As the race for a slice of the lucrative sports footwear pie gathers pace, Japanese sports brand Mizuno's plan for the future is to go back in time.
Its first concept store in South-east Asia opened at Kallang Wave Mall yesterday, and incorporates strong Japanese nuances in store layout and the window display, inspired by the traditional Kimono House and making use of wood and traditional hand-made paper.
Founded by two brothers in Osaka in 1906, Mizuno recently set up its regional base in Singapore to tackle not only the South-east Asia market, but also Hong Kong and New Zealand.
Backed by its strong running wear and golf equipment lines, regional sales are expected to hit US$25 million (S$32 million) this year - a figure it aims to double by 2018. But its new marketing strategy to highlight the best of Japan is borne out of a desire to dine with the big boys at the global sporting table.
"Japanese products are known for their strong engineering, craftsmanship and good quality," said Mizuno Singapore president Kiyoshi Tatani.
"We want to further build our brand in the region and provide affordable and quality products to not only the elites but also to the sports enthusiast."
Mizuno's annual worldwide revenue stands at US$1.78 billion - which is somewhat paltry compared to US sports apparel giant Nike's US$27.8 billion.
Still, the race is far from over for the Japanese brand, which sponsors women's world No. 1 golfer Stacy Lewis and football stars Keisuke Honda of Japan and Brazil's Hulk. The global athletic footwear market, currently worth US$75 billion, is expected to hit US$85 billion in 2018.
The Asia-Pacific region will account for the largest share at 42 per cent, and is dominated by the likes of Nike, German label adidas and Japan's Asics.
Brands are cashing in on a growing demand for lightweight athletic shoes, as consumers increasingly plump for comfort over price in their bid to live healthy lifestyles.
"People are looking at what innovation and design goes into a shoe, rather than being swayed by the theory that the more expensive it costs, the better it is," said James Stamford, an analyst at Hong Kong-based Klepold Consulting.
Mizuno is thus banking on its best-selling Wave Rider running shoes - over 20,000 pairs are sold yearly in this region alone - with their designs based on the elasticity and strength of bamboo.
In Singapore, it sponsors the national volleyball and squash teams, and provides footwear to the national rugby team and selected national footballers like Al-Qaasimy Rahman and Delwinder Singh.
Looking to stand out in a jam-packed calendar of over 60 runs a year, the Mizuno PAssion Wave Run - the only competitive 16km race in Singapore - will also be re-branded with a new concept and format next year.
This article was first published on Nov 7, 2014.
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