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Friday, December 25, 2009

They Did Not Slipper Away From Us!

After completing my GCE 'O' Levels, I applied to enrol in a polytechnic instead of a Junior College, unlike many of my classmates. Crazy as it sounds, the poly appealed to me for 2 main reasons: No school uniforms and no more studying of Chinese.

I eventually regretted both reasons; when I visited my friends at their JC, I realised how short the girls' skirts could be, and of course, I could have spent 2 more valuable years upgrading my Chinese from a conversational standard to a business standard.

Ah well, I enjoyed poly life anyway.

One of the modules I took in my Business Management diploma course was Marketing, where I was first acquainted with the term 'Marketing Mix', which is also generally known as the 4 Ps - Price, Product, Place and Promotion. The 4 Ps are the variables that a savvy marketer can manipulate to position his product in the market to generate mucho dinero.

In later years, when studying for my degree, I found that the Marketing Mix was reinforced and expanded into Packaging, People, Processes, Physical Evidence, Power and the Phantoms of Christmas Past, Present and Phuture (heh... this post is written on Christmas after all :p).

But let's bring in the focus a little. We have a Product - rubber slippers (or thongs, or flip-flops, whatever you call them), of a brand called havianas.

A pretty brown pair for the wife

Havianas are sold in Singapore only in New Urban Male shops, which specialises in beach/casual wear. Correct me if I'm wrong, please, because I can never bear to step into the shop. The People there are all young buffed up, top-heavy youths with heavily gelled hair that stand straight up. I suppose the chain tries to project a metrosexual vibe, but to me, it just ends up damned gay.

Prices of havianas there start from about SGD 40. And amongst my friends, none of us own a pair of havianas, preferring instead to go to Sports Connection to buy other slippers that cost less than SGD 5.

Things are totally different in Brazil. For one, the Power of havianas is such that many guide books actually say that if you want to blend in with the cariocas (residents of Rio de Janerio), you gotta wear singlets and shorts (or swimwear) all day, and you NEED a pair of havianas to complete the look.

havianas here cost only slightly cheaper than in Singapore, but we caved in and bought many pairs. Well, I bought one pair. The wife bought 3, and an additional pair for her sister. Why? Because havianas are just so pervasive in Brazil!

Solid black pair for me, with Brazilian colors down the sides

What really astounded me was how much the havianas have become a part of culture. Not only are people wearing them all over, but they are literally sold all over the place too! Check out these Places:

At a supermarket

At a flea market - the Hippie Fair that is open only on Sundays

In a department store - the LeBlon Shopping Mall

In a boutique along the busy streets of Rio

And I bought my pair from a roadside 'general items' store. And there were newstands that sell the slippers too. Go figure.

Strangely enough, it really doesn't seem like a 'pride' issue, where the locals sell havianas because it is Brazilian in origin. Neither does it seem like a profit thing - with so many competitors, how much can a single retailer sell? I've also ruled out special designs available only for certain sellers, because the same designs are everywhere. Somehow, it just IS.

What a marketing coup!


Dave and Deb said...

That looks like my kind of place. I love wearing flip flops, if I didn't have to wear shoes ever again I would be fine. Shorts too. We gotta go to Brazil.
I love all of the places that you took photos of where they are sold!

Honyi said...

it's amazing lin had the self-restraint to stop at 3 pairs! i'm always tempted to buy more havianas, and they aren't even as proliferate here. btw, love your brown pair lin!

Yi Lin said...

Hi Dave & Deb - we love the convenience and "airiness" of flipflops so much that we're still wearing them to scuttle between our motel room and the breakfast rooom - in the snow! We were quite amazed that Havianas are EVERYWHERE - thus the photos.

Hon - It was SO HARD!!! *wail* If I were just on vacation, I would buy tonnes back. The problem is, I LOVE all the pairs with gold straps or designs on them. And hummingbirds. I was touching all of them and then mentally finding all sorts of excuses why I SHOULDN'T buy them (e.g. straps too thick, white soles will get dirty easily, etc.) Will show you my 2 other pairs when we get home! :)

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