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As their customers work from home, footwear companies step up with WFH, athleisure collections

Bata, Metro, Puma launch comfortwear such as padded slippers; hope sales will go some way to mitigate the wipeout in FY21.

August 19, 2020 / 12:58 PM IST
(image Courtesy: by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.com)

(image Courtesy: by Mateus Campos Felipe on Unsplash.com)

 
 
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Ananya Shah, a Mumbai-based resident employed by a multinational has been working from home for the last few months. And she’s been adjusting her attire to the new normal.

“While attending a video-conference from home, or making a presentation, you need to feel relaxed and cool. And so, I got myself some padded slippers with cushioning and support,” she says.

Anoop Agarwal, a Delhi-based media professional, agrees on the need for comfort.

“Work from home has extended our working hours and we need comfortable footwear for the home. I recently got to know that footwear companies have come up with a new collection and immediately bought something. I am quite happy with it,” he said.

With work from home becoming the new normal in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, comfort has definitely taken precedence over fashion.

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Millions of Indians are choosing to stay home or have no choice in the matter because of lockdowns. Consequently, except for video conferences and webinars, they feel little need to pull out any formalwear. They spend much of their time in casual clothes and footwear even when they step out for some shopping in the neighbourhood.

Footwear companies, understandably, have been hit hard, as people see no reason to step into their stores. The good news, however, is that many of those in WFH mode have been purchasing comfortable footwear to wear around their homes.

And this has galvanised the likes of Bata India, Puma and Metro, among others, to step up and launch ‘Work From Home’ or athleisure collections. 

Comfort first

The WFH collection mostly includes comfortwear such as padded slippers, chappals and normal slip-ons. “With Work from Home continuing to be prevalent, athleisure is seeing strong demand. Consumers are largely looking for open footwear. Puma's ‘work from home collection’ has shown strong traction at our stores and on our e-commerce platform,” Abhishek Ganguly, General Manager, Puma India and Southeast Asia, told Moneycontrol.

Metro Brands, which comprises Metro Shoes, Mochi, Walkway and Davinchi also operates retail stores for Crocs in India is also reporting an uptick in sales of comfortwear.

“People are now working, meeting, discussing, conducting webinars remotely. It is not just important to look professional but also to feel at work. Our ‘Work From Home’ range has seen very good traction,” said Alisha Malik, VP, E-commerce, Metro Brands Ltd.

“The common trend we noticed among customers is that they are opting for essentials — daily use, comfortable footwear. Comfort has become the new chic,” she added.

Apart from its WFH range, Bata India has also launched an easy-to-wash collection that enables professionals venturing out to wash their footwear after returning home, to ensure safety. Bata India’s brands include Bata, Hush Puppies, Marie Claire, Nutralizer, Bata Comfit and Bubblegummers.

The pricing of the WFH collection varies from brand to brand, company to company. For instance, the Bata WFH range starts at Rs 499, while Mochi, the Metro Group brand, has a range starting from Rs 2,490.

None of the companies was willing to share exact sales numbers for their new collections.

Launches to the rescue?

Statista estimates that the footwear market in India is worth $7,923 million. Before COVID-19 hit, it was expected to grow at a CAGR of 9.6 percent between 2020-2025.

With no revenues during the COVID-19 lockdown, the closure of retail outlets and restrictions on delivery of non-essential items in certain areas, the footwear industry is staring at a revenue contraction of 10-15 percent in FY21 over FY20, with profitability likely to see a larger impact, said credit rating agency ICRA.

Bata India reported a consolidated net loss of Rs 100.8 crore for the first quarter ended June 2020 as sales were slammed by the coronavirus-induced lockdowns.

Also Read: Six must-have products for a smooth Work-from-Home this monsoon season


Footwear companies are pinning their hopes on the launches to recover their losses to an extent.

“We are continuously evaluating ways to scale up and we will continue to track and study demand patterns. While the pandemic will have an impact on consumer behaviour and demand, we believe brands such as Bata that are strong trust marks will come out stronger,” said Sandeep Kataria, CEO, Bata India.

However, with no certainty over when COVID-19 will be brought under control, the demand environment will continue to be tough for some time to come.

Things won’t be easy even on the WFH footwear front — in many Indian homes, particularly in the South, cultural mores require people to shun footwear in the home.
Himadri Buch
first published: Aug 19, 2020 12:57 pm
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