Skechers has had a controversial rise to say the least. It’s legions of customers and current partnerships have given them a bit of edge in the athletic industry. They’re appeal however, has always been sort of a mystery. Your chances of running into a person on the street or at a restaurant in Skechers is ridiculously high. In 2017 Skechers sales amounted to 4.16 billion and they retained their position as the number one walking and casual lifestyle brand. Their success is due to a business and marketing maven masterfully guiding them.
Robert Greenberg may not be a house hold name but his products are. After uprooting his family from Boston to California in 1978 he started his foray into ‘shoes’ with a roller-skate business. He amassed a fortune in 1982 after licensing the image of film character E.T. for shoelaces netting him about 3 million dollars just shy of two months. After attending a shoe fair – relative to the roller skates of course – he got an idea to launch a shoe brand of his own. Enter L.A, Gear; its initial offering was a sporty fun athletic trainer that was available in 10 different colors. The business took off and within seven years sales grew to 900 million. By 1992 the company had lost a considerable amount of market value which in turn led to Robert being let go from the company and his son shortly after. Robert and Michael began to distribute Dr. Martens quite successfully but it wasn’t enough. That’s when Skechers was born.
Skechers was officially incorporated on May 29th in 1992. The brand launched with a Logger Boot to hopefully capitalize on the grunge trend and inch its way into Dr. Marten’s territory which they still distributed for. In the beginning Greenberg marketed Skechers as a hip, young, fresh brand particularly focused on men. In its infancy Skechers also incorporated other brands including Karl Kani and Cross Colours but the brands eventually fizzled out. Not long after Skechers and R. Griggs Ltd. the makers of Dr. Martens parted ways citing R. Griggs Ltd never fulfilled orders in time. Multiple lawsuits were filed by both companies and once they settled out of court, the Skechers brand took center stage.
In 1993 they hit it big with the release of the ‘Chrome Dome’ sneaker boot that appealed to both women and men. The release landed them in department stores like Foleys and Nordstrom and parlayed a new venture into clothing. With the company expanding rapidly, they set their sights on a children’s line and on their womenswear line focusing on sandals and boots that in its essence were perfect for the girl that admired the film cult classic Clueless. Heading into the 2000’s Skechers landed a deal with Macys as a prominent feature in their department stores adding a new layer of reputability. They were doing so well that they took the company public offering seven million shares at $11 each. The IPO raised over 88 million, a stunning amount further cementing their position in the industry. The way they’ve gotten there has had one or two hiccups.
Skechers is in theory is a low cost knock-off brand that is wildly successful. Starting in 1995 and over the course of 20 years they had been embroiled in a legal battle with adidas after seeing how strikingly similar their Onix sneaker was to the classic Stan Smith, among other designs. A blatant marketing move that was less than tasteful was Skechers introduction of Bob’s, a philanthropic initiative that gives a child a pair of shoes for every one that is sold. The problem, is this was an already successful and fruitful idea by TOM’s. Skechers plagiarized the idea down to the make-up of the shoe which was identical to the TOM’s one. In 2013 Skechers deceived customers with their shape – ups sneaker implying it toned their butts akin to Kim Kardashians, their spokesperson at the time. The Federal Trade Commission cited them for faulty marketing and made Skechers issue over half a million refund checks to customers who bought the shoe. Or the ever popular take on Kaye Wests Yeezy Boost 350 V2 “Beluga” that was a futile attempt at capitalizing on a very successful sneaker silhouette. Plagiarism has been a running theme with Skechers.
A customer can say “I like this one, but this one is cheaper.” That’s where Skechers wins, they are the cheaper and yet eerily similar option. They played in the athleisure space before most athletic giants, virtually reviving the walking sneaker. However as they age Skechers has been forced into sneaker innovation as opposed to their general ‘take method’ they employ for shoe models. With celebrity endorsements like Camila Cabello and mega star Demi Lovato, sneaker design is imperative for an endorsement. The company projects 1.200 billion + in sales for the end of Q3; there is no lack of customers in Skechers future. As the brand grows and athletic partnerships become more reputable Skechers is aimed to gain the upper hand and maybe nudge its way to the top rivaling behemoth Nike. In 2017 they pushed Adidas out of the number two athletic retailer spot and they are on course to do that once again. Their future is bright but another slip up is imminent.