Sneakers, Kicks, Trainers, Slip-ons, call it whatever but there is definitely no stopping the category now. Once a symbol of athleticism, sneakers have today transformed to become a primary accessory that adds to the overall look of today’s millennials who like to dress in style and have a distinct personality. From sportswear and street style to catwalk fashion, sneakers have made their mark as cultural commodities. India is, in fact, the second-largest footwear market after China and in that, sneakers and running shoes have been performing impressively well, especially during the lockdown months in 2020.
The market is thriving on the back of some of the hottest products and collaborations for which millennials and Gen Z are always ready to shell out big bucks. While the trend and hype started in the west, India too is catching up now with consumers eagerly waiting for exclusive collections, collaborative editions, and drops from brands.
While Yeezy’s first drop in India saw only about six people in the queue, times have changed for the better, and interest and demand have spiked. Sneakerheads queued for hours in January outside Olive, a New Delhi restaurant, to shop a Reebok x Pyer Moss pop-up, which sold out soon after. Similarly, adidas’s recent high-end drop this month in India, the A + P Luna Rossa 21 trainers created in collaboration with Prada, sold out on the day of its launch and the brand had maintained that key collaborations with global creators have been a big rage in India with most drops selling within minutes or hours.
According to Statista, the total global sneakers market revenue was valued at approximately US$ 70 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach a value of US$ 102 billion by 2025. Furthermore, for the Indian market, the revenue in the sneakers segment amounts to US$ 1,367 million in 2021 which is expected to grow annually at a CAGR of 24.7 percent.
One such premium multi-brand sneaker destination is Superkicks that caters to the demands of sneaker enthusiasts across the country with its range of super cool sneakers from major brands, available in India. Founded in 2018 by sneaker enthusiast Sangeet Paryani, Superkicks now has a strong presence pan India with three retail outlets in Mumbai, Delhi, and Bengaluru and a dedicated e-commerce website.
Sangeet Paryani noticed a huge gap in the Indian sneaker market as there was limited availability of global sneaker drops and he launched the brand dedicated to bringing limited edition, heritage styles as well as more contemporary silhouettes to India’s burgeoning streetwear and sneaker culture.
Sangeet Paryani, Founder, Superkicks, asserts, “The sneaker culture in India is growing the fastest as compared to any other category even in the footwear industry simply because now people are looking at ways to express themselves and they want to find different ways to do that. Also, the influence of Instagram and the global culture is seeping in now more than ever. People are getting to know about different sneakers and the context/ story behind them and one can expect this to be growing exponentially in the coming years. Even as the sneaker community is still small in India, it has grown tremendously over the past 3 years. From having no-sneaker stores, to multi retail sneaker boutique powerhouses, sneaker resale stores, sneaker after products, sneaker care services, and more, we can indeed say the sneaker culture has grown. We are now seeing the emergence of smaller sneaker festivals in India. More international brands are entering the market and bringing in new variants, collabs, and models. We are seeing a rise in the sneaker aftermarket with brands coming out with their own custom laces, socks, the introduction of international sneaker cleaning products - Sneaker Lab, Reshoevn8r, Jason Markk, as well as giving rise to homegrown brands.”
Stepping Up and How
While this segment is continuously growing on the back of an increase in demand from the new age customer base from across the country, the pandemic did have its impact on the overall segment as also Superkicks. However, the brand came out stronger and strategized to stay afloat during the crisis.
“We saw a surge in online orders as soon as the first lockdown ended, however, in-store sales were still affected. Since then, things have been steady and growing for us. Our strategy to navigate through this situation revolved around focusing on online sales because we didn't want to encourage people to step out of their houses during these tough times, so we continued building our online presence. In January 2021, we also revamped our entire website and made it smoother and better from a UI/UX point of view. We tried to curate interesting and eye-catching creatives to lure people to our online store, and we were able to do that with a better website and a better marketing strategy for our Instagram page. We plan to continue to focus on online sales and our e-commerce platform and make it much more robust. Improve the entire experience bit by bit and make it better with every month. Also, now that things have opened up, we also want to focus on getting people to the store, keeping in mind all the guidelines and safety measures shared by the authorities, and reactivate store sales as well, as we are known for our store activations, events, and engagements that we have done in the past,” explains Sangeet Paryani.
What’s in Demand and Where?
The past few years have seen a huge shift in how sneakers are worn. Today, enthusiasts are donning a pair even at their workplaces or on more formal occasions. Superkicks is riding on this trend and has been offering the best of sneakers from the best of brands. Superkicks retail brands like Nike, Adidas Originals, Puma, Vans, Fila, ASICS, and Crocs. It also has an exclusive international brand partnership with the Italian sneaker brand Ylati. The price points at Superkicks vary between Rs 3,000 and Rs 25,000 while the average ticket size is around Rs 9,000. Superkicks onboards a brand basis its story and iconic collections it has to offer.
Sangeet Paryani says, “The brand should have a rich history, to begin with, a good story, this is one of the criteria we look at. They should have a top-tier offering in their range. They should have iconic sneakers that have a cult status. These are a few parameters we look at when it comes to onboarding a brand. Of course, there are exceptions to this, if there is a very exciting, new contemporary brand in the market that is creating hype and adding value to the sneaker culture, in those cases we include such brands.”
Superkicks currently runs 3 stores across India.
The multi-brand sneaker boutique while currently is getting most of its sales from online channels, definitely does prefer its offline stores as the medium for retail and in that, high-streets are the preferred store destination for Superkicks.
“We prefer high-streets because there is a freedom for us to express ourselves better as the entire property would be ours and we won't be placed in a big complex right next to our competitors and we also don’t need to adhere to mall rules and guidelines. Another reason is again to touch upon the sense of discoverability. Malls are well known and a lot of people visit them on a daily basis, we want to create an identity where we have people finding us and visiting our individual outlet. We also don’t want to be placed on the main shopping street, we want to create our own space for ourselves away from the usual. Superkicks believes in this philosophy called the 'open box' philosophy, which is all about inclusivity and bringing in people to our store to give them an experience of this entire culture and community. Here we are not trying to change the world, we are just trying to introduce this aspect of the world to the Indian consumer and we truly believe that our growth in the last few years is due to our connection with our consumers at the community level, we bring in different aspects of this culture and tie them in with the perspectives of our customers,” avers Sangeet Paryani.
In terms of what’s in demand, the consumers are gradually shifting their preference from daily hype sneakers to comfort and functionality with style as a factor. At Superkicks, Sangeet Paryani has seen a shift towards silhouettes like Puma rider, Nike waffle one, adidas nite jogger; comfort wear like Nike sliders, adilettes, Crocs and Birkenstocks are seeing a great rise; classics or retro sneakers from adidas Originals, Vans, Air Force 1, Superstars and Suede; running silhouettes from brands like ASICS which offer great collaborations, etc.
The Right Steps
What’s acting as the right enabler in the current times for brands across categories is the integration of the right kind of technology along with omnichannel retail, in order to make the shopping experience for consumers seamless than ever before.
Sangeet Paryani maintains, “We have an integrated raffle system and a raffle mechanism built into our website when we revamped and renovated our website in January 2020. The raffle is a mechanism we use often to drop some of the hype sneakers because that's a fair way to conduct hype sneaker/ high heat launches, as they are in so much demand. One needs to still understand that India is a price-conscious market. We are the first sneaker brand in India to offer EMI options to purchase sneakers on our website, which is integrated into our Superkicks e-commerce platform. We have recently changed our ERP system to a much more robust ERP system by Genesis, and we have also got an omnichannel link - BROWNTAPE on board, to further ease the entire omnichannel experience for our consumers, so that it becomes even more seamless to get the orders on time and to also handle the inventory in the most effective way possible, with minimum leakages. This has been just rolled out in the month of September and one can see the difference starting November, once fully integrated with our system.”
While brands across other categories are struggling to tap the changing consumer behavior, Superkicks is supercharged and is more than ever excited to see more people getting attuned to this culture and understanding the nuances behind this and how things happen at the backend. Superkicks follows a mixed marketing approach wherein its primary marketing area lies in the digital marketing realm.
“We utilize our social media presence to the max. We believe in engaging our audience via our social handles with engaging and relatable content. We further look at building brand awareness via offline activations at our store - these vary from, curated sneaker launches, a Unique sneaker raffle, celebration of a cultural moment, these events help in engaging the community. Collaborations with local street culture-related communities are also part of our marketing strategy. We look from time to time to collaborate with brands associated with Superkicks for key marketing campaigns which further gives us the mileage we need. We are also involved in influencer marketing and look at collaborating with the best content creators in the fashion and lifestyle space,” Sangeet Paryani elaborates.
The Best Foot Forward
The way in which sneakers have started to rule the zeitgeist of Indian consumers is, simply put, uncanny. In fact, the affinity and love for footwear have grown leaps and bounds recently. Superkicks too has been riding on this trend and as compared to last year, the premium sneaker retailer is currently doing 2x the business while its target for every year is to at least touch 1.5x of the previous year's revenue.
“While sales and increasing our revenue is definitely the primary target for Superkicks, we are also trying to focus on innovation, bringing in new products to the markets, doing better engagement and activations with our consumers, and growing the community in the most effective way possible as these have been the most fruitful in the past and revenue was definitely a by-product of the same. So, this is our main focus now. We also want to open more stores in the future to be able to serve our customers in the best way possible. We are currently talking to a couple of new brands to onboard them and introduce them to our consumers. Additionally, among the brands that we already have, we always try to get more coveted global sneakers coming into India, and that hunt to find those sneakers is constant. It's only a matter of time before we see better products/drops coming in and that'll be a celebratory milestone for the entire community in the future,” says Sangeet Paryani.
In terms of retail presence, Superkicks is scouting new cities to open up stores.