- Don-Alvin Adegeest |
Shoes are the new it-bags. The news that Hermès this week confirmed it will take a stake in luxury cobbler Pierre Hardy underlines the consumer shift in buying habits. Shoppers are turning to footwear, not bags, and the luxury groups are responding quickly.
Hermès has been a quiet power in the footwear market, and is also the owner of British heritage cobbler John Lobb. John Lobb sells leather derby's for an average price of 1.250 euros (1.389 dollars), and the company's turnover has soared in recent seasons, no doubt due in part to its marketing strategy, but it's product is literally walking off the shelves.
A visit to any major department store from London to New York to Seoul will see how the shoe floors have become something of a Mecca, a boudoir of accessories alluringly curated with artistry and verve. They have become destination points in their own right.
Designer bags are no longer affordable
When did shoes become the new sartorial statement of choice? When bags topped the scale of affordability and an average monthly salary could barely purchase a mere clutch of a bag, shoes became the preferred way to make a statement. Cheaper than bags, easier to veer into 'fashion' than say an outré designer look, shoes are the solid gold of accessories.
An explosion of designer footwear, especially in the sportswear segment, has been evident in recent seasons. The humble tennis shoe, once offered in mostly a plain white leather version by a few reputable sportswear brands, now has a life of its own. Companies such as Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Valentino, Prada and Gucci have lucrative businesses in the luxury trainer and shoe category, fueling profit margins in their sales of accessories. Mr Pierre Hardy is a good example, offering a steady supply with his signature detailed sneakers. With 200 stockists and three self-operated stores, the Pierre Hardy brand is ripe for expansion, and if it wasn't Hermès it would surely have lured another investor.
Only the top 20 luxury brands sell bags
The Mecca of online shopping, Net-a-Porter.com, has seen a declining interest in designer bags. The online company sells some 700 brands, but it is only the top twenty well-known luxury companies from whom it gains successful sales. The rest don't shift handbags quite as easily.
Now that changing consumer demands from the Asian markets have dented the growth of luxury companies, the extortionate price of high-end handbags is making other product categories come to the fore.
Soon enough there will be a shoe war: Jimmy Choo became the first publicly traded luxury footwear brand in 2014. There are several companies already hot on its heels.
Photo credits: Pierre Hardy Facebook