Related soles: Japanese workwear companies target hybrid footwear market


June 28, 2022

TOKYO– Major apparel manufacturers are looking to gain a foothold in the footwear market with hybrid garments that are both stylish and practical.

In recent years, casual wear has become more acceptable in work environments, such as in the office and working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic. Seeking to tap into new markets, a number of apparel companies are leveraging their know-how and technologies to create versatile footwear that complements both business wear and casual wear.

Workman Co., a major workwear maker, opened a Workman Shoes store in the Ikebukuro area of ​​Tokyo’s Toshima district on June 16. Located next to a Workman Girl store that sells workwear for women, the shoe store sells pumps and ballet flats aimed at women. . The store is the company’s second outlet to specialize in footwear. the first opened in Osaka in April.

Active pumps that are produced using the same techniques used to make jika-tabi split-toe socks are among the store’s popular offerings. At ¥2,480 a pair, they’re soft and comfortable with elastic material in the upper lining that prevents chafing while helping to ensure a snug fit, according to Workman.

The pumps have become a hot topic on social media, with many users claiming that their feet feel less tired after wearing the shoes. When the Ikebukuro store opened, the shoes sold out on the first day.

“[Active Pumps] are the only shoes in this price range to have such functionality,” said Tetsuo Tsuchiya, Executive Director of Workman. “We aim to increase sales by 50 billion to 60 billion yen in the footwear sector.”

The company plans to open eight Workman Shoes stores by the end of the fiscal year.

Formal look, comfortable fit

With suit sales struggling, a number of menswear makers are also looking to break into the casual footwear market. In June, Aoyama Trading Co. teamed up with leather shoemaker Madras Inc. to offer waterproof leather sneakers. Leatherette shoes have proven to be as popular as leather work shoes among businessmen, the company said.

Aoki Inc. launched its line of pajama shoes in March. The shoes have elastic material in the upper, can be worn on formal occasions and provide a comfortable fit, according to the company.

Large clothing company GU Co. is targeting the market with a more business-oriented product. The company traditionally sold non-leather casual shoes, but its Opera shoes, launched during the fall-winter season, are made of genuine leather.

Pandemic trend

The efforts of companies in footwear can be attributed to the diversification of work styles – and clothing – brought about by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Some people think that some traditional styles of work shoes are too formal, and in recent times, casual shoes such as sneakers are gaining acceptance in the office, according to an official from Aoyama Trading.

Clothing companies can draw on their experience, such as expertise in materials and relationships with suppliers. “If we take care of the whole project, we can produce products quickly with designs and features that match the times. [constraints]said one person familiar with the industry.

However, it remains to be seen how much headway apparel companies can make in the somewhat limited market for hybrid footwear. According to Yano Research Institute Ltd., the shoe and footwear retail market hovered around 1.4 trillion yen before the pandemic, but fell to 1.068 trillion yen in fiscal 2020 – when the people were asked to refrain from going out – marking a 20% drop from the previous financial year. The market is expected to recover in fiscal 2021 and 2022, but the increase will not be large, the institute said.

“To capture a share of the limited footwear market, apparel manufacturers would need to demonstrate company-specific characteristics in areas such as price, functionality and design,” said Taketo Yamate of Frontier Management Inc, a garment industry expert. “They would need their products to become popular with a wide range of generations.”


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