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Lotte Dept. Store kicks out shoes with bootleg designs

Mar 31,2008
Various “salon shoes” from local companies. [Joong-Ang Ilbo]
As part of its spring cleaning, Lotte Department Store recently gave 19 made-to-order shoe brands the boot from its Jamsil branch ― the first time that this many brands have been kicked out at once.
It wasn’t a problem of profit: Made-to-order brands, in which a customer can order a specific size, color and design for shoes, snatched 51 percent of women’s footwear sales.
Lotte cited design bootlegging as the reason for the clearout. Yang Byeong-jo, a shoe shopper at Lotte said, “The company decided that these copycat designs would hurt the department store’s image.”
With the made-to-order, or “salon shoe” vacancy, Lotte brought in foreign and designer brands that feature one-of-a-kind designs. Hyundai and Shinsegae department stores have also said that during their fall reshuffle, they are going to decrease the number of customized shoe corners.
“Although handmade shoes are quite popular, their designs are becoming similar,” Kim Seon-hyeong, a buyer for Hyundai Department Store, said, “If they keep this up, they are not going to draw in a variety of customers.”
Some salon shoe brands admit problems exist. “By the end of a season, almost 20 to 50 percent of all shoes in these stores are copies,” pointed out Park Se-yeong, director of Messe, a salon shoe brand with booths in 20 department stores.
Oftentimes, when a design firm creates a popular shoe, an employee from another brand will buy the hit shoe and send it to their own design board for replication. On average, such shoes take around three to four days to make, according to employees at salon shoe companies.
The main reason for such shoe bootlegging is the paucity of designers at made-to-order firms, Park said. Messe, with annual sales amounting to 12 billion won ($12 million), has only five designers.
Copycat shoes also stifle creativity, some store representatives argued. “Because of these copies, there is no longer competition for innovative, sometimes risky designs anymore,” a footwear buyer for Shinsegae said.


By Lim Mi-jin JoongAng Ilbo [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]



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