“The market can recover quite fast, and faster than the financial crash of 2009”

Interview with Lasse Jespersen, CEO of LAST STUDIO, who gave us his opinion on the implications that Covid-19 is having on the footwear industry.
Lasse Jespersen 2

Covid-19 is having negative consequences on the economy, with special relevance on the fashion sector, where the footwear industry is included. Lasse Jespersen gave us his view on the footwear industry in the context of the pandemic.

Felgueiras Magazine – Are the government measures to support footwear companies in this pandemic situation meeting the companies’ needs?

Lasse Jespersen – No, in terms of support for our business it-has been limited, but I can’t speak for the whole industry.

We are a small team at LAST STUDIO and very agile, so I wish that the support goes to the sectors who need it the most. It is important that all sectors of our industry is supported if we are to come through this situation.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – Do you believe that next year the international footwear fairs will take place? If so, do you think it will count on a significant buyer’s adherence? Will it be necessary to find alternatives for footwear fairs? 

Lasse Jespersen – I think the concept or structure of fairs as a selling tool have not been working properly for a long time and Covid-19 is forcing us to look for other alternatives.

My own personal feeling with the fairs is they don’t generate any new business but is a tool we use to maintain relationships. In the end the fair is a very expensive tool in our toolbox, which when not use correct looks like a waste of time and money.

I don’t see fairs being our main priority for the coming seasons. The organizations behind the fairs need to reinvent themselves and come with a new structure for us to sell in.

Even if there will be a fair in September, I think the number of visitors will be a lot less, and the atmosphere will have changed compared to past seasons.

I would also urge all fairs to look at the cost exhibiting. It is simply too high when you need to build a stand, put staff on the ground and pay the fees. In this moment I would say the fairs are “Nice to have, NOT need to have” and therefore will be of less importance.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – Considering the travel restrictions due to Covid-19, how is your company communicating and presenting your products to the customers? 

Lasse Jespersen – I would love to tell you, but that is a strategy we keep to ourselves. I can tell you that we need to “reinvent the wheel” and be out of our comfort zone, but I think we can maintain and grow our position with the right approach.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – Will the promotion of shoes made in Portugal in the future go digital? Are companies, especially Portuguese, ready for this challenge? 

Lasse Jespersen – Being digital is surely a one part of the business model you have to look into. Even before COVID-19 this was important, but the current situation have stressed the importance of this topic.

I don’t know if all Portuguese companies are ready, but I think not to invest in this will be a mistake and I think this could be one of the main areas where support from the government could be very useful.

I think a lot of companies are worried to make this investment as it is difficult to see the immediate return of investment, so therefore they decide to save the money and hope for the market to change, but from my point of view we must make this investment now as a country and as a industry.

We need to catapult the Portuguese footwear industry into the future and consider that if we are not on the forefront then we will be left behind by more aggressive markets.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – Does Covid-19 make changes in retail, manufacturing and footwear consumption? 

Lasse Jespersen – In terms of retail I think you will see that the shift towards online will only accelerate and where you will see growth. Consumers will, after COVID-19 fell even more comfortable buying online and older generations who might not have been so comfortable buying on the internet for various reasons, have now tried it and see the opportunities.

For manufacturing I think/hope we will see an opportunity for Portuguese factories to become more relevant for several reasons;

Shorter lead-time compared with Asia, Cheaper transport, more accessible than China, Vietnam and Cambodia.

In terms of consumption I believe that the consumer spending ill drop making it more important than ever to stand out as a brand or manufacturer. It is also important that the clients and consumers are re-educated in understanding quality and appreciate hand made artisan product such as leather shoes.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – We are seeing a reduction in footwear orders. Is there a real possibility for Portuguese footwear companies to have to readjust and reduce the number of employees? 

Lasse Jespersen – To be honest, I think it depends on how your business is structured and it will be different for each company. I think in general the Portuguese industry is under pressure from competition but that has nothing to do with COVID-19.

It is important that we ask ourselves where the industry will be in 5-10 years and to achieve any results then we need to use the current situation to catapult our industry into a new level.

Looking at my own business as an example then the key factors we focus on are customer service, quality, speed to market and sustainability. This is not mind-blowingly special, or a secret recipe, but we need to work on it every day in everything we do.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – Warehouses and stores are stacked. Footwear is particularly sensitive to the time element and can go out of style. On the other hand, with warehouses full, the orders will be reduced. What happens to a collection that does not currently exist on the market and to a Spring / Summer 2021 collection?

Lasse Jespersen – There is a bottle neck of product in the market. I think some will make flash sales and reduce prices 50, 60 70% in order to clear the inventory and others will try to hang on to the product and sell it next season.

There is no doubt SS21 will be a tough season for everybody and it is important we focus on working together as industry to clear this obstacle.

 

Felgueiras Magazine – What are your expectations for the footwear sector for the coming months?

Lasse Jespersen – It is very murky waters we are entering, and it all depends on how fast the market will regain the former position. It will also depend on if we will see a second wave of Covid-19 and how this will be tackled by governments around the world.

The general consensus is that the market can recover quite fast, and faster than the financial crash of 2009 as the market was in general good shape before COVID-19. The worst that can happen is we are locked in a general recession which will take year to recover from but I think we learned a lot and together we can persevere.

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