The Death of Michael Kors and the Quiet Rise of Steve Madden

In the turbulent world of fashion retail, it comes as no such surprise that Michael Kors has announced in that he would be closing up to 125 stores this year after the demise of many American fashion retailers such as American Apparel, Aeropostale, Gap Inc., J.Crew and Abercrombie and Fitch. The list only seems to be growing as traditional brick-and-mortar brands battle seasonal changes, manufacturing upkeep and e-commerce competitors.

Many may attribute the eventual collapse of the Michael Kors brand due to its overconfidence – the company’s rapid store expansion, its noncommittal stance between labeling itself as high street or luxury and of course, it’s lack of innovation. Although this combination spells the recipe for disaster, it seems that while many American retail giants have faced reality and accepted defeat, one American retailer seems to be the only one defying expectations.

In an unprecedented move, Steve Madden, the footwear company has announced its plans to roll out stores in China. Working alongside C. Banner International Holdings Limited, in a joint venture, the brand has stated that they will have more than 100 new stores and 150 retail outlets on the line. That’s a whooping 250 stores in total, an exceptionally large feat for any company at the moment.

In a statement made by the chairman of C. Banner International Holdings Limited, the venture will focus on integrating both their offline and online channels. Through marketing, promotion and sales, the company hopes to disrupt the footwear industry in China.

This brave new move comes at a time when many brands are heading towards liquidation or working on restructuring their omnichannel offerings. It’s the age-old question debate of the importance of brick-and-mortar stores in a digital era. Despite the gloomy forecast ahead and the proven demise of many brands expanding too soon too fast, will Steve Madden be the one shining exception or will it follow in Michael Kors footsteps, does its immunity come from its mid-market label?

Other brands have fallen victim to this phenomenon. Known for its aspirational and luxury label, discount outlet stores have tarnished its golden reputation driving sales to the ground. While Coach had this problem, the Steve Madden brand had always been synonymous with accessibility; perhaps this once frowned upon identity will protect it from suffering the damages its luxury compatriots faced.

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