales; One of the largest segment within it is sneakers, which constitutes around 20% of the casual footwear segment.

find your only mate

In addition to top retailers, a sub-culture is growing in parallel among sneakerheads in the country. In the thick of this trend are 20-something entrepreneurs who are driving the demand for exclusive and prized sneakers. These include Mainstreet Marketplace and multi-brand retail stores such as Superkicks. The former is a resale store that sells exclusive kicks from Yeezy, Jordans, Adidas and Nike in addition to high-end clothing.

Sangeet Parayani, founder of Superkicks, a multi-brand store that sells sneakers and apparel, said the chain has reported a steady demand for trainers since 2018, when its first store opened. “However, there has been a sudden change from 2020 onwards, mainly from the time when the lockdown affected us,” Parayani said.

Sneakers on demand like Air Jordans, Nike Air Force, Adidas Originals, retail anywhere 7,000 and above 20,000, is spiraling.

He attributed this change to the increasing awareness among his target audience through social media. “This is where people found out what was happening in the footwear space globally. They had enough free time to be confined to their homes to explore different styles and silhouettes, which increased the demand,” he said.

The trend is here to stay, said Mint from most retailers. Puma’s Ganguly is betting on greater penetration of the category driven by growth in online commerce. HRX’s Burman said the brand expects to achieve half of its sales from footwear in the next few years, up from the current 40%.

Shah – who occasionally resells sneakers bought from brands – believes the trend is unlikely to end anytime soon. He said the sneaker community has only flourished post-Covid, with more and more enthusiasts coming from smaller towns.

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