Global sales of the fabled DM boots leapt up 25% to 6 million pairs courtesy of a new craze in east Asia and the rising popularity of new DM’s Lite
Demand for Dr Martens boots is booming, helped by a craze in Asia and new, lighter versions of the traditional yellow-stitched boots.
The company, which is now owned by private equity firm Permira, opened 18 stores last year, including two in Japan and one at Camden Stables in north London. It plans to open a further 20 to 25 shops this year in Japan, continental Europe, the UK and the US.
Dr Martens said revenue rose by a quarter to £291m in the year to 31 March. The firm sells about 6m pairs of shoes a year, most of which are manufactured outside of the UK, although 60,000 are still made at its original factory in Northamptonshire.
Last year the company also sold 200,000 pairs of its new DM’s Lite , a range modelled on lighter “athleisure” soles but which resemble the traditional Doc welted black or oxblood boots with yellow stitching. The firm has also introduced new colours and patterns such as floral prints.
Jon Mortimore, the chief financial officer, said DM’s Lite appealed to “customers who wore Dr Martens when they were a kid or teenager, but they are also appealing a lot to younger consumers who’ve been brought up on lighter trainers or shoes”.
Dr Martens is expanding particularly in Japan and South Korea. He added: “Japan is going very well for us. Tokyo can be seen as a global fashion hub.”
Dr Martens eight-hole Airwair boots were launched in 1960 and soon became popular with skinheads, goths and punks. Another early adopter was Pete Townshend, guitarist and songwriter for the Who.
The boots had a revival recently, helped by endorsement from celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Ellie Goulding, Gwen Stefani, Pharrell Williams and David Beckham.
Mortimore said Permira, which bought the business in 2013, was turning it from a family-run company into a global brand, and moving away from wholesale towards retail – opening more of its own shops and selling online.
Dr Martens is looking for a new CEO after Steve Murray stepped down this month after three years in the job. The chairman and former boss of Asda and Matalan, Paul Mason, will run the business in the interim.
The company, founded by the Griggs family in Wollaston, Northamptonshire, has been making work boots since 1901. It licensed the Dr Martens boot from Munich-based Dr Klaus Maertens, a young soldier who developed the air-cushioned sole while convalescing from a broken foot.
Dr Martens said retail revenues were up 38% to £78.9m while online income jumped 54% to £32.4m. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation grew 27% to £37.5m.
Never out of fashion
So, Dr Martens boots, long associated with punk, the working class and an overall sense of outsider rebellion, have become so mainstream that global sales are up 25%.
In reality the thick-soled, sturdy leather upper boots have rarely been out of fashion. In 2012, Marc Jacobs put his models in heavy DM-style military boots. In 2015, Alexander McQueen paired his heavy soled boots with military pieces. Calvin Klein and Coach have rolled out similar versions, while Perry Ellis put Helena Christensen in real DMs, paired with a dress, on the catwalk in the 90s.
Their popularity is linked to who is wearing them. Just this week, Kourtney Kardashian was in a pair of eight hole boots. The other week, it was Gigi Hadid. And this is part of their appeal. Dr Marten’s are the de facto sartorial passport to subculture – wear them, and you automatically look cooler than you are.
They are a universally democratic piece of wardrobe kit. Rich people wear them with skirts just as punks wear them for life. In the past 50 years they have been part of a postie’s uniform, worn by Neo-Nazis and now by Instagram stars.
Though the sales figure is impressive, it’s not entirely a result of fashion. Dr Martens are built to last so if you buy one pair, you’re unlikely to buy another. It is the recently launched DM Lites that are the most tangible reason for their current success. Traditional Dr Martens require a lengthy break-in period whereas the soft-leather Lite versions are comfortable the moment they come out of the box. Still, combined with a sudden uptake in Asia and, well, the ongoing, all-powerful Hadid-effect, it’s likely Dr Martens will be in fashion for years to come. Morwenna Ferrier
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Lead Image: The Di Paolo DM, part of the new range of the DM Museum Dr Martens boots Photograph: Dr Martens