Read the interview and learn a bit more about the current trends of the footwear industry according to the views of Syed Nasim Manzur, from Apex Footwear in Bangladesh
The WorldFootwear.com had a conversation with Syed Nasim Manzur from Apex Footwear, a giant player in the footwear business based in Bangladesh and in operation since 1990. As one of the largest shoemakers in the subcontinent constituted by India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, Apex holds 15% share of leather footwear export in Bangladesh and has a workforce over 5 000 people. We took the opportunity to discuss the main trends of the footwear industry with Thomas and bring you the highlights of that conversation today.
Today, the consumer is talking about comfort, sustainability and is very interested in knowing where the shoes were made and how were made, but I think the fundamental shift is how people live now. The world is no longer formal. The world is casual. So, people use shoes in a different way. So, we see a trend towards athletic, fitness and sneakers. This is a permanent shift, and it is not coming back. So, I think we as shoe companies need to adapt to that, to the new way people live their life.
I think speed to market is a challenge we all have. But I don’t think everybody needs to do the same thing. So, within that space each company needs to find its own niche of what you can do. So, for example, some people might be acting more on the older consumer segment, some people might be doing something for the outdoor sports segment. So, I think within that whole space you need to find what you do well.
There is a lot of talk about sustainability, but I need to be honest: I’m personally a little bit sceptical about everybody is talking about being sustainable cause you have to be seen talking about being sustainable, but not enough of us are looking into our production process or our supply chain to actually make sure we are sustainable. I think technologies, such as blockchain, can help, but I think there are simple things that we can do already, for example, in the packaging. If we can eliminate plastic in the primary packaging, that is an example of the little things we can do. It doesn’t have to be a big change. It can be a small change. But I don’t think there is enough action; there is a lot of talk but not a lot of action. We have been driven by the consumer and I think the challenge lies in the cost of some of the sustainability measures. The key question is: Will the end consumer necessarily pay more? And my personal opinion is that the consumer won’t pay more. It is on us as manufacturers to absorb that and find ways to remain competitive but still be sustainable and that is the big challenge.
We are dealing with these digital nomads and there is no brand loyalty. I don’t think people will be loyal to brands anymore. I think people find different brands for different needs. So, if I’m an outdoor person I might be gravitating towards certain brands; If I’m going out to the disco, I’m might want something else. So, I don’t think it is just about building brand loyalty, it is about how you remain relevant to the customer’s experience. So, if you are a journalist, and you are on your feet all day, you want to look good, but you want to be comfortable. Before, it was always a compromise: you would have to choose if you wanted to look good or be comfortable. I don’t think you can do that anymore.
Key to success
How are you relevant to your consumer? You can have the best marketing, you can have the best-looking models and the nicest stores, but the question is: how are you relevant to your customer today? I think the customer is very demanding, very well informed. We have seen examples where people are investing a lot in the product, and I’m old fashioned: I believe in the product. I think if the product is good the customer will come.