Sirish Kumar, CEO – India and Director- Global Sourcing, AstorMueller reveals how the pandemic helped the casual footwear segment step forward…
What growth has your range of casual footwear registered in the last few months? Compare with growth from recent years.
There has been exceptional growth. The casual footwear segment has been growing for the last few years, but the pandemic took it to new heights. The growth has essentially been a result of people opting for relaxed casual wear in apparel and to complete the look they opt for casual footwear.
The fact that consumers are now confined to their homes is the primary reason of this demand. Are there any other factors fueling this demand?
Casual and comfort wear trends were already gaining momentum from quite some time and this demand got multiplied due to the current WFH situation. With the WFH model and offices operating with limited staff, there certainly has been an impact on workwear-wardrobe choices. Power dressing, the way we see it, is out. People have gravitated to smart casuals and this shift is a very instinctive thing isn’t it, of us humans adapting to change? In this case, we have responded by way of choice of attire, where ‘live easy’ appears to be the new norm.
What specific products have gained traction in the last few months?
Sandals, Mules, Slip-on Sneakers and Athleisure shoes have seen high demand.
In terms of color and style, what seems be on top of consumers’ minds?
Footwear and apparel shopping go hand-in-hand. The choice of colour presently is muted with shades of yellow, blue, beige, and green. We have also noticed that it’s the complete ‘look’ that consumers aspire to own in their wardrobes. This said, with the ongoing pandemic, the current sentiment of consumers seems to be the desire for newness. This is something that brand Bugatti has always addressed.
What demand are you witnessing from smaller towns and cities?
Smaller towns have seen better traction. The metros and big towns have always had more options to choose from with most brands having a greater physical retail presence vis-à-vis the limited presence they have in smaller towns and cities. This saw a significant change though. The lockdown nudged brands to go online to reach consumers and offer the whole bundle of merchandise, which was otherwise limited to physical retail.
Do you think this demand for comfortable fashion will sustain or is it going to pass as soon as normal life resumes?
Comfort has always been a desired attribute. The tag of ‘comfort’, however, has always implied something that isn’t fashionable. But now is the time, more than ever, that brands need to blend fashion with comfort and maybe spell it out, since the consumer has experienced and lived with it for a significant time. This is an area where most brands promoting or marketing merchandise solely on comfort or fashion will be challenged as being fashion-ahead in style and being perceived as comfortable in fit is not that easy and requires a lot to be done.