EXPORTING FOOTWEAR TO EUROPE Trends and Trade Opportunities
Photo: www.canfora.com
The EU is the world’s largest importer of footwear, importing approximately 25% more than the volume of USA imports, the next largest importer. Germany, France, Italy and the UK were the largest importing countries and represented 60% of the EU import value. An exporter (or potential exporter) of footwear from Kenya to the European market must understand the competitive nature of this industry in Europe. Over the years, developing countries have been exporting over 40% of the total value and over 70% of the total volume of all EU imports of footwear. The share of imports from developing countries in total EU footwear imports has been rising in volume terms which mean that it is important for an exporter to have unique selling proposition to compete. For exporters in Kenya, the main competing countries and those that have been exporting huge volumes to Europe include China, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand, Tunisia and Morocco.

During the global downturn, EU footwear sales fell or has slowed significantly as consumer could not afford to change footwear as regular as retailers would like to, even with cheap imports from Asia. Consumers in most EU15 countries now prefer buy quality footwear that is fashionable, lasts longer and fits well within their personal style. In this respect, clothing retailers have changed the way they buy shoes, presenting them as a part of a total look.

Even with the slowed growth, Consumers in most EU countries have less disposable income and tend to shop around comparing prices, or even considered to repair their old shoes as a last resort. However, consumers are still spending a considerable amount of their disposable income but they still want the best value for money. Changing patterns of distribution have helped the market grow more in volume than in value. Increasing numbers of discount retailers, clothing retailers and hypermarkets have made footwear more affordable for more consumers.

Market Segmentation in footwear

There exist significant differences in consumption between the main market segments in the EU. The most common methods of segmenting the market in all EU countries
- By user,                             - By lifestyle,
- By footwear type                - By price/quality.

Segmentation by user
Women are the most important segment for footwear and represent over 50% of footwear value sales in the major EU markets. Women generally spend more on footwear and different pairs of shoes for different occasions. In addition to comfort, women regard style and fashion important. The life cycle of women’s footwear is shorter than those of men and children. This segment is driven by trends in fashion, which makes it faster moving.

The share of men’s footwear averages around 25% in the major EU markets with higher shares in the France, Italy, UK, the Netherlands and Spain. Men’s footwear tends to be more expensive than women’s footwear, but this is compensated by the fact that women by more pairs than men. This segment can be sub-divided into younger men, who are more fashion and brand conscious, and older men who prefer practical footwear, changes less often and regard comfort, quality more important.

•Children and teens

Photo: Katchy Kollections, Kenya
The share of children’s footwear averages around 15% in the major markets. There are differences in buying habits depending on the age of the child. Children aged between 0 and 3 years old - Parents buy shoes and regard shape, suppleness and soles as important. They are willing to pay for good quality to prevent problems with the child’s feet.
Children aged between 3 and 7 years old - These children are similar to the above group, but family income and child’s preference starts to play a role. Particularly clothing retailers come with complete outfits, including shoes.
Children aged between 7 and 15 years old - Although parents still buy the shoes they are increasingly influenced by what the child wants. These children are heavily influenced by the media (music video clips) and the Internet. Differences in tastes between boys and girls become important in footwear choice.
Teens aged between 15 and 19 years old - They are influenced by TV and magazines and are aware of the latest fashion trends and brands. Depending on the EU country, teens have quite a lot of money to spend, as pocket money is high.

Segmentation by lifestyle
Lifestyle patterns reflect the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, employment and values that can define consumer segments. The research company GfK has identified eight different lifestyles which are Dreamers, Homebodies, Settled, Adventurers, Rational Realists, Open-minded, Organics and Demanding. This may relate to the consumers shopping behaviour and provide an insight in whether these segments buy footwear on impulse do this in a planned way such as waiting for the sales period. It may also provide information on those consumers who are more influenced by fashion styles and brands, as opposed to the intrinsic qualities of the footwear itself.

Segmentation by footwear types

Segmentation by type of footwear is also commonly used to segment the market. Please note that there is now greater overlap between different types of footwear and more multi-functional footwear is being purchased. For example, the casual footwear segment includes sports footwear such as sneakers, trainers and basketball shoes that is mainly purchased for casual use. Another example is fashion or evening footwear that is purchased more for everyday use, rather than for formal occasions. Formal footwear is high in the UK, the Netherlands and Italy, while casual footwear is highly represented in Germany, Spain and France. The trend of ‘dressing down’ in offices further stimulates the shift from formal footwear to casual footwear, taking place in many of the EU15 countries.

Segmentation by price/quality

In terms of product quality, trendiness, design, retail price level and related brands, the footwear market can be segmented as follows:
Luxury segment - which includes excellent quality fashion footwear with the perfect finish of an exclusive brand or designer, who set the trends that are followed by the other segments.
Fine segment - Consumers in this segment are willing to pay for quality footwear, but buy less frequent than consumers in the medium and economical segments. In this segment few people can afford luxury footwear and have become careful in their spending. This "near-luxury" market referred to as the fine segment and includes branded footwear that is more accessible to a wider audience, with well-designed quality footwear at affordable prices.
Medium segment - is the largest within the EU market and includes reasonable to good quality footwear that matches well with the latest clothing outfits. Consumers take note of brands, but these are not crucial to purchasing decisions. The medium segment includes consumers of all ages and the footwear is sold by footwear specialists and many non-specialist retailers, including online sellers.
In recent years, consumers from the medium segment are trading up to the fine segment as they have become more interested in designer and branded fashion footwear. However, they want to pay the lowest possible price for it.
Economical segment - is dominated footwear of a lower quality and is strongly represented in the Eastern EU countries. There is a wide range of footwear varying from local produced footwear of a reasonable quality to cheap imported footwear. Designs are influenced by popular (branded) footwear in the medium and fine segments that often imitated. Demand from the economical segment is instant and inexpensive items are often bought impulsively. Most economical footwear is produced in large quantities in Asian countries with low labor costs. It is sold by footwear specialists, clothing specialists, discounters, hypermarkets, department stores, variety stores, drug stores street markets and discount online sellers.

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