The evolution of society has been primarily derived from developments in manufacturing transitioning from the agriculturally driven to the more industrialized ones. Also, through time and through a variety of paradigms manufacturing has evolved and is still evolving. One that finds pertinence to the global footwear market is mass customization. This refers to a new market standard that has changed how products are designed, manufactured, delivered, and recycled coming a long way from the craft production the predates industrial revolution. However, the added benefits and complications of today’s manufacturing systems and technologies are in unison with the manufacturing challenges which are akin to those of the age of craft production. Thus, enabling a transformation whereby, the ideals of craft production are expressed through modern industrial technology, allowing the room for aspirations of mass customization to provide more goods and services which are tailored to preference and requirements of customers. Thus, the capability of combining the potential of manufacturing small batches and batches of one of the very diversified and personalized products with the efficiency and economy of scale of mass production. The global footwear market is also subjected to such preferences of bespoke product offerings that have been one of the core driving factors resulting in the growth of the market.
It is pertinent to gloss over a few important factors that are integral to the footwear industry. For instance, the growth in shoe consumption is sustained by the growth of the world population, and that such growth is concentrated in developing countries, primarily driven by population growth and the growing pool of social segments of developing economy whose purchasing power constitutes necessities and also extends room for the purchase of several pairs of shoes, among others each year. Nevertheless, the United States appears to be an exception. Despite the fast-growing population is not characteristic of the USA, the nation experiences an increased volume of shoe purchases. Because, America is devoted to consumption and due to the high level of immigration, particularly from Latin America, is present.
Further, the increasing integration of the footwear industry into the fashion industry has been dominated by a few multi-product oligopolies, which have exploited economies of scale and scope in activities Viz. as distribution, marketing, and branding spanning product categories. Augment with the production of information technology, the aforesaid has resulted in distribution concentration, production systems change, and a comparatively more globalized production market. In contrast with delocalization, where producers have the propensity to lose control over the manufacturing process, in this case, they lose control of some other very crucial activities such as design, branding, marketing, and distribution. Caught between these two ponderous driving forces, mass customization has emerged as manna from heaven with the advent of the 3D Printed Footwear Market. For instance, it was reported that scanning technology that can be employed as part of the shoe fitting process is in the pipeline at Vivobarefoot which is a minimalist running shoe company, especially intending to provide mass customization for consumers, including the introduction of bespoke 3D-printed footwear. Further, during March 2020 it was reported that at a production plant in western Tennessee, about 100 3-D printers, arranged in pods for different tasks and parts, produce healthy volumes per day that comprise pairs of individually fitted insoles and sandals a day. Every pair has someone’s name on it. The footwear is designed based on scans of the foot made by customers through the means of smartphones utilizing the manufacturer’s app, ultimately sharing the scans along with the individual choices of patterns and colors. This regarding a Canadian-American start-up called Wiivv, which extracts several data points from each scan to produce a three-dimensional image of each foot and then print footwear fitting that customer and no one else. To extend a high degree of personalization, the customer’s name is added by Wiivv.
In comes COVID 19: During September 2019 it was forecasted by the renowned trend forecasting company WSGN that during the coming months there would be a growing inclination towards comfortable and welcoming characteristics in fashion, among others that encompasses colors, shapes, and textures. Also, during December 2019, certain trends were identified that would influence 2020 and consequently would have an impact on inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs in conjunction with the adaptation to the future of work as exemplified by work from home, remote work, Gig economy, and freelancer networks, and the consequent materialization of new normal which can extend well beyond the quarantine period can have pervasive effects on the predilections for accouterment as opposed to the trendy concerns of diet, health and overall wellness. With respect to the preference of dressing mentioned earlier the comfy athleisure trend has reached its apogee with the potential of putting business casuals on the verge of irrelevance. Thereby administering the coup de grâce to the evolving consuetudes and tastes brought about by the growing pool of millennials which is expected to influence the global footwear market.
With the requirement of telecommuting that stems from the pandemic, the reshaping of trends has been substantiated by the growing number of apparels like sneakers among others in wardrobes around the world, COVID 19 accelerated the process of laying the groundwork for athleisure’s distinction by driving the sales over online distribution over offline sales. Going back to the pre-COVID times, the inclination towards unreservedly versatile and unrestrictedly comfortable clothes by millennials had already converted performance sneakers, among others, into everyday staples making such athletically motivated forms of accouterment an acceptable norm in a variety of spheres that are inclusive of but not limited to examination centers, transit, business meetings. This trend has further spread to big corporations blurring the lines between formal and informal dress codes by the pandemic propelling the expansion of athleisure. Conversely, when the trend traverses through the reasonable and approaches excessive, with various organizations jumping the bandwagon and makes footwear of the same ilk commercially available, the already surfeited older millennials and younger Gen Zs would yearn for something that is opposed to such performance-inspired aesthetics. Thereby effectuating a constant change in the consumption paradigm and augmenting the growth of the global footwear market.