How the humble sneaker is proving there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to international trade.
In every consumer industry, supply and demand is determined by a variety of trends.Whether economic and market or trends in production and trade, what is ‘current’ can dramatically change the way a sector does business. One industry experiencing a particular resurgence and shift in focus is sportswear, which in recent years has taken a more fashionable turn. Footwear in particular is taking some of the biggest strides in this global market, with the return of the ‘sneaker culture’ creating extraordinary demand worldwide.
With the US setting an impressive precedent in terms of a decade of continuous growth – and its sneaker market currently valued at approximately $28 billion (approx. £17.8 billion) (1) – the rest of the world has begun to take serious note of the lucrative opportunities to be had in this burgeoning area. In the UK, where sneakers are more commonly known as trainers, many sportswear retailers are experiencing strong profitable growth, attributing sales increases to growing demand for branded sneakers in both domestic and international markets (2).
For manufacturers, innovation is crucial to staying ahead of the competition, keeping buyers interested and maintaining market dominance. On a smaller scale, retailers who sell the sneakers are adopting the same mentality – with the more shrewd among them using the power of e-commerce to make their mark on a global customer base.
To do this effectively, speed to market is essential, with logistics playing an important part in supporting growing demand. Today’s sneaker suppliers require a provider that offers more than delivery from A to B, they also need a source of advice and knowledge which they can call upon to understand both established and emerging markets, and the intricacies involved in shipping a product quickly and efficiently.
To help, FedEx has put together some top tips on exporting, offering best practice information and guidance on international expansion:
1) Research is vital. Received an order from a far-flung country you know next to nothing about? Use the internet to your advantage to discover more about their business customs and cultures, but if you’re able – visiting the place in question will help build key relationships with customers and other distributors.
2) Prepare for peaks. While e-commerce is beneficial for making a product globally accessible in an instance, it can also mean that demand for new releases can outstrip supply. Ensure you’re well stocked with sufficient manpower to cope with any increase in orders.
3) Get familiar with customs. This is a crucial but often overlooked step when businesses export. Customs regulations can differ dramatically from country to country, with transaction costs often involved at both sides. Checking early on in the process if there are any obstacles or challenges and gaining advice in this area, could save you valuable time and allow you to focus more intently on growing your business.
4) Ensure great visibility. Visibility is fundamental to operations. Making use of your logistics provider’s range of tracking options provides businesses with greater awareness of any potential delays so customer updates can be given. This is an essential aspect of avoiding any potential disappointment and ensuring repeat customers moving forward.
5) Use technology to your advantage. Advances in technology are facilitating smarter business interactions, with those who adapt quickly reaping the biggest rewards. From streamlining in-house order processing systems to creating optimised and efficient global supply chains, technology continues to play a crucial role in business success.
Case study: Sneakersnstuff
For Swedish brand Sneakersnstuff, which initially established itself as an independent sports footwear retailer before the digital boom, launching an online presence marked the beginning of an impressive period of growth borne out of the convenience internet shopping brings. The brand’s e-tail offering soon revealed a whole new set of fans from all over the world – especially in the perennially trendy London.
Sneakersnstuff celebrated its fifteenth year in business by opening a boutique store in the capital; the first overseas launch in an unwaveringly ambitious retail pipeline, underpinned by an aggressive corporate growth strategy. While this retail space has generated impressive footfall, e-commerce continues to be integral to the company’s worldwide operations, with 70% of sales coming from online customers as far afield as the US and Asia, as well as some more niche markets including Guam, Kuwait and Macau.
Such widespread global demand can be daunting for any business in any sector, with no room for error when it comes to delivering customer service. As logistics providers, we are justly relied upon to provide the right support and guidance for those SMEs looking to cross international waters. By keeping our finger on the pulse of the emerging trends across all the sectors in which we work, we are able to provide our customers with advice on customs, tariffs and taxes – as well as speedy delivery – to ensure they are able to make the most of every opportunity.
About the author: David Poole is Managing Director of sales, UK South at FedEx Express. Core to his objectives is the ongoing acquisition of sustainable quality revenue, while providing customers with the impeccable level of support and advice expected from a multi-national brand such as FedEx Express. FedEx Express is the world’s largest express transportation company, providing fast and reliable delivery to more than 220 countries and territories worldwide.
(1) FT.com, April 2015
(2) Telegraph, April 2015