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Is there a single woman in the world who wouldn’t love to put a true pair of designer shoes away in her wardrobe? Whether they be the tallest designer heels or the most practical pair of designer walking boots, the ownership of high end shoes is something which makes us feel unapologetically good. As a result, the market around footwear is huge – so much so that retailers are constantly evolving their stock lines and product ranges in line with growing trends and seasonal variations, leading to an infinite number of outlet and discount stores which offer their own selections of deals, offers and vouchers.
Finding the right pair of shoes is something which, as children we used to dread. The idea of going into a shoe store with a parent or guardian and being forced to parade around in shoes until we found the right pair was pure torture – something we all hated the idea of, yet something which we had to take part in every single school year.
How, then, has the industry managed to create such a shift in attitude that as adults, whether we are male or female, the idea of finding a great pair of shoes (especially ones at a discount!) is nothing less than a complete joy?
The footwear industry’s growth from childhood to adulthood
As children, we are told that new and shiny shoes are something that we must have. Like going to school, they become a part of the conformity that we have to fit ourselves into every single day in order to achieve and to be told we will be successful.
As adults, that same experience of buying shoes completely shifts – it becomes the sign that we have made it. We have become successful, and we are able to buy a great new pair of shoes to prove it. And success and the concept of “treating yourself” doesn’t have to mean the smartest pair of shoes in the store. The crossover of different shoe styles within the footwear industry is something that is constantly evolving, making trainers fashionable; pairing heels with low key t-shirts and jeans; adding wellingtons to a really pretty dress in order to “countrify” an appearance or outfit.
In essence, as we grow up we are able to create new styles and fashions through the way in which we wear and choose shoes – and none of this would be possible without the combination of both designer and high street footwear brands who create new and exciting products every single season.
One of the best things about the footwear market is that any pair of shoes can be designer, whether they are practical, beautiful, or somewhere in between. Brands and footwear designers are constantly evolving and finding new gaps in the market that they can fill – so much so that running shoe brands are now creating fashionable footwear styles; hiking shoes are becoming lighter and easier to wear on a daily basis; even heels are now available with wider and longer styles designed to fit and mould to every kind of foot shape and size.
In essence, designer footwear is no longer about how outrageously glamorous a pair of shoes is, just like having a designer label no longer means your footwear range is most likely to sell out. Unlike clothing and fashion, shoes and footwear are becoming more and more wearable – and so buyers are leaning towards those brands which value both style AND comfort.
What does this mean for designer shoe designers and footwear brands? It means, most of all, that they are on an even pegging with the fast fashion and more affordable brands – great news for us voucher lovers who are seeing an increasing number of designer brands add themselves to voucher codes and multi-buy deals!
High Street footwear
Moving down the scale to the more affordable high street brands, one of the most obvious and notable things about the footwear industry in this respect is the way that the two collide. Whereas in fashion clothing the void between high street designer is wide with little crossover in the way of design and style, footwear is a completely different story – with most high street shoe stores able to offer an alternative to pretty much any designer style you can find.
Why do we continue to buy designer shoes then? It’s all in the marketing and the psychology behind the purchase of a great and expensive pair of shoes.
Marketing in the footwear industry
Watch any designer or high street footwear advert – the main crux of the advert is on the pair of shoes being the accessory which pulls an entire look together and turns a few garments of clothing in a fully fledged outfit.
It is of course important to recognise the suitability of marketing platforms to the audience, with the footwear industry in particular tailoring its content and adverts to appeal to a wide variety of ages and lifestyles. Children’s shoes, for example, are advertised with fun and expressive adverts, showing other children having an amazing time in their new trainers. Adult shoes meanwhile are advertised with sophistication, leaning far more heavily towards the opinions and reactions of others in response to a pair of shoes, rather than on the activity that you can enjoy while wearing the shoes.
One of the other most valuable trends to come from the marketing side of the footwear industry is a focus on personalisation – giving users a chance to become really interactive with their purchase, putting their own stamp and design flair into a pair of shoes using online tools and innovation, and creating such a connection between the brand and the consumer that they simply must purchase the shoe that they have so carefully designed. How does this trick really work? Well, by putting the power of design into the hands of your consumer, you give them an opportunity to try their own hand at creation, channelling everything they want from a pair of shoes into a two-dimensional design on a screen.
And the rest is history.
The major retailers in the footwear business
As an intrinsic part of the fashion industry, footwear and shoes in particular tend to sit within many fashion retail stores and department stores – but that’s not to say that there aren’t specific footwear retailers gracing the high street as well, with some of the most popular including Shoezone, Clarks, Shoe Carnival, and a whole host of independent retailers.
If you are looking for selection and variety, one of the best things you can do is head to a department store which stocks a wide range of both designer label shoes and own brand shoes, encompassing options for all budgets and every kind of buyer. These are the stores who are also likely to offer the widest selection in terms of the style and type of shoe that you are looking for – all under one roof, or on one site, for complete ease of use and a high quality user experience.
Great examples of these kinds of department stores with wide footwear sections include John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Selfridges, Harrods, Sears, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Target. Upon looking at these, it becomes immediately clear that the list embodies a variety of different retail levels, each targeting very different buyers. And yet you will likely find many of the same shoe brands contained within these department stores.
This is because the opportunity for a footwear brand to get their products in front of a potential buyer are few and far between, especially for those built around an ecommerce platform with no physical store in which to try products on. While some of these brands can lean on renowned and iconic designer brand names such as Ted Baker, Manolo Blahnik, Louboutin, and Alexander McQueen, others rely on the resource and wide reach of their stockists in order to reach the audience. And for those who really want to get their name out there and get their shoes into the cupboards of multiple buyers, vouchers, codes and online deals are the key to capturing new customers.
Another option for these footwear brands, both designer and more affordable, is to become stocked in famous discount stores and outlet malls – for example TK Maxx. Renowned for its wide range of labels which are all presented with hefty discounts from their original pricing, TK Maxx is an example of a store which is built around the concept of a lifetime discount or voucher code deal – presenting customers with all the joy of a sale, all year round.
And then we have the own brand shoes, primarily stacked very cleverly right in the line of sight on a store shelf – meaning that in any given retail store, the eye is first drawn towards their own brands of footwear before it peruses the other brands available. As a marketing tactic this is one of the most common we see across retailers, and is even presented online through the simplicity of the results pages, with own brand footwear offerings likely to be found on page one of the results – regardless of what else is available.
Footwear brands and their subsections
We have already discussed how footwear brands are adapting and adjusting their products in line with what their audience are searching for and what is on trend at the moment. While, once upon a time, Nike specialised in sporting shoes and various styles of practical trainer, today they channel as much focus into what we call “fashion trainers” as they do into running shoes and tennis shoes. Why? Because without that versatility, they were missing a whole market of potential buyers who wanted to benefit from their label or brand but also wanted to fit into a current fashionable trend.
Another great example is Louboutin – famed for their super high heels with the red sole gracing the underside of every single pair of shoes. Today, Louboutin’s range and website homepage looks a lot different, still offering those iconic heels but mixing them in with trainers, converse style shoes and even children’s shoes. They became more versatile, and subsequently attracted a much higher audience.
Other popular brands within the footwear sector include:
- Tom Ford
- Stella McCartney
- Jimmy Choo
Do you notice how a number of these are recognisable brands from other industries? Footwear forms just part of your outfit – and for many brands, it forms just a small part of their overall offering to the customer.
Exploring gift cards in the footwear industry
For those brands present in major outlet malls, department stores and high street stores, gift cards are a major part of the buyer journey – with many retailers and brands using gifting as a large drive in marketing their shoes. We tend to find that the most popular gift cards are those which encompass a number of different stores and brands, particularly with regards to the footwear market which is uniquely personal to each individual – with everyone boasting different active lifestyles with different outfit and footwear requirements.
High street wide gift cards and full department store gift cards are often the most popular on voucher and gifting sites, closely followed by high end and designer brand gift cards which make high ticket shoes and items more accessible.
The future of the footwear industry
The fact is, the growth and popularity of the footwear industry is unlikely to stall, primarily because unlike so many other parts of the fashion industry, footwear is a necessity that we all find a need to invest in from time to time. No one pair of shoes is suitable for every activity – maybe if that was the case, the footwear industry would have a very different story to tell. But for now, the various collections, styles, sizes and colours available make footwear one of our most luxurious but necessary societal purchases – making up a multi-billion dollar marketplace on a global scale.