For some, the UGG Australia label signifies an ugg-ly pair of sheepskin-lined boots that caused a massive buying craze in 2005 – a year that many still consider a dark period in America’s fashion history. But to female shoppers in Japan, Uggs are now a status symbol – one that can cost upwards of $795.
Uggs were once the footwear of choice for celebrities, and for a year or so it seemed like every woman in the U.S. had to own a pair. But soon the backlash began (The “UGGS SUCK!” group on Facebook currently has 927 fans), and sales plummeted.
Meanwhile, Uggs have always been hard to find in Asia; there is only one Ugg concept store in the whole of Japan. Japanese women appreciate luxury and love their shoes — in 2008, footwear was one of the leading retail formats for womenswear.. As such, UGG Australia’s recent collaboration with Jimmy Choo is being hailed by many as a brilliant move.
The much-anticipated Jimmy Choo for UGG collection includes five styles, most of which are decorated with fringe, stud detailing and leopard print. They range from $595 to $795 — well above the usual Ugg price-tag of around $200 — and are available at select retail stores starting October 21.
Japan isn’t the only Asian market experiencing Ugg-love. Last year, Hong Kong boutique Lane Crawford tasted the Uggs craze when its first stock of simple styles cleared out within a single month. “Clearly the consumer had been waiting for [Uggs],” said Peter Nichols, the store’s senior buyer.
Though UGG Australia was founded in 1978, it didn’t experience international success until fairly recently. In 2009 alone, the brand made $712 million in annual sales. The Uggs-in-Asia craze has helped UGG Australia’s owner Deckers Outdoor to reach $100 million in the first-quarter of this year.
But will this Japanese lust for Uggs continue? Bain & Company, a U.S. consulting firm, estimates a 3% drop in high-end sales in Japan for 2010. Plus there’s the country’s struggling economy and persistent deflation. Considering how quickly the Ugg craze fizzled out in the U.S., we think it’s likely that Japan can’t be far behind.