Companies / October 2016

Quiet the Barking Dogs

US-based footwear and apparel company Hush Puppies sees Indonesia as an important market for its comfortable, casual shoes and trendy accessories.

“Barking dogs” is an old phrase from the United States to describe tired, sore feet. Back in 1958, when Wolverine World Wide was trying to market its new line of suede casual shoes, one of its salesmen stopped to eat Hush Puppies, traditional fried cornballs popular in the southern part of the country.

He asked how cornballs came to be called Hush Puppies and was told that farmers threw the cornball to the hounds to “quiet the barking dogs.” The salesman, James Gaylord Muir, instantly saw the connection between his shoes, cornballs and the barking dogs.

So was born one of the world’s most popular casual shoe brands. In the 1960s, one of every 10 adults in the US was wearing Hush Puppies and over the past five decades, the brand grew from footwear to a full range of accessories and clothes. Today, the company operates concept stores in 167 countries around the world.

Globally, the company sells 17 million pairs of shoes per year with 450,000 pairs sold in Indonesia. Hush Puppies operates more than 60 stores in Indonesia and is looking to expand its footprint in the country.

“We invented casual in the post-war era,” noted Bill Mirecki, president of Hush Puppies. “Families in the US were looking to dress less formally and they loved the casual suede shoes we produced.”

Unlike most companies, Hush Puppies went international just one year after it was born. As a result, it was able to develop a global presence before most other companies and today has production facilities in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Brazil and Portugal.

“Retail is a game of being close to your market with the right trend and correct stock levels,” he added. That is why Hush Puppies is looking to expand its presence in tier 1 and tier 2 cities across Indonesia. According to Mirecki, it could expand much faster but is holding back due to infrastructure constraints.

“We want managed growth,” he said. “We want to grow as lifestyles and markets grow and our teams are really focused on our stores at the moment.”

The company will introduce a new line of shoes called “Dream on Series” this year using its latest technology. With two major launches a year and 500 new patterns a year, Hush Puppies wants to inspire happiness from the feet up.