Student shoes expect tough competition
The 5-billion-baht student shoe market is expected to intensify this year, as existing players race to capitalise on recovering consumer spending after the long-awaited general election, the government's planned economic stimulus measures and the long holidays in May.
Chakrapol Chandavimol, marketing and sales director at Nanyang Marketing Co, the marketer of Nanyang shoes, said the overall student shoe market will grow by 3% this year to 5.15 billion baht after flat growth or a marginal rise of less than 1% in the past three consecutive years.
The growth was also attributed to the release of popular movies in Thailand in this period such as Avengers: Endgame, in which some shoe brands have key characters from the movie on their student shoes that have become popular among Thai children.
Mr Chakrapol said his company recently launched Nanyang's sister brand, called Superstar, in the low-end market segment.
The low-end student shoe segment accounts for about 30% of the overall student shoe market.
Mr Chakrapol said there remains opportunity to grow in the low-end segment because there are no clear leading players.
The company expects to sell 50,000 pairs of Superstar shoes this year. It will also spend about 60 million baht to promote its student shoes during the back-to-school period.
"Despite the low birth rate in Thailand, our business has kept growing because we offer functional shoes," said Chaiyapat Sosothikul, deputy managing director of Nanyang Industry Co, the producer of Nanyang shoes. "We have no plan to extend our product lines to fashion shoes, which are considered red ocean."
The company projects 5-7% sales growth in 2019 after growing 10% in 2018.
The higher sales were partially due to the diversity of new shoes launched last year to tap into various customer groups.
Bata Thailand Ltd has partnered with Disney to produce many models of school shoes and bags illustrated with Disney characters such as Disney Princesses, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.
Uttam Kumar, Bata Thailand's country manager, said the company has also introduced a sports collection, B-First, that is lightweight. The store is also decorated with children's favourite cartoon characters.
"Bata has always been known for the great range and quality of its school shoes. In Thailand, we are pushing it even further, focusing on the health of kids' feet and not just the look of our shoes," Mr Kumar said. "This year both Avengers and Frozen will be released in Thailand, and these characters are a big hit among kids. This school season, the company is giving great branded merchandise from Disney like Frozen water bottles and Marvel's Avengers stationery sets with purchases above 800 baht."
He said that despite the declining birth rate in Thailand, Bata's school shoe sales continue to grow on a yearly basis because of customer loyalty.
"We believe this is because Bata is a strong brand," Mr Kumar said. "We've been in Thailand for 90 years, but the products are still evolving to meet the needs of the new generation today."
The company's school shoes and children's business aim to grow by double-digit rates this year, he said.
SCS Sportswear Co, the maker of the SCS and Breaker shoe brands, recently unveiled plans to earmark 50 million baht to promote its student shoes this year through online and offline channels.
Vice-president Witsanu Vongveeranonchai said the company has decades of experience as an original equipment manufacturer for many international sport and fashion shoe brands.
The firm is leveraging new market opportunities in fashion and sport shoes this year, focusing on futsal shoes.
The exclusive Breaker X sneaker collections will be launched via the online channel throughout the year to expand the customer base beyond students and shore up brand awareness.
Prices of Breaker X sneakers online will start at 3,000 baht, close to the level of international brands.
"We want to change customers' perception of the Breaker brand from a student to a fashion brand, which will help pave the way for our future expansion," Mr Witsanu said.
Thailand's footwear business is estimated at 20 billion baht. Of the total, some 8 billion baht is in sports and fashion shoes, plus 5 billion each for student shoes and sandals. The remaining 2 billion baht is in other categories.