Founded in 1992, Skechers is a California-based major American shoe company. The company produces diverse range of products that include athletic and casual footwear for men, women, and children. After more than two decades of its inception and successfully establishing itself in the Chinese and South-East Asian market, Skechers is expanding its foothold into South Asian market. Vincent Leung, President of Skechers Southeast Asia, was recently in Kathmandu for the opening of the company’s first concept store at Durbarmarg. Sanjeev Sharma of the New Business Age caught up with Leung and discussed the company's products and its marketing strategies in the South Asia and in Nepal, particularly. Excerpts:
What is the purpose of your visit?
I am here for the opening of first Skechers concept store in Nepal. We have tied up with Asahi Oversees Traders to expand our market in the country.
How is Skechers faring in the South Asian market in terms of sales? How important is Nepal's market for your company?
Strategically Nepal is very important market to us. It may not be the biggest market in Asia but it is well strategically located. We have a growing and strong presence in China as we have worked a number of years to get our business in running there. We have doubled our Chinese business in the past two years. The Skechers USA has come up with own joint ventures in India. Our Indian market presence is at a starting stage. Like in Nepal, we have distribution arrangement for customers in Pakistan. Skechers presence is growing across South Asia. So, I think it is natural that we are here as Nepal is at the centre of the South Asian market. We believe that this will help us not just in terms of getting local customers but also in reaching out to Nepal's strong tourism market.
In South Asia we are at an early stage of our business expansion. We are not very big at the moment and there is lots of room for us to improve. With India being a strong growing economy, Nepal also doing quite well in the past few years and Pakistan looking good for business despite many problems, there is a huge potential to tap into the South Asian market. As markets in China, Hong Kong and South East Asia are growing rapidly, I think Asia really is a place to be for business. For a company like Skechers, which is well developed in the US, Asia is definitely the growing power in the world.
What is the Unique Selling Proposition (USP) of Skechers products?
In terms of products we have a very strong lineup in different categories. For the past few years the Performance category has emerged as the strongest growing segment within our product lines. We have grown very big in the running shoes market. We started off as casual lifestyle brand and that part of us is still very strong. What sets us apart from others is that we have very wide range of products. Our lineups ranges from sneakers to sports shoes, winter boots for the ladies to summer sandals and wedges, men's leather boots and shoes to shoes for formal occasions and to children shoes. We keep innovating our products. For instance, some of Skechers shoes come with four different colours of light and there are switches to turn those on and off. Similarly, we are planning to come up with footwear for kids with games on them. The most important part of our business is that even with the existing wide range of products we are always trend-right. I wouldn’t say that we are the most fashion forward but when something is in-style you will find it in Skechers.
Who are your targeted customers in Nepal?
We target the whole family. We always say that when you come to our store it may not be a destination store like some of the designer brands. However, if you shop in a Skechers store you will definitely be surprised by something new. Actually the word ‘Skechers’ is a Californian slang that means a young guy who never sits idle and is always energetic. We always follow the action-oriented and moving lifestyle. Basically our targeted customers here in Nepal are young and the young-at-heart people.
Nepal's footwear market is swarmed with major global brands. What are you plans to face the competition?
Our strong marketing heritage also sets us apart from other brands. Skechers founder and CEO Robert Greenberg once said, "We are not a shoe company. We are a marketing company which happens to sell shoes." Skechers will be implementing various marketing ideas also in Nepal, as we have been doing in other markets since the inception of the company.
In recent years many brands have cut their budget in marketing due to the week business prospects. But we have never compromised in marketing and promotions. Actually if the economic prospects are week in any part of the world we see this as an opportunity to grow our market share. With strong products we would not be shy to spend more even in slow economic environments so that when the time is better again we can have greater market share and larger brand loyalty.