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EMBA Class of 2016 Tour of Eddels Shoes

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Rich cook (pictured centered left) sits among EMBA classmates in an Eddels Shoes store room.

At Eddels Shoes in Pietermaritzburg, we were first given a presentation by CEO John Comley, who talked to us about what the history of the shoe market within South Africa has been like over the past 20 years and what the current situation is. Eddels Shoes is remarkable because it claims to be the only footwear manufacturer in the world with the ability to manufacture to lead times in less than a week while also having the ability to replenish sold styles and sizes without big stock backups. It also can change orders within a week of delivery due to market dynamics, which helps eliminate retailers’ risks to revenue of write-downs and out-of-stocks.

Eddels Shoes Business Model

Eddels Shoes’ business model is based on what is becoming known as “fast fashion.” This is a relatively new concept in the fashion industry, since it relies on being able to quickly produce a product in a cost-efficient manner to respond to fast-changing consumer tastes in as near real-time as possible. Eddels Shoes does this through the Quick Response method (QR).The concept of quick response is now used to support “fast fashion,” creating new, fresh products while also drawing consumers back to the retail experience for consecutive visits.

Factory Tour of Eddels Shoes

On the factory floor of Eddels Shoes factory tour.

After the presentation, we headed to the factory floor. We saw a mixture of old manufacturing processes, where people hand-cut and hand-sewed the shoes together, alongside the new processes of laser cutting the patterns and assembling the shoes using heat-treated epoxies. QR makes it possible for new technologies to increase production and efficiency.

Shoe-Manufacturing Challenges

One of the biggest shoe-manufacturing challenges the company faces is competition from outside South Africa. This challenge is exacerbated by the fact that the South African government does not impose taxes or duties upon imported items. During our Q&A session, Mr. Comley mentioned that Eddels and other manufacturers have started to petition the government to change this rule. However, they have not had much success as the government wants to encourage outside investment in South Africa, even if comes at a small cost to some of their domestic companies.

While the U.S. is not a market for Eddels Shoes, it was apparent how the shoes made there would be popular in developing countries, and with the ability to adjust to market trends on the fly and continuing investment in improving work-processes, Eddels Shoes is well-positioned to increase market share in the future.

Read the previous post about the EMBA Class of 2016 international study tour to South Africa: EMBA Class of 2016 Trip to Hulamin Aluminum.

Rich Cook

Rich Cook, assistant controller for Greenbrier Development, is responsible for client invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable and forecasting. He has more than 10 years of experience in providing financial support on large domestic and international projects. He also spent more than a year working in Russia on an oil refinery and petrochemical project, which is now the largest refinery in Europe. Rich received his undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Central Washington. He is pursuing an executive MBA at the Jindal School. Read more articles

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