The Death of the Knock Off Shoe

Recent nuggets I've picked up through Research Edge's macro work and my team's industry sources have planted a fast-growing seed in my mind that the mid-priced-knockoff shoe business is about to be taken outside behind the barn and shot.

If you've been following my footwear postings, you know the drill. Years of oversupply in China and margin extraction from US brands has reached its tipping point. Now factory margins are close to zero (down from 10%) and capacity growth is going from +5% to flat at best. Now the supply chain squeeze hits the US brands, who in turn stick it to the retailers (or at least they go down swinging).

Well here's a couple of nuggets for you...
1. For the first time since the 1980s, factories located in Southern China are telling mid-tier brands (and the sourcing agents that represent them) that the long-standing $19.99 price point simply can not hold anymore at the current margin structure. The factories are actually turning away business. This is unheard of, and a major consideration for mass market retailers (WMT, TGT, and the family footwear channel).

2. The Chinese government set into motion a mandatory initiative to hold factories responsible for issuing back pay for vacations that were never given. This is causing a financial chain reaction, causing many factories to either close or take a huge hit. Anyone who thinks that China will refrain from passing this through the supply chain is not keeping their eye on the ball.

Simply put, brands matter again. A lot. Is it any wonder that Payless went from 80% private label down to 60% (and on its way to 25%)? Does it make sense now why Target did a deal with Nike for an offshoot of the Converse brand and took down private label but took UP footwear pricing in the stores?

We'd be very weary of any brand that is simply 'average.' In this environment, 'average' is lethal.

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