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Skechers’ Zann Lee on building a thriving shoe business in Southeast Asia

In 1995, Skechers opened the doors to its first store in Manhattan Beach, adjacent to the brand’s corporate offices in the US. From that humble start, Skechers quickly ventured into international markets, opening their inaugural overseas store in Japan. 

Despite a crowded marketplace for footwear, expansion for the brand has remained steady, as Skechers opened its 5,000th global store in 2024, with plans to add 140 to 160 company-owned stores this year alone.

With sales in 2023 reaching a record-breaking USD8 billion for the company, Skechers hopes to cement its position in the market, particularly in Asia Pacific, which delivered 15 percent growth in sales in 2023. 

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Retail in Asia speaks with Zann Lee, managing director, Southeast Asia, at Skechers, on the brand’s growth trajectory in the region.

Skechers’ Southeast Asia managing director, Zann Lee. Source: Skechers
RiA: Please tell us about your current remit as MD, Southeast Asia, at Skechers. How have you approached the brand’s evolution in your markets? 

Zann Lee: As managing director of Skechers Southeast Asia, I oversee the company’s operations and take the lead on initiatives aimed at expanding our market presence, develop strategic plans, and meet regional sales objectives. 

This involves contributing regional sales information and recommendations to strategic plans and reviews, working with intellectual property licensors to launch collaborative collections, and actively involved in designing and producing footwear and apparel across multiple markets, including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and other emerging markets.

To continue engaging with our consumers, we focus on implementing several strategies which include presenting Skechers outlets across the region to allow our consumers to experience our products firsthand, and allowing our consumers to conveniently purchase our products online via our official website and through e-commerce platforms like Shopee and Lazada.

One good example [of a recent store opening] is Skechers The Exchange TRX, the first experiential store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to feature a revolutionary in-store running zone and a DIY corner for an enhanced shopping experience.

RiA: Can you share your plans for expansion across Southeast Asia and any upcoming initiatives? 

Lee: We officially launched Skechers’ 99th store in Malaysia at The Exchange TRX, Kuala Lumpur, on January 9, with the appearance of Skechers regional brand ambassador and South Korean superstar, Cha Eun-woo. 

This new store spans 6,469 square feet and is Skechers’ first experiential store in Malaysia that features its revolutionary in-store running zone, where consumers can discover the perfect pair that complements their running style, and a DIY corner where they can add a personal touch to their Skechers t-shirts and tote bags. Of course, our journey doesn’t stop here as we will continue to expand Skechers’ presence in Southeast Asia.

A Skechers store in Vietnam. Source: Shutterstock
RiA: As interest in footwear continues to grow, so has the number of footwear brands entering Asia. How do you ensure the brand maintains its relevance? 

Lee: We are mindful of the evolving needs and demographics of our consumers and hence, we have also been committed to investing in innovative technologies that enhance the comfort, performance, and style of our shoes.

To keep up with the changing consumer trends, we have also been partnering with various intellectual property licensors to introduce in-trend collaboration collections, such as Skechers X Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, Skechers X Demon Slayer, and Skechers’ DC Collection. 

Additionally, we have been leveraging on the immense popularity of Hallyu/K-pop trends, and have appointed popular Korean celebrities, like Cha Eun-woo to be the Skechers regional brand ambassador.

RiA: How are you approaching Skechers’ retail strategies in Southeast Asia? 

Lee: We effectively engage with Gen Z by continuously collaborating with popular personalities like Qiu Feng Ze (our newly appointed Skechers Singapore brand ambassador), Hazelle Teo, Jaze Phua, and many others who resonate with their interests and values. 

We also leverage advertising and creative content creation on emerging online platforms to enhance brand awareness, as well as actively participate in relevant events such as the Sundown Festival, R! Recital 2023, and Converge Recital 2023 to strengthen brand association.

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RiA: Social media and e-commerce can be transformative in Southeast Asia. How do you engage with these channels to drive brand engagement?

Lee: We are aware of these opportunities and integrate both social media and e-commerce as part of our sales channel. We utilise platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok to engage with our consumers and provide them with updates and engaging content on our latest products, campaigns, collaborations, promotions, and events. 

Additionally, we closely collaborate with KOLs to help convey our brand message, promote our campaigns and events, and introduce our products to their social media audience. 

In order for consumers to check out and purchase instantly, we have also established online stores on e-commerce platforms such as Lazada and Shopee, with links provided on our social media channels. It can be said that e-commerce has significantly contributed to our sales.