“This is such a positive time! It is a very good time for the country and small business is going to thrive,” says Ahmed Habib, Country Manager for Skechers SA distributor Brandfolio SA, with enthusiasm.

He has much to smile about: not only is the strengthened Rand reducing the prices of the shoes they are showing to Cape Town retailers by as much as R100 per pair, but the benefits of early morning walks that President Cyril Ramaphosa is promoting is sweet music for the brand acknowledged as the world’s #1 supplier of walking shoes.

The new Gowalk range features a seamless sock upper. Photo Carin Hardisty.

With the Rand’s positive response to investor interest and renewed business confidence following the election of our new president, the price of the Skechers range on show – which Habib says already compares very favourably with similar comfort and performance ranges – should improve even more. And with investors, jobs will return, meaning more money in pockets, which is always good news for retailers. “This is all so positive!” he repeats.

A small section of the approximately 4 000 SKUs Western Cape retailers could select ranges from. Photo Carin Hardisty.

Add to that the positive sales feedback from retailers viewing the 4 000 odd SKUs that will be delivered from August to December – Skechers flies off their shelves, report the retailers, many who are placing bigger orders than before.

“The brand is trending and selling in store,” says brand manager Yusuf Vadi with satisfaction.

The trendy Street range is aimed at the young consumer following Skechers ambassadors like Camila Cabello. Photo Carin Hardisty.

The new Cape Town offices in the M5 Business Park feature their new individual fittings that can be attached and turned to show shoes to their best advantage. Retailers move with ease between the four ground floor rooms housing all the samples that can be ordered for the next drop. This is the first time that they are able to create a permanent display showing the full offering in this way to Cape Town and environs retailers – previously they had to hire venues in the city for a limited period.

Following the range showing in town, regional reps are showing samples to retailers who were unable to visit their showrooms. Retailers who miss the current order period can still order ex stock and top up ranges – although these numbers and styles will be limited by availability.

The large number of SKUs they offer is one of the main reasons for the successful local growth of the brand over the past few years, says Habib. “It means that several retailers in one mall or area can all stock Skechers without one of them selling the same shoes,” adds Vadi. “Every retailer has a different customer profile and there are enough styles for them to choose a range that is completely different to any other retailer in the vicinity.”

The extensive men’s ranges include outdoor boots with leather or suede uppers. Photo Carin Hardisty.

Brandfolio therefore does not decide on behalf of retailers what would sell in their stores by pre-selecting samples to show in South Africa. They believe this would be tricky because there are vast differences in stock selections by retailers trading in different areas and catering for different customer demographics.

Besides, they can deliver so many different SKU orders – big and small – because of their unique distribution set-up: Brandfolio SA is a subsidiary of Brand-Folio LLC, headquartered in Dubai, which supplies thousands of retailers across vast territories in the Middle East, Africa and Eastern Europe. Therefore, a small order from one South African retailer is added to similar orders from the other countries they supply, to become a big order delivered to the Brand-Folio warehouse, from where it is dispatched.

Ladies comfort ranges appeal to young and old. Photo Carin Hardisty.

Habib points out that there is not only a wide variety in the categories of footwear on offer – walking, running, trail running, golf, hiking to sandals, smart wedges, lifestyle and the latest urban street – but within one category there will be colour and style choices for the young and trendy as well as more mature customers. “A more mature customer does not have to wear old ladies shoes, she can look fashionable,” says Vadi.

The sizes range from kiddies to size 15 in selected areas.

But, all have a common denominator, says Vadi: comfort. The air-cooled breathable or gel-infused balanced memory foam and Flex technologies in most shoes, whether performance or fashion, wins over customers as soon as they try on a shoe, he explains.

The latest Gorun range features seamless sock uppers with some strategic support from straps, etc. Photo Carin Hardisty.

In the Gowalk and Gorun ranges a full seamless sock as upper – affixed to a Goga mat foam sole that is similar to a yoga mat – is a new comfort addition to the performance ranges. The socks are supported by strategically placed cosmetics like straps or heel caps. Without a seam or any pressure points these walking shoes are especially beneficial to diabetics, who can suffer from diabetic neuropathy and then won’t be able to feel irritations or chafing, points out Vadi.

The new performance styles also feature a new generation of pods in the soles to enhance toe-off and their trail running shoes, with smaller pods, have seepage holes that allow water to drain completely and keep the feet dry.

The trail shoes have seepage holes to allow water to drain. Photo Carin Hardisty.

Brandfolio SA is running an extensive TV campaign to introduce these comfort features to the public. They are also keen to do shopping mall activations with participating stores benefiting from the foot traffic they attract, says Vadi.