Custom Shoes Market Overview, Drivers and Players
The famous French fashion designer Roger Vivier once said, ‘To wear dreams on one’s feet is to begin to give a reality to one’s dreams.’ While this may seem like an exaggeration, some people truly begin to dream when asked about their shoes. Several enthusiasts among us may even own hundreds of shoes because they do not ever wish to repeat wearing a pair! While buying shoes from traditional retailers are still popular, a new and emerging trend is that of custom shoes. While there is a widespread perception that these products are pricey and cater only to the high-end clientele, this is a gross misconception. The worldwide reach of social media, and a common desire among customers everywhere to get customised, individual products has broadened the size and scale of the custom shoes market.
The main drivers of the custom shoes market are the proliferation of e-commerce platforms, fast fashion fads, preference for custom designs, and the emergence of 3D printing from fiction to fact. Improved Internet infrastructure in the developing world, along with both global and domestic e-commerce players catering to the demand has broadened the market for custom shoes considerably. People can order the shoes which they want when they want from the comfort of their own homes. If they wish for something extra, they can even design shoes to their exact needs and requirements with the help of 3D printers. These custom shoes can then be printed in a matter of hours or days. There has been a noticeable trend towards customization in almost every industry in recent times and this holds true for the custom shoes market as well. While millennials are known to have a penchant for individuality, even baby boomers are looking at customised products like shoes. Designing a product as per one’s specific requirement gives people a sense of being part of the process and that expression forms the core of their values or what they buy.
The rise of social media should also give a fillip to the custom shoes market. The so-called ‘selfie’ generation is all about sharing information online. Social media platforms help to aggregate individuals into small groups having the same interest. A simple hashtag in the right place can ensure a global audience for any product or service. It enables sole proprietors and entrepreneurs to challenge large, multi-national shoe making companies. Social media can be utilised to great effect to build interest, spread the word and generate buzz around a product. Writing about custom shoes on websites, guest posts, blogs or other portals is another way of boosting traffic to the site and increasing the size of the overall custom shoes market. Several custom shoe makers have a large fan following largely due to their active presence on various social media platforms and some of them even command waiting periods in excess of 5 months!
Every coin has two sides and there are certainly some challenges faced by the custom shoes market. Some of the critical ones include name recognition, limited customization and production, and high prices. While social media and the Internet have allowed entrepreneurs with limited funds to reach potential clients across the world, there can be initial hesitation on the part of the latter if the company or seller is relatively unknown. They may be worried about inferior quality and might prefer a so-called ‘tried-and-tested’ brand, especially for something as vital to daily comfort as shoes. While customization is definitely more possible in the custom shoes market than the regular market, it is akin to a form of mass customization. Companies are generally limited by a few items that are customizable and there will be a lot of variants around some core things which will remain unchanged. To expand on a global level, custom shoe makers will need to offer much more variety and choice. Due to a lack of economies of scale, some players in the custom shoes market may need to charge high prices to break even or make a profit. This makes it challenging for them to broaden the scope of their market to customers in the middle class with a lower disposable income.
Some of the companies involved in the custom shoes market are Alive Shoes, Shoes of Prey, Alfred & Sargent’s, Bionda Castana, Buchanan Bespoke, Buttero, Crockett & Jones and Edward Green.
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