Significant growth in online sales combined with the continued popularity of high-performance sport leisure footwear made 2018 another exemplary year for the footwear industry.
The United States and China easily outpace the rest of the world in terms of annual footwear purchasing. In 2018, Americans spent US$83.8 billion on footwear, while Chinese consumers spent US$61.1 billion. Brazil was the third most profitable market at US$26.2 billion.
The shift away from in-store retail to e-commerce is the most important consumer trend affecting the industry. In the fashion footwear segment, almost all of 2018’s sales growth came from an increase in online sales.
Millennials are the predominant driver behind the shift to online shopping. Finding new and better ways to reach this demographic is crucial to ensure sustainability going forward. To this end, many shoe manufacturers continue to use celebrity endorsements as a key marketing tactic to garner brand loyalty and engage digital natives, many of whom prefer to buy products online.
Here are the top ten largest shoe manufacturers by annual revenue through the year-end 2017, five of which are family-owned.
Revenue: US$2 billion (2002)
Country of Origin: Austria-Hungary (now the Czech Republic)
Bata may not generate the most revenue, but it does sell more units than any other company with one million customers buying Bata shoes every day. Bata was founded in what is now the Czech Republic by cobbler Tomas Bata, who sought to commercialise the family trade. The First and Second World Wars forced Bata to move its operations to Canada for much of the 20th century. Now, Bata Shoes International is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Bata excels in international growth markets, selling stylish yet affordable footwear at high volume. Their products are distributed through 5,300 stores in 70 countries on five continents, and they also have a significant e-commerce presence.
From design conceptualisation through production, Bata Shoes remains a family-owned, self-contained operation. The organisation is divided into three main units: Bata, Bata Industrials and AW Lab.
Revenue: US$2.95 billion
Country of Origin: Italy
Fila is a leading manufacturer of athletic shoes, sportswear and accessories, founded by Giansevero Fila in Biella, Italy in 1911. The original Italian ownership group sold Fila to the American hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management in 2003. Four years later, Cerberus sold the company to Fila Korea, which now controls the entirety of Fila’s operations.
Worldwide, Fila has approximately 500 distribution facilities, with 300 franchised retail stores. Fila’s primary market is 18-34-year-old consumers with athletic shoes ranging from the easily affordable to exclusive.
Fila’s popularity peaked in the 1970s when a sponsorship deal with tennis great Bjorn Borg made Fila the most recognised brand in tennis footwear and apparel. The new Korean management under CEO Yoon Keun-Chang is currently pushing to revive the brand. To that end, they purchased Acushnet in 2011, which owns the brand Titleist, in a bid to increase their exposure in the golf market.
Revenue: US$3.13 billion
Country of Origin: UK
The international manufacturing conglomerate Burberry traces its roots back to 1856 when Thomas Burberry, a 21-year-old draper’s apprentice, decided to branch out on his own and open a store in Basingstoke, England. Now, Burberry has a presence in clothing, footwear, accessories, perfumes and cosmetics. The company remained an independently owned family business until 1955 when Great Universal Stores bought a controlling stake.
Burberry, which has its headquarters in London, operates 442 distribution centres around the world. The company manufactures and sells shoes under its own brand name, offering several styles of sneakers, boots, loafers, dress shoes and sandals.
ASICS is Japan’s largest manufacturer of athletic shoes, apparel and sports equipment. Founded and still based in Kobe, ASICS began shortly after WWII when Kihachiro Onitsuka launched an athletic footwear company with the aim of inspiring Japanese youth to be more physically active. In 1977, he changed the name of his company to an acronym representing the Latin phrase “anima sana in corpore sano,” which translates to “a sound mind in a sound body.”
ASICS signature shoe, the Onitsuka Tiger, was also the company’s first product, released in 1949. The success of the Tiger prompted a young Phil Knight (Co-Founder of Nike) to start his own athletic shoe company so he could distribute the Onitsuka Tiger in the US. Today, ASICS makes 437 different styles of athletic shoes for men and women.
6. New Balance
Revenue: US$4 billion
Country of Origin: USA
New Balance is an American shoe and apparel manufacturing company founded over a century ago by William J Riley as the New Balance Arch Support Company. The name comes from Riley’s original arch support, which had a three-prong design providing a “new balance in the shoe.” Today, New Balance manufactures athletic shoes, apparel, sportswear and sports equipment.
New Balance is based in Boston, Massachusetts and conducts business in more than 120 different countries around the world. In 2017, Forbes ranked New Balance second in its list of Best Mid-Sized American Employers and 184th overall in their Fortune 500 list.
Revenue: US$4.64 billion
Country of Origin: USA
One of the newer companies on this list, Skechers, a family business, was founded by Robert Greenberg, who has served as the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer since its inception in 1992. Robert’s son Michael serves as President and Co-Founder of Skechers.
Skechers is headquartered in Manhattan Beach, California but has production and sales operations that reach every corner of the globe, with more than 3,000 retail outlets in 170 countries.
Skechers boasts more than 3,000 different styles in casual shoes, work shoes and dress shoes, and in 2018 alone, the company shipped more than 170 million pairs.
Revenue: US$12.3 billion
Country of Origin: USA
The VF Corporation is an international conglomerate which owns several elite apparel, footwear and accessory brands. Founded in 1899 as the Reading Glove and Mitten Manufacturing Company, VF has since grown into one of the top manufacturers in its sector. The VF Corporation is headquartered in Greensboro, North Carolina and does business in 170 countries.
Initially, VF was not involved in the footwear industry but has since become a major player through the acquisition of some iconic brands in the footwear space, including Timberland and Altra.
In 2017, VF returned approximately US$1.9 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.
Revenue: US$15.25 billion
Country of Origin: France
Kering is a French international conglomerate based in Paris which owns some of the world’s most iconic brands in fashion, footwear and accessories, including Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Volcom and chief Adidas rival Puma.
The conglomerate was founded by François Pinault in 1963 and was known as Pinault S.A. until 1994. It went through other variations before ending up as Kering in 2013. Kering has been a constituent of the CAC 40 index since 1995 and has been headed by François-Henri Pinault, the founder’s son, since 2005.
Kering’s main athletic shoe brand, Puma, recently made a splash when its sneaker, Faas, was worn and endorsed by the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt.
Revenue: US$24 billion
Country of Origin: Germany
Founded in 1924 by Adolf Dassler, Adidas quickly grew into the premier athletic shoe and apparel manufacturer in Europe.
Adidas was part of one of the most acrimonious family business splits in history. The company was initially called the Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory and was run by Adolf and his brother Rudolph. However, following a post-WWII falling out, Rudolf left to form Puma, which competes directly with Adidas.
Today, Adidas is the official uniform manufacturer for several sports leagues around the world and has acquired other premier brands including Reebok, Runtastic and Matix.
Revenue: US$36.30 Billion
Country of Origin: USA
Nike, the undisputed champion of the shoe manufacturing industry, was founded as Blue Ribbon Sports in 1964 by Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight. In 1971, Knight rebranded the athletic shoe manufacturer as Nike and, in doing so, created an international icon. Nike is best known for its line of athletic footwear, apparel, recreational products and sports equipment.
Nike’s most significant breakthrough came with the 1985 release of Michael Jordan’s Air Jordan, the success of which allowed Nike to expand, acquiring competitors including Converse in 2003 and Starter in 2004.