Wak­ing up to the women’s shoe craze

Win­ning rights to in­ter­na­tional trade­marks

Finweek English Edition - - Kap international -

JOR­DAN & CO MAY BE South Africa’s largest and old­est ex­ist­ing sup­plier of footwear, hav­ing made shoes for over 107 years, but it’s only now tak­ing ad­van­tage of the fact that women are crazy about shoes.

The com­pany has al­ways man­u­fac­tured men’s footwear – run­ning shoes, work shoes, for­mal shoes, in­dus­trial shoes, and po­lice and army boots – and very suc­cess­fully. It’s built up a size­able mar­ket share in this tar­get mar­ket in South Africa and the other SACU coun­tries of Namibia, Botswana, Swazi­land, and Le­sotho, but men’s shoes rep­re­sent only about 40% of all the footwear sold ev­ery year across the re­gion.

Yes, un­sur­pris­ingly it’s the women’s mar­ket that ac­counts for ap­prox­i­mately 60% of the to­tal lo­cal footwear mar­ket of about 165m pairs of shoes. Ac­cord­ing to MD Rob Jor­dan, the com­pany has now geared up to im­port and sup­ply women’s shoes – in all their forms – to re­tail­ers around the re­gion, and he ex­pects this area to be a sub­stan­tial source of growth for the com­pany into the fu­ture.

“Women do buy more shoes than men – it’s a well-known fact,” says Jor­dan. “It was cer­tainly time for us to tar­get this fast­grow­ing mar­ket, since there wasn’t a lot of room for more growth in mar­ket share on the men’s side.”

The move into women’s shoes cer­tainly isn’t the first ma­jor strate­gic shift by Jor­dan & Co. When Rob Jor­dan took over the man­tle of MD from his brother Ted in 1989, he re­alised that the shoe busi­ness that his grand­fa­ther Al­fred had started 90 years be­fore needed to adapt quickly to a South African mar­ket hun­gry for global prod­ucts.

“It was a rad­i­cal shift in di­rec­tion. We moved away from strictly lo­cal footwear man­u­fac­ture and be­came more re­cep­tive to what the evolv­ing cus­tomer base re­ally wanted, which was in­ter­na­tional brands,” says Jor­dan.

To se­cure a foothold in the larger re­tail chains, the com­pany launched young fash­ion brand Bronx, and it bought the rights to pro­duce run­ning shoe la­bel Asics. It also man­aged to se­cure the li­cences to pro­duce Adi­das, Nike (which is still does) and Puma, while suc­cess­fully land­ing Gov­ern­ment ten­ders for the sup­ply of ath­letic and other more for­mal shoes to the mil­i­tary and po­lice ev­ery year.

And when its man­u­fac­tur­ing vol­umes for Nike and Adi­das fell away as com­pe­ti­tion from Chi­nese man­u­fac­tur­ers grew in the mid-Nineties, the com­pany re­alised it needed to fill the void with al­ter­nate brands. It achieved this by im­port­ing ranges of its own brands from China and In­dia, as well as win­ning rights to in­ter­na­tional trade­marks such as Tommy Hil­figer, Sperry, Phat Farm, and Keds.

“China now pro­duces about 80% of the world’s foot- wear,” Jor­dan points out. “As an in­dus­try, we sim­ply can­not com­pete with low-cost pro­duc­tion of this na­ture. Chi­nese work­ers, for in­stance, of­ten work seven days a week, and the av­er­age pay amounts to about $40 (about R300) a month. Com­pare that to their SA coun­ter­parts who are av­er­ag­ing over R800 a week for a 40-hour week and you start get­ting the pic­ture.”

Jor­dan says one of the com­pany’s big dif­fer­en­tia­tors over other im­porters is its at­ten­tion to qual­ity con­trol, not only at its Elsies River four-storey fac­tory, but also in China, where the com­pany, through its Chi­nese part­ners, has peo­ple on- the­ground whose sole job it is to mon­i­tor the en­tire man­u­fac­tur­ing and sup­ply pro­cesses.

“We do com­pete well, even against China, in terms of qual­ity and speed of de­liv­ery. And we be­lieve it’s very im­por­tant to re­tain lo­cal tech­nol­ogy and ex­per­tise to en­sure sup­ply lines, as well as for ease of meet­ing client needs when spec­i­fi­ca­tions change,” he stresses.

What this has meant for Jor­dan & Co, as it has for SA’s en­tire tex­tile

in­dus­try, is a dra­matic re­duc­tion in the staff com­ple­ment. “At its peak in 1989 the fac­tory em­ployed 1 700 peo­ple, pro­duc­ing about 8 000 pairs of shoes a day. We’re now pro­duc­ing about 2 500 pairs of shoes daily and im­port­ing the bal­ance, with a staff com­ple­ment of around 600.”

Yet now, with a leaner, more ef­fi­cient and cost-ef­fec­tive struc­ture and a range of pop­u­lar footwear brands for both men and women in its arse­nal, the com­pany is grow­ing its bot­tom line faster than at any point in the last few years. Re­sults have also been boosted by the strong con­sumer spend­ing cy­cle, still un­der way in SA. The ini­tial re­sults of the ex­pan­sion into women’s shoes have been very pos­i­tive, with many prod­ucts, in­clud­ing im­ported leather bags, purses and wal­lets now mak­ing an ap­pear­ance at re­tail­ers such as Wool­worths. As for the fu­ture, Jor­dan is op­ti­mistic: “Even though women’s shoes is a new mar­ket for us, we’re ready to tackle it. Af­ter all, we have over a cen­tury of suc­cess in the footwear mar­ket and now we’ll be tar­get­ing peo­ple who re­ally do love shoes.”

Orig­i­nal fac­tory at Welling­ton.

We do com­pete well. Rob Jor­dan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.