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How One of the World’s Largest Shoe Manufacturers Is Cashing in On the Fashion Athletic Boom

For proof that the athleisure shoe trend continues to have staying power, see one of the world’s biggest shoe manufacturers: Stella International Holdings Ltd.

The Hong Kong-based company announced that fashion athletic footwear served as its greatest growth driver in 2017, leading a 7 percent rise in the number of shipments to 56.6 million pairs of shoes thanks to an expanding customer base.

“Our ability to quickly grow our market share in this segment is a significant accomplishment and is an attestation of our ongoing effort to build a competitive and high-quality fashion athletic manufacturing operation,” the company wrote in a statement. “Leveraging on our long-established reputation for design, research and development, quality and our unique skill base for developing compelling footwear products, we are uniquely positioned to become a partner of choice to brands in this segment in the years to come.”

Lending credence to the fashion athletic boom, Stella Group reported revenues of $1.57 billion for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017, an increase of 1.7 percent compared to the previous year. The company also added that it expects demand for fashion products — its largest segment, which contributed 38.6 percent of total revenue — to increase in the United States and Europe, two of its biggest geographical markets.

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“While our fashion athletic segment will continue to increase in importance and becomes our main growth driver, our fashion and casual products remain highly important,” CEO Lawrence Chen said.

Bolstered by the overall casualization of American culture, fashion-athletic styles have enjoyed heightened favor among consumers over the past few years with firms such as Steve Madden, Puma and even Balenciaga cashing in on the trend. In recent months, some experts had been forecasting a looming slowdown of the movement.

Stella Group manufactures shoes for clients including casual footwear companies Clarks, Deckers and Timberland; fashion footwear brands Cole Haan, Kenneth Cole and Tory Burch; and high-fashion names like Alexander Wang, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs and Prada. It also helms three retail brands: Stella Luna, What For and JKJY by Stella.

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