A veteran of over 40 years in the footwear industry, Managing Partner Marvin Bernstein tells us about the success of Skechers in India, the brand’s expansion plans and what makes it unique.
You were recently in Gurugram to open the 90th Skechers store in India. How do you view this rapid expansion?
It’s been fantastic. It might have been our 90th store, but that’s just the beginning for us. In the next 3-5 years, we plan to have 500 in India.
Has Skechers’ performance in India been better than you anticipated?
No, we always knew we had a good business model. It takes some time to initiate things with partners here and then give them time to find out how good it is for themselves — that’s how you grow.
Is India one of your biggest markets now?
Not yet, but it’s going to be. Skechers is 25 years old — it’s taken that long to develop the brand globally. To build a true lifestyle brand with so many footwear categories, growth can’t happen only by opening stores in quick succession. We have invested in advertising and have come up with a very good retail model. In the short term, we’re looking at 3,000 stores around the world.
What are your bestsellers in India?
Go Walk, Go Run and our lightweight products are the ones that sell the most.
Over the years, Skechers has gone from a lifestyle brand that appealed to teenagers to one that sells technology driven fitness footwear too. Do you agree?
Yes, that’s true. The reality is that the biggest part of the shoe business is the athletic shoe business. In order to enter that space, you have to be under the performance umbrella and build a technical image. Then, you can do various things within it. That’s not to say that we are neglecting other categories of footwear. We’ve still got a whole lot of those, but the athletic business is the fastest growing segment.
What are the new innovations Skechers is coming up with?
Product-wise, we are working on a footwear group called ‘You’ that addresses the wellness category. On the advertising front, I have to point out how we have gone on social media in a big way, because we realise how important it is. We have a lot of bloggers and influencers working with us now. Our marketing spends have increased as well.
What is the strategy to develop further in India?
We want Skechers to be in every city in India. As of now, we are even in tier 2, 3 and 4 cities. A lot of people think of tiers as a price-driven thing, with only poor people living in the lower tiers. That becomes a huge miss for a lot of brands. People are exposed to a lot more now. If they see and hear about it, they will want it. We are in 160 countries and territories, and when you have that kind of presence, you impact a lot of people.
Tell us about the technology that has defined the athletic shoe offerings of the brand.
They are legitimate technologies developed within the company, tested in laboratories and given the sign of approval by world class athletes. I am particularly proud of our Memory Foam, which we introduced a couple of years ago. Comfort is a huge part of our business, and this technology changed the industry. I equate it to the guy who invented power steering, which went on to be adopted by every other car manufacturer.
What would you say is the defining moment of your career at Skechers?
I would have to say it came earlier this year. I look after the international business, which overtook domestic business and reached 51 per cent in the first quarter.
What makes Skechers unique?
We really pursue a lifestyle piece. We can be in many different categories of footwear under one umbrella — from fashion sandals through to technical running shoes. I don’t think a lot of heritage or athletic shoe brands do that. We’ve done it from day one. Introducing athletic shoes was the last piece, which has completed our puzzle.
What are the footwear trends you foresee for the coming years?
I think the athletic shoe business will stick around till 2020 at least. We always have our nose in the wind to sniff out what else is going on.