In step with the times

BINDU D. MENON | Updated on March 12, 2018 Published on October 11, 2012

Flip-flops’ popularity points to a more relaxed, casual attitude among Indians

Mangalore: Colorful flip flop (Nornal easy wear chappals) in great demand in Mangalore on Wednesday 4th April 2012.

From the humble bathroom slipper of old to sashaying down fashion street, the flip-flop has come a long way.

It is the latest accessory in vogue on fashion street. Whether they are the chosen footwear of a grassroots politician or a chirpy teenager’s fashion statement in college, flip-flops are having their moment in the sun.

The transformation of the basic blue-and-white Hawai chappal into its newest chic avatar has captured the nation’s imagination, becoming a manufacturer’s delight and marketer’s margin earner.

“There is an overall ‘casualisation’ happening in India. People are moving away from a rigid and formal structure to a more relaxed setting. Also the younger demographic in India owns multiple pairs for various occasions and unlike shoes, flip-flops give easy access both in terms of comfort and style,” says Amit Gugnani, Senior Vice-President (Fashion and Textile) at Technopak.

According to a Technopak report, the Indian footwear industry is estimated at Rs 30,000 crore in 2012 and will grow at 12 per cent on a CAGR basis. Casual footwear accounts for over 70 per cent of this market.

Aayushi Kishore, Director, Globalite Footwear, the wholesale licensee for Lotto Open Footwear range in India and promoter of its own range under the Sports lifestyle, “Lotto was one of the pioneers in launching flip-flops in India. At that time, there was no middle brand in the flip-flop category. We developed the mid-priced category to target the fashion-conscious youth. Today, it is a huge success”.

Price-wise it a huge segmentation. While a local seller may hawk flip-flops for as low as Rs 80, on the higher side brands such as Adidas, Puma and Nike retail their range for as high as Rs 2,000 for a pair. Kishore says 80 per cent of Globalite’s flip-flop line falls within the Rs 200-500 category.

“You can do a lot of value-addition and upgrade the product. Frills, crystals and trimmings increase its value,” she said, adding that the company manufactures 50,000-70,000 pairs in a month. “It is a strong category contributing as much as 30 per cent of our overall business,” she points.

So how has the humble flat-soled piece of rubber or plastic, held loosely on the foot by a Y-shaped strap, transformed itself into a category by itself?

Manufacturers and retailers say that the biggest contributor to this ubiquitous category’s growth can be attributed to the sheer rise in e-commerce.

Paritosh Bindra, Product Sourcing Head at e-commerce firm says what started as an attention-grabbing strategy for online retailers two years ago is proving to be a major volume earner. “There are two things,” he says, “One, flip-flops are priced such that consumers are not averse to spending Rs 300-400 during an online transaction. Second, for brands wanting to liquidate their stocks, it is a strategy to acquire customers and for customers, it is an opportunity buy on the e-commerce platform”.

Bindra says Snapdeal sells about 100-200 pairs of flip-flops a day on an average.

According to reports from the rubber industry, footwear with rubber soles is emerging as a premium market in India. The per capita consumption of footwear in the country has also increased to two pairs from a mere 0.5 pairs a decade ago.

Also the demand for 100 per cent non-leather footwear is on the rise. Industry estimates canvas shoes have a 55 per cent share in the closed footwear market, followed by rubber/PVC having 35 per cent share and leather footwear having the remaining 10 per cent.

Jabong, another e-commerce platform operating in the lifestyle category, says the sheer reach of online is driving demand.

Jabong’s co-founder Manu Kumar Jain says, “Flip-flops are the fastest selling fashion accessories. Most of the youngsters who are net users would have bought a pair online at some point or the other. Both branded as well as non-branded pairs sell like hot cakes.”

Clearly, flip-flops are following the e-commerce growth. The market for non-store retailing is estimated at $3.2 billion, registering a growth of 23 per cent annually.

Aasheesh Mediratta, Director - Sales,, says, “Flip-flops are an easy category and there is a lot of impulse buying. We believe the fad is here to stay. It is gives us visibility and not necessarily huge margins.”

Called flip-flop because of the sound the sole makes when it knocks against the floor as the wearer walks.

This style of footwear has been worn by many cultures throughout the world, originating with the ancient Egyptians as early as 4,000 B.C.

The modern flip-flop descends from the Japanese zôri, which became popular after World War II when soldiers returning to the US brought them back.

They became popular in casual settings during the 1960s, Nineties and 2000s, and some varieties have even found their way into more formal attire, despite criticism.

Published on October 11, 2012
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