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Children's sports shoes: Standards compliance remains top priority

Employing qualified materials and performing various tests become the norm as makers strive to fulfill stringent specifications.

Meeting international safety requirements continues to be the foremost concern of baby and children's footwear suppliers in China. These include the US' CPSIA, and the EU's restrictions on DMF, azo and heavy metal content.

Children's sports shoes
  Marketed under the in-house E.S.Man brand, the model EM10A0207 sports shoe from Fujian Maylink is equipped with flashing lights.
In line with this, manufacturers are only adopting parts, components and materials that have certification. They also prefer sourcing from just one or two established providers. Further, some companies send their QC personnel to inspect fabrication and assembly before purchase.

Additionally, finished products undergo various examinations prior to shipment. Makers typically check if there are any defects in construction, size or color. Chemical evaluations are often conducted by third-party facilities such as SGS and Intertek.

These efforts, however, drive up costs. For instance, using compliant materials increases outlay by about 10 percent. Testing is expensive as well. Buyers are usually asked to shoulder the fees, although there are instances when suppliers absorb the extra expenses.

To attract more orders and boost profitability, most companies have adjusted their payment and order terms. Remittance can now be deferred for as long as 90 days, when previously the common agreement is an L/C or TT at sight. The risk of bad debt is avoided by applying for export credit insurance.

Several businesses also lowered the MOQ from 2,000 to 1,500 pairs. Small enterprises even accept purchases of 1,000 pairs. Delivery is between 60 and 90 days, depending on the season.

Increasing shipments to markets other than the US and the EU is another strategy implemented by many manufacturers. Exports to the two key locations declined about 20 percent in the past year.

On the other hand, the volume sent to Africa, South America, Southeast Asia and Australia went up 30 to 100 percent, due in part to low trade barriers.

In addition, a few suppliers have started marketing upscale OBM lines abroad. They are utilizing various sales channels, including websites, exhibitions, agencies and distributors. Fujian Maylink Trading Co. Ltd, one of the interviewees for this report, already registered its in-house E.S.Man brand in the US, France, Austria and Turkey.

China companies are taking advantage of buyers' price consciousness by offering footwear comparable with famous models but are less expensive. Profits are smaller than from products sold within the country, but the situation is an opportunity to build name recall and expand globally.

Various types of baby and children's slippers, sandals, boots, and casual, sports and dressshoes are available.

The latest releases highlight upgraded performance and comfort. Some pairs are made odor-resistant by adopting pigskin for the insole. Nanotechnology-enhanced materials are also popular for removing foul smell. In addition, the outsoles are being improved in terms of strength, flexibility and wear resistance.

When creating new styles, companies consider the different foot shapes and sizes. They factor in the latest trends and feedback collected from their buyers as well.

Prices depend mainly on what the footwear is made of. The complexity of the design and the trimming used also affect quotes.

Material costs have gone up in the past few months. EVA, for example, increased 27 percent from $2,050 per ton in March to $2,600 in October. This trend is projected to continue in the year ahead.

The majority of businesses, however, are reluctant to impose markups. Many are planning to keep prices stable in spite of a narrower profit margin.

Baby footwear
Casual shoes
Boots, dress shoes, slippers & sandals
Industry composition

Children's sports shoes
  Fuqing Xinghai is offering model TD84227, a boy's slipper with PU and webbing fabric strap.
Baby footwear

China-made baby shoes come in a variety of styles ranging from booties and prewalkers to sneakers and Mary Janes. Priced from $0.80 to $8 per pair, they are available in sizes 12 to 24. The length of the insoles is between 11 and 17cm.

In general, low-end models have cotton, canvas or denim uppers. EVA or fabric is adopted for the outsoles. PU leather is typically employed for the uppers of midrange designs. The outsoles can be made of PU or rubber.

High-end shoes often have uppers in genuine leather, including sheepskin and cowhide. PU, rubber and nonslip suede are popular options for the outsoles.

Cotton, mesh and EVA are commonly used for the lining and insoles of products across all price points. Some baby slippers and sneakers adopt terry as lining, while fleece or plush is utilized for booties. Pigskin is employed in a number of upscale releases.

Baby footwear variants typically have minimal trimming due to safety considerations. Embellishments may detach from the shoe and pose a choking risk. Even so, models are usually adorned with leather applique, bowknots, plush balls and printed motifs.

Casual shoes

Moccasins, clogs, ballet flats, Mary Janes and deck shoes are among the various types of children's casual footwear offered in China. Sneakers, which double as sports shoes, are available as well.

While these share similar features with adult versions, releases for the younger age group boast more colorful motifs and trimming. Yellow, orange, green, pink, blue and red, in particular, are often adopted.

Quotes range from $3.50 to $9 per pair. Less-expensive models usually have plastic, rubber, canvas, denim or corduroy uppers, while midrange and high-end styles come in PU or genuine leather. Of the last, cowhide and cow split are popular choices.

Rubber is employed for the outsoles of designs across all price points. Other material options are TPR and PU for low-end and upscale variants, respectively.

Children casual footwear can have PU, mesh fabric, fleece, plush, Nylex or pig split lining. EVA is primarily adopted for the insoles.

Trimming affects quotes as well. Beaded or sequined styles may be priced $0.10 to $0.50 more than unadorned models. Some sneakers are fitted with flashing lights powered by button cells. About $0.40 is added per pair for the bulbs and batteries.

Boots, dress shoes, slippers & sandals

Children's formal shoes, and casual and dress boots from China usually come in the same materials. The first goes for $2 to $10. Quotes for boots start at $6 and can reach $20.

Low-end styles typically have PU leather uppers, while upscale versions adopt animal hide such as cow split, cowhide and sheepskin.

TPR is used for the outsoles of less-expensive designs. On the other hand, EVA and rubber are preferred for midrange and high-end models.

Adornments can be in the form of prints, embroidery and rhinestones. The more intricate the pattern, the costlier the product becomes.

Children's slippers and sandals range from $0.40 to $4 and $0.60 to $5, respectively. EVA is a popular material choice for the straps, uppers and outsoles because of its light weight and softness. Various grades are utilized.

Apart from EVA, PVC and PU are typically adopted for the straps of slides and flip-flops. The soles can also be made of PE.

Sandals often have PVC, PU leather, woven nylon and canvas uppers. Genuine leather is sometimes employed for high-end releases. EVA or TPR is used for the outsoles.

Less-expensive releases come in simple designs with small prints and few embellishments. Upscale models, on the other hand, boast more trimming such as beads, sequins and embroidery.

Industry composition

China is the world's leading exporter of baby and children's footwear. Home to more than 3,000 suppliers, it accounts for at least 60 percent of global output.

Locally owned companies make up about 60 percent of the industry base. SOEs, joint ventures and foreign-invested businesses constitute the rest.

Most manufacturers, regardless of size, concentrate on just one or two kinds of footwear. This is because the necessary equipment and processes vary for each type. Traders have a wider selection as they source different styles from several specialists. Both adult and children's versions are typically available.

Generating sales of less than $5 million each year, small operations are handled by about 300 workers and have one or two production lines. Their R&D teams are composed of five members at most.

Unlike large factories, the division of labor in these plants is not well defined. A single employee, for instance, can be in-charge of several procedures.

Additionally, the facilities are seldom upgraded, with many utilizing old or second-hand equipment.

Midsize manufacturers have annual revenue of $5 million to $10 million. There are three to five production lines, and the workforce is between 300 and 600. Five to 20 employees are R&D specialists.

Large enterprises can generate sales of up to $30 million yearly. For most makers under this category, ODM orders account for 60 to 80 percent of returns. The rest is from OEM contracts or in-house brands.

Operating more than 10 production lines, big companies have at least 1,000 workers, 20 to 30 of whom form the R&D department.

One of the major hubs for children's footwear is the province of Guangdong. It boasts years of experience, strong design capability and advanced technologies.

Makers in the area emphasize upscale dress shoes and boots, although some also offer sports models. Releases are usually more expensive than those from other locations, because the materials adopted are high-grade.

Fujian is another manufacturing center for the line. Businesses in the province draw their expertise from a skilled workforce, developed supply chain and strong support industries.

Most slippers, sandals and athletic shoes specialists are based there. They focus on midrange products.

Casual, formal and sports footwear can be sourced from Zhejiang province as well. Companies typically offer low-end and midrange designs.

This article "Children's sports shoes: Standards compliance remains top priority" is originally posted in Global Sources.

Note: All price quotes in this report are in US dollars unless otherwise specified. FOB prices were provided by the companies interviewed only as reference prices at the time of interview and may have changed.

Disclaimer: All product images are provided by the companies interviewed and are for reference purposes only. Those product images featuring products with trademarks, brand names or logos are not intended for sale. We, our affiliates, and our affiliates' respective directors, officers, employees, representatives, agents or contractors, do not accept and will not have any responsibility or liability for product images (or any part thereof) which infringe on any intellectual property or other rights of a third party.

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