Retail Hero Chapter 13: Kasut U

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From Hoover shoe store to Kasut U, from “Kasut Sekeluarga” to “Fit For Family,” this local footwear brand with a 59 years history has witnessed the ever-changing landscape of Malaysia’s retail shoe industry. It has overcome numerous challenges in the competitive business environment and ultimately established a strong presence in the Malaysian market.

Despite its long-standing presence in Malaysia, Kasut U also faced challenges during the Covid pandemic (2020-2022), experiencing significant setbacks in sale performance. However, this adversity made Raymond Gan, the Executive Director of Kasut U, realize the importance of digital transformation for retail businesses. Let Exabytes Retail Hero share with you the story of Kasut U’s digital transformation and their insights.

Kasut U outlet  

Continuing the family-oriented positioning, creating a new shoe store that meets community needs

Kasut U’s origins can be traced back to the renowned Hoover shoe store in Muar, with over 55 years of history. Hoover was a community-based shoe store that emphasized the concept of a “family shoe store” (Kasut Sekeluarga).

Kasut U continues the style and positioning strategy of Hoover, creating a new shoe store that caters to the needs of the neighborhood.

Today, with changing times, Kasut U has transformed from a “family shoe store” to a leading health footwear brand, emphasizing the concept of “Fit For Family” and prioritizing customer health and comfort. In addition to high-quality shoes, they offer various insoles to enhance comfort, provide additional support and cushioning, and help alleviate foot fatigue and discomfort. These insoles are suitable not only for adults but also for children and the elderly, ensuring the health of the whole family.

Raymond Gan pointed out that shoes are essential items in people’s daily lives. Choosing the right pair of shoes is not only about comfort and health but also about personal image and style. With a wide array of brands and shoe types in the market, it can be overwhelming. However, faced with such market competition, how can Kasut U stand out?

He said that for Kasut U, “brand positioning and differentiation are key to their success. In the early stages, they focused on producing and selling basic slippers, targeting the mass market and adopting a “Basic and comfort” approach”. However, as market competition intensified, Kasut U realized the need to change their positioning and create unique products to establish their brand identity.

“This is where Fit for Family, the concept of healthy footwear, originated. Kasut U shifted its focus to the health sector, emphasizing the creation of functional shoes. For example, school shoes have features such as slip resistance and odor control. They introduced arch support design to enhance comfort and meet customers’ diverse needs. At the same time, they also emphasized the integration of health and fashion, making their shoes not only functional but also aesthetically appealing, attracting a wider range of consumers.”

Raymond Gan added that this brand positioning and differentiation strategy has allowed Kasut U to expand its product range from basic slippers to casual sports shoes and work shoes, among other types. These product categories now account for 40% of their sales revenue, successfully meeting the growing demands of consumers and leading the shoe market towards a trend of health and leisure.

Stepping out of the comfort zone to make digital transformation viable

Raymond Gan said that before the pandemic, although Kasut U had already established a four-person department to oversee e-commerce, the company did not put much effort into its operations and primarily relied on traditional and manual methods. He explained that between 2016 and 2019, the retail industry was flourishing, and Kasut U was comfortable within its own circle, unaware of the importance of digital transformation.

“During the pandemic, the performance of many physical stores plummeted, and some had to close their doors to reduce expenses. Kasut U also faced difficulties, unable to operate its physical stores and had to establish an online presence.”

He said that when the pandemic hit, the performance of their physical stores took a nosedive, forcing them to change their strategy and embrace an “online-thinking” approach. Previously, they believed that physical retail and online retail should not have the same prices. “If the prices are the same, physical store revenue will be affected, and if they are different, offline customers will be dissatisfied and question why the offline prices are higher. However, during the pandemic, they had to lower prices, even selling at low prices, to generate cash flow in a short period.”

He pointed out that during the pandemic, Kasut U’s online department performed exceptionally well. They even launched temporary pop-up stores and made various attempts. Kasut U’s online business began to succeed, and they found hope for transformation.

Making branding the core competitive advantage of Kasut U

In business development, companies need to maintain keen insights and a sense of change, adapting to market changes at any time. With the global outbreak of the pandemic, many companies have been impacted and faced challenges to varying degrees. However, many of these companies have embraced transformation, expanded channels, and found new directions for development.

Kasut U was also greatly affected during the pandemic but chose to seek opportunities from it, stepping out of their comfort zone and cultivating their brand. Their transformation journey can provide ideas and inspiration for other companies.

Raymond Gan said that Kasut U has transformed from a primarily brick-and-mortar retailer to a brand-centric company. In this transformation, they realized that online business requires a brand, not just physical stores. Additionally, if they want to establish themselves in the export field, having a strong brand is also necessary. Therefore, they began to focus on building their brand, creating their unique image, and increasing brand awareness and reputation.

He pointed out that, to achieve this goal, Kasut U formulated specific plans and strategies. They hired designers and export specialists to provide strong support for brand building. The addition of these professionals made the company more specialized and efficient in areas such as design, production, and marketing. In terms of brand strategy, they also started paying attention to every detail, such as brand image communication and online market share.

After a series of efforts, Kasut U successfully transformed and achieved significant results. Placing brand development as a top priority not only brought more market opportunities but also allowed them to go further. In future development, they will continue to focus on brand building, further enhancing brand image and market appeal, thus occupying a more advantageous position in the market competition.

Doing what others are unwilling to do, seeing what others cannot see

As a retailer, to achieve success, one must stand out among numerous competitors. Raymond Gan said that to stand out, it is crucial to do things that others cannot see, which is of utmost importance.

“If you do the same things as others, your competitiveness will be minimal. Therefore, it is more important to do what others are unwilling to do.”

Raymond Gan added that doing what others are unwilling to do means paying attention to the details that others usually overlook. In these seemingly insignificant details, you can find different opportunities and gain advantages from them. These advantages will allow you to stand out in a fiercely competitive market and achieve long-term and steady development.

He said that, at the same time, doing what others underestimate is also crucial. Only when you consider them important can your products or services be unique, becoming outstanding in the market. These seemingly unimportant things hold great value for customers because they can bring a better user experience and a higher sense of quality.

Be our retail hero now

Every retail brand has a great story behind it. Let’s be our Retail Hero and your experience now. Preview the Retail Hero official website for more Retail Hero Stories and nominate the retail brand you love.      

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