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Breeze – Market Analysis
2.1 Athletic Footwear Association Research
The Athletic Footwear Association undertook a major study in 1992 to determine the decision criteria used by consumers when purchasing athletic footwear. The results demonstrate that nine of out of ten consumers place “comfort, fit, and feel” as the most important characteristics of athletic footwear. Other important criteria identified in the study include “suit active life-style”, “has performance advantages”, and “fashion.”
2.2 Focus Group Interviews
To better understand the criteria used by consumers when evaluating and selecting footwear, focus group interviews were conducted utilizing Bond University students. One group consisted of Americans and the second of Australians. Analysis of the focus group protocols provided a rich qualitative assessment of consumer decision behavior in this product category and extends in an important way the results from the Athletic Footwear Association study. Results revealed consistency across respondents in the manner in which they categorized footwear: athletic/casual, outdoor and dress. Agreement was also found when respondents were asked to generate the factors they look for when purchasing footwear. These included quality, comfort, performance, price, and style. Likewise, respondents concurred on the negative aspects of footwear and footwear use. Among the negatives identified were “sweaty feet,” stinky feet,” “too warm/ hot,” “not waterproof,” and “materials rip and fall apart.”
When asked to identify their “wish list” (i.e., those features or benefits they would like their footwear to have) respondents described the following: waterproofing, ventilation, ability to regulate temperature, no maintenance, and a gel sole conforming to the foot. Virtual unanimity was found among respondents when specifically asked to affirm whether ventilation would be a “significant benefit.” Moreover, some respondents stated they would be willing to pay an additional 25% for this feature, while others indicated they would pay as much as US$120 for footwear with this benefit. (See Appendix I for more details).
2.3 Competitor Content Analysis
Content analysis was employed to systematically and objectively identify the specific content (i.e., the features and/or benefits) touted in magazine advertisements for footwear. Current issues of athletic/outdoor magazines were collected and each footwear advertisement was analyzed and its content coded. The footwear categories evaluated were athletic/casual and outdoor. In all, 46 advertisements by 42 manufacturers were evaluated. Claims for “support” were found in 43% of the advertisements, “performance” in 36%, “ventilation/temperature” in 32%, “durability/ruggedness” in 32%, “dryness” in 30%; “comfort” in 21%, “shock absorption” in 15%, and “fashion,” in 11%. (See Appendix II for more details).
2.4 Key Informant Analysis
Informal discussions held with senior executives at a major US footwear manufacturer gave Breeze management effective access to the findings of the primary research and market experience of that manufacturer. These discussions confirmed what had been derived from the Athletic Footwear Association study, the focus group interviews, and the competitor content analysis.
Users require comfort, performance, style and value from their footwear. “Comfort” is a combination of cushioning, dryness and ventilation. “Performance” includes shock absorption, rebound (energy return) and the maintenance of optimal foot support. “Style” includes the myriad design innovations as well as the gimmicks and celebrity endorsements successfully utilized by some manufacturers. Value to the customer is the ratio of benefits to price (this is further described in section 4.1). Current manufacturers recognize these market requirements and incorporate various design features that attempt to address these concerns. The cushioning and performance requirements are currently best served by the use of air pockets or gel bags in the heel and midsole area of the shoe. Ventilation is provided through passive means such as vents, holes, porous panels or through design, as for example, in the latest range of athletic sandals.
2.5 Benefits of Breeze Technology
Breeze technology represents a major step forward in satisfying these market requirements through positive displacement ventilation and controlled heel compression and rebound. Breeze’s forced ventilation technology provides a measurable and significant reduction in the temperature and the humidity of the environment surrounding the foot. In controlled testing, confirmed by the Australian Institute of Sport (the premier national body for sports research and training), the technology reduced in-shoe temperature by 7.3°F (see Appendix II) and reduced the heat index by 46°F, compared to an unmodified shoe (see Appendix III). A reduction of these magnitudes in shoe temperature and humidity is expected to dramatically reduce foot odor, fungal infections, blistering and muscle fatigue. The user can “feel” the refreshing effect of the ventilation and all test subjects confirmed that the ventilation “felt good,” and was in no way intrusive to the activity in which they were engaged.
The benefits provided by controlled heel compression are a measurable reduction in the intensity and duration of shock transmitted to the user. The heel of a shoe becomes increasingly hard as it approaches full compression; the faster the compression, the greater the shock transmitted to the users anatomy. The Breeze technology incorporates an outlet valve which allows air to escape the heel chamber at a predetermined pressure and thus, slows compression and softens impact forces. The rate at which air escapes the chamber can be varied to suit shoe size, user weight, and type of shoe (or user application). Indeed, the use of a valve with variable settings on some models will allow user-adjustment to optimize shoe performance for different activities.
Additional benefits provided to the market by Breeze technology are the possibility of more durable, waterproof and better insulated (yet ventilated) uppers. By making porous upper materials obsolete, the technology will allow manufacturers to use materials that are capable of better supporting, protecting and insulating the foot. Breeze shoes also have the ability to evacuate water that has entered through the neck of the shoe (e.g., from rain or puddles) and to subsequently dry the user’s socks and foot. Breeze technology will thus enable the manufacturer to offer a drier, cooler shoe. Indeed, the valve system can be reversed to heat the feet effectively in some circumstances and can be “turned off” if neither cooling nor heating is required.
The market’s current expectations have not yet been awakened to these benefits because it has been impossible to deliver these under the current footwear paradigm. When consumers learn that these benefits can be provided they will ultimately demand them across the full range of footwear. Thus the definitive elements of footwear comfort will expand to include dryness, water/moisture evacuation, user-regulated temperature and user-regulated heel compression and rebound characteristics. For consumers that seek style, fashion and fads the manufacturer may incorporate Breeze technology into existing strategies, perhaps even enhancing these possibilities.
Three broad segments define the footwear market: (i) dress; (ii) casual/athletic/outdoor; and (iii) special purpose (including military, police and other “duty” footwear, industrial workboots and specialized sports footwear). Although Breeze technology is ultimately applicable to virtually all shoes, the technology lends itself to immediate application in the athletic/casual footwear segment. Once established there, diffusion throughout the entire footwear market will be a logical and systematic outcome of the further development of the technology and the market’s embrace of the new footwear paradigm.
Exhibit I: What Breeze Technology Offers the Market
|The MARKET WANTS:||The MARKET GETS:||BREEZE OFFERS:|
|1. COMFORT:• Cushioning
• Dry feet
– odor reduction
|• Air or gel bags
• Water penetration
– porous fabrics
– odor cures
|• Improved cushioning
• Restricted water entry
• Positive evacuation
of water and humidity
• Positive ventilation
– space-age fabrics
– lower temperature
– lower humidity
– odor prevention
• Injury avoidance
• Rebound/energy return
• Optimal foot support
|• Structural design
• Air/gel bags
• Deteriorating foot support
as the shoe ages
|• Retains all benefits
• Potential improvements
• Optimal foot support for
• Celebrity endorsements
|• Various||• Retains all benefits and
|• Increasing price
• Minimal increase in benefits
|• Insignificant increase in
• Significant increase in