Retail in Asia


EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Skechers on brand evolution and expansion

In October, American footwear company Skechers announced the appointment of South Korean actor Park Seo Jun as its new Regional Brand Ambassador for Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Macau, which are six key markets for the brand in Asia.

SEE ALSO : Skechers appoints new Regional Brand Ambassador

The same month, the company also announced ​​its third quarter 2021 financial results with sales of $1.55 billion, a figure which represented 19.2% growth year-on-year. A few days later, Skechers was reportedly considering strategic options including an IPO for its Asia business.

Retail in Asia had the pleasure to interview Zann Lee, Vice President of Skechers Southeast Asia. Together we  discussed the evolution and expansion of the brand in the region, the brand’s new ambassador and future projects.

RiA: You joined Skechers in 2009. Can you tell us more about your early days at Skechers and how the brand and business have evolved in the region since 2009?

Zann: Having joined the Skechers team 12 years ago to build the brand’s presence in Southeast Asia, it has been a privilege to see how the brand has evolved. 

While we have cemented the brand for its comfort and affordable pricing in the last decade, Skechers has also diversified its product categories and launched products to meet the needs of the market. This includes a performance range for running and sportswear (e.g. GOwalk and GOrun series); lifestyle and casual footwear (e.g. Foamies) as well as fashion and style-centric collaborations (e.g. D’Lites, Dr. Seuss, and One Piece, We Bare Bears). In addition, we have successfully carved out a niche in the footwear market for the Skechers Kids range that caters to children aged from 3 years old, and we aim to continue building a younger demographic for the brand. 

Source: Skechers

We have also focused our efforts to improve Skechers’ retail shopping experience in Asia, with our Brand Experience Stores in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore at Jewel Changi Airport, which feature a customisation zone for consumers to personalise their apparel and footwear. 

Since the opening of our first Southeast Asia store in Singapore in 2009, we have continued to expand the business and currently, we have 305 stores across the region.

RiA: The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on the global sportswear and activewear segments. Can you elaborate on the challenges and opportunities of the pandemic for Skechers? 

Zann: The pandemic has undoubtedly fuelled more consumers to turn to athleisure products as a result of working from home and being encouraged to have an active lifestyle. This, in turn, has also led consumers to place a higher need for footwear that supports their feet while working out. For Skechers, we were able to identify this increasing trend and launched our range of podiatrist-certified Arch Fit shoes back in July last year. We’ve also observed how our performance shoe range has grown with a double-digit increase as more people became health-conscious during this period. 

While the pandemic also brought on its fair share of challenges to the retail scene with temporary closure of physical stores, we saw this as an opportunity to accelerate our plans to add e-commerce functions to our local website in order to meet the needs of consumers who prefer shopping online. Fortunately, this complemented our strategy to build a strong online presence – which, we have already built via our social media platforms and online marketplaces on Shopee and Lazada in recent years. 

RiA: One of the biggest current challenges for the industry is the supply chain disruption. How has it affected Skechers and how do you overcome this challenge?

Zann: Constraints to the supply chain are definitely an industry-wide issue that extends beyond the footwear and apparel industry. With many countries still facing extended, or even renewed lockdown measures, it has unfortunately caused a slight delay in launching new collections in the region.  

That said, the impact from the supply chain disruption has been less significant for us due to our fairly balanced production lines in both Vietnam and China. We also see positive signs of improved conditions  as our factory partners have received the authorisation to re-open and we are optimistic.

As we operate in the Southeast Asia region, where we enjoy tropical weather all year round, we are not affected by seasonal changes. As such, we do not face much inventory pressure for seasonal products, such as winter boots and apparel, and our current product launches remain relevant and appealing to our consumers in the region.

Source: Skechers

RiA: The pandemic also accelerated the adoption of e-commerce by consumers and businesses. What’s Skechers’ current online and brick-and-mortar stores footprint and how are they doing?

Zann: While we have accelerated our e-commerce plans during the onset of the pandemic, we have also expanded our physical presence tremendously and now have 305 stores across 6 markets in the region. In last year alone, we opened 45 new stores across these six territories due to our sales performance and healthy recovery since the circuit breaker period. In Singapore, we opened 9 stores since July 2020 with a total of 30 stores currently. 

Our Singapore stores expansion also came at a time when many attractive real estate in retail opened up as brands began re-strategising their priorities to exit a market, as well as landlords being more receptive and understanding of the market situation. As such, this felt like an opportune time to expand Skechers’ Singapore store network to reach our consumers. 

RiA: The APAC region is so diverse making it challenging to design products and experiences for consumers in the region. Can you tell us more about Skechers’ digital and physical marketing efforts to reach APAC’s diversified demographics?

Zann: At Skechers, we adopt an active stance on analysing consumer data and understanding market sentiments to better understand consumers’ brand loyalty, awareness, and interests and identify fashion and lifestyle trends across the region. This, in turn, allows us to better plan for a product strategy that appeals to our consumers and entices them to spend.

 Aside from that, our ongoing celebrity ambassadorship appointments has also been successful in helping us reach a wider audience. This includes using a hyper localised approach to better resonate and unite local consumers within the countries of the region with top actors, such as Lawrence Wong and Mew Suppasit, for local ambassadorships in Singapore and Thailand respectively. More recently, we’ve also appointed South Korean star Park Seo Jun as our Regional Brand Ambassador, of whom closely aligns to our brand and his broad appeal helps to attract and connect Skechers to a larger audience across the region.

Source: Skechers

SEE ALSO : Skechers announces financial results

RiA: What’s next for Skechers in the region and worldwide?

Zann: We will continue to open more stores in the region and across the globe, channel resources to online platforms including our local websites and online marketplaces on Shopee and Lazada as well as launch exciting collaboration collections that appeal to our consumers. 

In addition, our expansion plans include opening bigger stores to incorporate more diverse categories including products for Kids, Men, Women as well as Apparel. These stores will also encapsulate our strategy of offering an immersive and interactive store experience for consumers with a customisation area and play area for children. And with a wide and amazing variety of kids products that Skechers carry, a Kids store is also definitely in the pipeline.