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America’s least cool sneaker company is absolutely killing it

In this photograph taken by AP Images for SKECHERS, Beauty and mommy bloggers, outfitted in SKECHERS Shape-ups, participated in a fitness walk up Fifth Avenue en route to the "Getting Gorgeous" event, Friday, Aug. 6, 2010, in New York, to experience the benefits of Shape-ups – the sneakers that provide a fun and easy way to tone and improve strength and posture.
Diane Bondareff / AP Images for Skechers
They’re headed off to get more Skechers.
By Marc Bain
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Don’t look now, but Skechers is leisurely walking by its competition.

On its earnings call yesterday (July 29), Skechers CFO David Weinberg proudly noted that the company had its highest quarterly sales in its 23-year history: $800 million, up from $587 million in the same period last year.

“According to SportsOneSource, we are now the number one work brand and the number one walking brand,” Weinberg said. He added that, in May, analysts dubbed Skechers the number two “athletic footwear” brand overall in the US, the world’s largest sportswear market.

Skechers is far from challenging Nike’s dominance, but it’s nonetheless managed to quietly pass its other competition. While its rivals have been chasing athletes or the fashion elite, Skechers has made a killing selling to everyone else, and it’s done it by basically playing down the athletic part of “athletic footwear.”

Not every person who laces up a pair of Nikes is a marathoner, but there’s a decent chance she runs casually, and wants a running sneaker, not a walking sneaker. But as Skechers keeps proving, there are a huge number of men and women who want something that’s comfortable and casual for going about everyday life. The running they’re doing is the kind that involves errands, and the support they need comes from being on their feet all day, not pounding the track.

The company also targets people—mostly women—who want to get in shape, but aren’t quite ready for a triathlon.

All this makes Skechers a great fit with athleisure, the portmanteau of “athletic” and “leisure” used to describe the growing trend of dressing in gym clothes for non-gym activities. Only, while everyone else has leaned toward the athletic, Skechers has emphasized the leisure.

The celebrities Skechers sponsors, whom Weinberg name-dropped throughout the call, illustrate the point. They’re generally singers, celebrities, and retired athletes, and they appeal to an older and younger audience, as if targeting parents and their kids. The names include:

  • Demi Lovato (who is “resonating with teens”)
  • Megan Trainor
  • Ringo Starr (who speaks to “Gen X and Baby Boomers”)
  • Sugar Ray Leonard
  • Brooke Burke-Charvet
  • Kelly Brook
  • Matt Kuchar
  • Pete Rose (“The ‘Pete Rose in the Hall’ Skechers campaign continued to create excitement in the sports world and on Twitter, as Pete petitioned the baseball league to be in the hall of fame.”)

Notably, boxing legend Sugar Ray Leonard represents Skechers’ relaxed-fit line, suggesting anything but footwear for a tough workout. Pete Rose is at least as well known for his gambling as for his athletic prowess at this point.

The only active athlete in the list is Matt Kuchar, a professional golfer, whose sport, not coincidentally, involves a lot of walking.

How does a Korean pop group fit into this? Currently, international sales account for 30% of Skechers’ revenue. In three to four years, Weinberg says half its business could be international. Most of the growth will come from China, where people commonly look to Korea as a barometer of what’s cool.

Skechers’ comfy kicks are taking over.

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