Names such as Liberty, Relaxo and Metro, that once enjoyed a place of prominence on shoe racks in Indian households, today evoke a sense of nostalgia. In the world of premium international brands and bespoke footwear offerings, India\u2019s legacy footwear brands are playing the catch up game. Sixty-year-old Liberty Shoes has launched affordable luxury offerings to attract millennials and Gen Z by leveraging its legacy, supply chain and distribution network. The first product under its new vertical is a line of premium fragrances priced at around `2,000. Out of the 600 stores that Liberty operates, it has chosen 70 to showcase this fragrance line. \u201cHigh taxation in the footwear space has hurt our growth so we decided to enter a new category,\u201d says Adesh Gupta, CEO, Liberty Shoes. He adds that the brand extension into the lifestyle space will have a rub-off effect on its existing footwear business. Another player, Metro Shoes \u2014 which has seen success in tier II and III cities, being the first mover in fashion \u2014 is focussing on an omnichannel approach and premiumisation. Farah Malik Bhanji, MD and CEO, Metro Shoes, informs that this has been done \u201cdue to increased competition in the space and discount schemes promoted by online players.\u201d Meanwhile, Relaxo, which operates in the value segment, changed its brand identity last year to target the young, fashion-conscious consumers with higher disposable incomes. \u201cThere is a sea change in consumer psychographics. Relaxo is a household brand and we want to retain our legacy as we connect with the youth through modern offerings,\u201d says Rajeev Bhatia, assistant VP, Relaxo. The company houses brands such as Sparx, Flite, Bahamas and Schoolmate. Style over durability As a whole new market opens up in the smaller cities, durability has made way for style. \u201cThese legacy footwear brands are competing with newer brands like Being Human, Wrogn and HRX that offer a full range and are not very expensive. They opened the market and the older brands are just moving in,\u201d says Naresh Gupta, CSO, managing partner \u2013 Bang in the Middle. That is the reason youth-centric offerings are becoming popular and Indian brands are catching up. In fact, Metro Shoes is not just looking to cash in on the trend with youth-centric designs, but also moving up the price ladder. The company, which has 400 outlets in India \u2014 including 200 stores under the Metro brand alone, 125 stores of Mochi, 50 stores of Walkway and over 70 stores of Crocs \u2014 is focussing on making the 50 year-old Metro brand exciting. \u201cWe consciously tie up with younger brand ambassadors to appeal to the 20-30 age group,\u201d says Bhanji. Metro Shoes is also launching premium footwear. Its in-house premium brand Davinchi now has a women\u2019s range too, priced at around Rs 3,000. It will also introduce an Italian brand at a price point of `50,000. \u201cOur core product range is under `10,000. We are premiumising the product offerings as a lot of working women are now willing to spend on comfort,\u201d she adds. Note that Liberty already had offerings in the premium space for quite some time with brands such as Healers that have seen a good connect with consumers. \u201cThe idea is to create a new breed of products at a price point of Rs 3,000-7,000, and maybe a separate retail channel for the lifestyle business,\u201d Liberty\u2019s Gupta adds. Relaxo plans to continue with its positioning of being a family brand for the mass market. \u201cWe are like an Indian MNC brand for the masses. We offer badge value at affordable prices. Our focus will be on fitness and athleisure offerings,\u201d Bhatia says. The market leaders According to industry estimates, almost 40% of the footwear sold in India comprises branded footwear and more than 30% is organised retail. \u201cThis is the highest share compared to categories such as food and apparel,\u201d says Ankur Bisen, VP \u2013 retail and consumer products, Technopak. The footwear market in India is worth Rs 55,000 crore and is growing at 15% per annum. The market is devoid of international players in the value segment, unlike other categories like apparel, for instance, which has seen international brands like Zara and H&M in the space. \u201cMostly only international footwear companies, such as Nike, Adidas, Aldo and Clarks, have entered the Indian market. The mass and mid-price play is dominated by Indian brands, with Bata as an exception,\u201d says Bisen. However, despite new-age consumers in both value and premium segments being digitally savvy, online shopping for footwear has not picked up. \u201cStrategic alliances with e-commerce players and an omnichannel experience for consumers could work as a differentiator for traditional footwear players,\u201d says Harsha Razdan \u2013 partner and head, consumer markets, KPMG in India.