Time for local shoemakers to innovate


Local footwear industry has to innovate and produce locally-made premium brands in order to stay relevant, Malaysia External Trade Development Corp (Matrade) said.

“The demand for footwear have been unstable for several years now. Last year, exports dropped due to lower demand globally,” Matrade’s director of Lifestyle, Life Sciences and Medical Devices Abu Bakar Yusof (picture) told the media in Kuala Lumpur last week ahead of the Business Mission to the US.

He added that footwear exports have been declining in the past few years with the exception of sports shoes which saw a rise in export numbers.

“I believe shoemakers and designers should explore and focus more on this category of footwear,” he said.

Matrade statistics show total footwear exports in 2017 fell 13.8% year-on-year to RM652.7 million.

Footwear materials such as outer soles, upper rubber, plastics as well as leather were the biggest exports valued at RM167.4 million.

According to Abu Bakar, a large portion of the industry’s revenue is derived from the original equipment manufacturing (OEM) business.

“Rather than creating our own brand and becoming original design manufacturers, we are only recognised for producing international brands such as Puma, Adidas and the like.

“Local footwear designers should emulate Christy Ng and Nelissa Hilman in producing premium products to help catapult the country’s footwear industry into the global market,” he said.

He said the local footwear-makers will then be able to tag their products at a higher retail price. OEM business produces at a large scale but sells at a low price compared to original and premium brands.

“We urge local footwear industries to produce locally-made premium brands along with the mass production orders, as there is demand for both segments,” he said.

NTH Global Sdn Bhd founder and director Amy Chiew, who designs and manufactures Nottingheels — a local premium shoe line for women, said she has to include value-added features in her products in order to compete in the shoe industry.

“It is a tough market as we have to compete with other local manufacturers as well as international brands.

“That’s the reason why our brand focuses on being sensible — shoes designed specifically for women according to their daily activities,” she said.

Chiew added that her brand has passed through rigorous research and development processes.

AirAsia Group Bhd and Malindo Air found the Nottingheels founder’s sensible footwear so comfortable, they decide to include them into their flight attendants’ working attire.