adidas India has witnessed a 3X increase in sneaker sales, indicating that the sneakers market is finally picking up
- To shape nascent sneaker culture in India and bring global stories for sneakerheads in the country, adidas India organised Sneakers Day, a four-day festival that was hosted from October 22-25 2020.
- Manish Sapra, Senior Marketing Director, adidas India walked us through the growing popularity of sneakers in India, the growth trajectory it has seen in the fashion industry, why adidas is focusing more on providing sustainable sneakers and much more.
However, India is still a follower rather than a leader in the sneaker landscape. Indians took too long to get accustomed to sneaker culture. In the 90s, all Bollywood actors and cricketers wore sports shoes, who were the only trendsetters for consumers back then. Today, women who wear sarees in urban India have discovered the fashionable and comfortable wear that sneakers are. Recently, a woman hula-hooping in saree and sneakers took the internet by storm.
Our fascination with sneakers grew with time as more influencers, sports stars and Bollywood actors started sporting sneakers as a legitimate statement piece.
On how sneakers are gaining prominence in our country, Manish Sapra, Senior Marketing Director, adidas India, said, “Sneakers are a part of mainstream fashion now. And a large reason for this is people seeking a mix of comfort and style. Sneakers are now acceptable at workplaces, in some instances even in formal work environments with ties and trousers. While the barriers to dressing and pre-defined 'rules' of dressing are dissolving, consumers want more comfort than ever before, and this is where sneakers become the best option.”
Shaping sneaker culture in India
To continue supporting the Sneaker culture that goes beyond the actual products and shape it into a lifestyle that encompasses music, culture, art, etc, sports giant adidas launched a 4-day festival to introduce Indians to other Sneakerheads.
Its aim was to bring together diverse audiences and drive impetus to a fast-growing sneaker community, offering various exciting deals and access to limited-edition adidas memorabilia. It had also organised engaging activities for its users and for the grand prize, adidas offered a full year worth of sneaker supply to a lucky few consumers.
adidas India has witnessed a 3X increase in sneaker sales over the last 3 years, indicating that the sneakers market is finally picking up.
When asked about the size of the industry, Sapra said it is difficult to define it because the lines between different shoes have blurred in the country.
He said, “Sneakers can be defined in multiple ways so it’s difficult to give an exact market size. A running shoe (like the Ultraboost) for one consumer might be a sneaker for another consumer who purely likes to wear it for lifestyle and fashion purposes. Nonetheless, at an absolute level, the sneakers category has seen extremely strong growth for us and we have witnessed a ~3X increase in premium and hype sneaker sales over the last 3 years.”
Sharing the reason behind this uptick, Sapra said, “We believe the growth of the category has been gradual over the last 5 years, but it’s really started to go mainstream in the last 2 years or so. A large part of this growth has been due to social media and the awareness & influence of global sneaker and streetwear trends driven by brands, artists, athletes, festivals and most importantly consumers. The same holds true for India – industry leading brands such as adidas are driving online & offline experiences for sneaker loving consumers thereby giving a platform for consumers to build a dialogue around sneakers. With this, we have taken the lead to develop the sneaker culture in India.”
Sneakerheads in India are aware of the global trends, upcoming launches and collaborations. They look up to global stars. So, adidas is trying to bring global trends in India for them.
Sapra said, “In the past few years, we at adidas have made sure we get the most of our global collaborations with Kanye West - Yeezy, Pharrell Williams, Beyoncé, Sean Wotherspoon, Yohji Yamamoto, etc. available to our fans and consumers, that too on the same dates as per global launches. This means that a consumer in India has access to these hyped products on the same day as a consumer in New York, London or Paris.”
It is becoming increasingly popular in urban areas and a part of ethnic wear as well.
“Sneakers these days are a must-have. The love for sneakers has grown multi-folds and it’s great to see how people in India are styling them not just with denims and joggers as one would expect, but also experimenting with ethnic/traditional and formal wear. One of the most important highlights has been consumers’ love for white sneakers. 5 years back who would have thought white sneakers would be such a rage in India. Now it’s a staple in everyone’s wardrobes. While Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru continue to drive the culture in the most impactful way, cities like Chandigarh, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad are not far behind and have growing communities,” said Sapra.
Consumers have also started requesting for personalized sneakers. Many also commission artists to customise pairs for them after the pair has been purchased from a brand. Adidas has also joined this bandwagon of personalisation.
Sapra shared, “From time to time, at adidas, we host exclusive brand experiences to celebrate the community and a key highlight of these experiences are the personalization zones. Recently, to celebrate 50 years of the adidas Superstar, the most iconic shoe in the world, we used the shoes as a canvas to express the change that one wishes to see in the world. We commissioned an artist to bring alive the story. The campaign was hugely successful on social media and we had multiple requests from consumers to mass produce some of the designs.”
Lockdown on sneakers?
While adidas India also saw its sales declining during the initial period of lockdown, all its limited edition of sneakers were an instant sell-out.
Elaborating on the impact of lockdown, Sapra said, “This year has obviously been unusual, and for a select few summer months during the lockdown as people were spending more time at home, we saw a steep increase in the demand for open footwear (slippers and slides). However even during this period, so many of our Hype sneaker drops through collaborations with Yeezy, Pharrell Williams and Sean Wotherspoon were an instant sell-out. These premium and limited-edition sneakers ensured the momentum was never lost and that we stayed connected with our consumers. Now with the relaxation in lockdown measures as people start to step out, we are again seeing a surge in demand for sneakers.”
With the on-going festive season and early signs of recovery, Sapra is highly optimistic about seeing a solid growth.
Sapra said, “With every passing day we are seeing our business return to our original ambitions. We are extremely confident in the festive period providing a strong and solid boost to the already growing numbers. From a marketing point of view, we see an increased focus on driving enhanced consumers experiences, both offline and online, and an increase in digital content & media spends.”
Vision for adidas sneakers
Adidas has tried to incubate and drive street culture in India by building awareness around its new launches and bringing global stories of sneaker culture to the country.
Speaking about adidas’ vision for sneakers, Sapra said, “We strongly believe in our product and the stories we tell. We want to continue enhancing our understanding of the market and consumer needs, bringing in the right products and consumer experiences. In the future we’d like to continue growing the sneaker community to have a pan-India footprint. We know the consumer is highly opinionated and knows exactly what they need, and our endeavor is to understand that need, work with speed to turn the insights into the right product and bring it to market in our stores through the best experiences.”
After seeing a 3X growth, the next goal on adidas list is to enhance its consumers experience and go bullish on its sustainable sneakers.
“Sneakers made from 100% recycled material have already hit it off with environmentally conscious consumers. We believe they will command a significant share of our sneaker business in the near future,” said Sapra.