After graduating from beauty school, Robert Greenberg owned and operated several wig stores in the Boston area. Tired of the cold Boston winters, Greenberg left Boston for Los Angeles in 1978 where he opened a roller-skate rental shop. Sunny, warm California was the birthplace of the fitness craze that swept the United States in the late 1970s and early 1980s. People everywhere were becoming more health conscious, working out to Jane Fonda's tapes, jogging, and joining gyms, and Greenberg saw an opportunity to capitalize on this trend. In 1983 Greenberg founded L.A. Gear to provide fashionable athletic footwear for this new breed of dedicated and not-so-dedicated athletes. By 1990 the popularity of the athletic look had faded, and L.A. Gear, having failed to adapt their limited product line to the changing marketplace, defaulted on their bank covenant and witnessed their stock crash. Greenberg, and his son, Michael, were both ousted by investors.
Two years later, in 1992, Greenberg, with his son Michael, founded a new footwear company, Skechers, in Manhattan Beach, California. Skech-ers was founded to capitalize on another footwear trend, sports utility shoes. The footwear market was saturated with athletic footwear endorsed by sports superstars such as Michael Jordon and Shaquille O'Neal. Skech-
ers provided a comfortable, affordable alternative to athletic footwear for casual wear. Greenberg did not want to repeat the mistakes he made at L.A. Gear. Skechers diversified from its original utility line to add three other lines: Skechers Collection, casual dress shoes for men; Skechers USA, casual, trendy footwear for men, women, and children; and Skechers Sport, active footwear for men, women, and children.
The 1990s witnessed a rapid growth in the active and casual wear apparel markets. The funky designs created by Skechers were the perfect complement to the new skateboarder, snowboarder, and grunge looks. The chunky styles, platform soles, and color palette provide Generation X and Y with fun, funky, and affordable footwear. Skechers designs over 600 styles which range in price from $45 to $130.
Success has not come only from closely following fashion trends, but also from pursuing a strategic product distribution. Originally, Skechers tried to differentiate itself by limiting its distribution to independent surf, skate, and alternative clothing stores. This plan generated only limited sales and prevented the products from reaching smaller markets such as Du-buque, Iowa, where this type of stores did not exist. Soon, Skechers began to sell to prestigious retailers such as Nordstrom and Macy's, specialty retailers such as Famous Footwear, and discount retailers such as J.C. Penney. However, they segmented their product line to provide exclusive distribution of selected styles to independent retailer and high-end department stores. In 1995 Skechers began opening their own retail and outlet stores. In 1998 they launched their first mail-order catalog and website. Today, Skechers are sold in retail establishments in 125 countries, in forty-three company-owned retail stores and outlets, and twenty-four hours a day through the Internet and mail order.
"Skecher," a street term for an energetic person who cannot sit still, applies not only to the Skecher target market, but also to the company itself. In 1993 the company posted $42.7 million in sales; by 1997 that number had more than quadrupled to $183.8 million. In 1995 Skechers began expanding into men's and boy's sportswear lines through licenses with Genova, Inc., and plans to continue building its private-label apparel offerings. In only seven years, Skechers has gone from a small start-up business to a publicly traded company. Skechers has redefined the footwear industry through its offerings of utility boots, tennis shoes, casual dress shoes, and sandals. The company analyzes the lifestyle factors of their Gen X and Y target markets and translates their sporting activities, Web surfing, and musical preferences into footwear designs.
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