The world’s largest shoe care brand, Kiwi, looks to be discontinued. According to several sources with insight, the multinational corporation SC Johnson will stop producing Kiwi products. Last year the fact that SCJ removed Kiwi from the UK market due to decreased sales made big headlines. Now, it appears that global sales are not good enough for the shoe care brand to have a future, at least not under SC Johnson ownership.
Kiwi is an institution in the shoe care world. Very likely most grown-ups in the western part of the world have used their products at least once. Founded in 1906 in Australia by William Ramsay, the Kiwi shoe polish was used by both the American and the British army during the World War I, and has since became the dominant shoe care brand in many markets around the world. For a long time it remained under Australian ownership, but in the 1984 the American company Sara Lee Corporation bought it. Sara Lee also acquired Meltonian and other large shoe care brands, leading to monopoly investigations in the 90’s and they were consequently stopped from expanding their shoe care portfolio.
In 2011, Kiwi was sold to SC Johnson, the US giant in household cleaning supplies and other consumer chemicals (including Mr. Muscle, WC Duck and Glade). They have about 13,000 employees around the world, with a yearly revenue of almost $12 billion. In the shoe care sector they own brands such as Woly and Tana. However, Kiwi has always been their big name. In recent decades shoe connoisseurs have to a large degree moved on from the old Aussie brand, not least due to their common use of silicones. Yet it has remained the given choice for many “regular people”.
The use of traditional leather footwear is not what it once was, as we all know, in this era of sneakers and casual outfits. And as a result the demand for Kiwi, it’s strongest area having been in wax polish, has been declining. Last year, SC Johnson took the surprising step to stop selling Kiwi in the homeland of classic shoes, the UK. This made big headlines in for example Financial Times, Daily Mail, The Independent and The Telegraph. Kiwi stated that “a rise in casual shoes that don’t require formal polishing and an overall decrease in consumers polishing their shoes in the UK had prompted us to withdraw from the UK market, […] but we will continue to remain active in markets where formal shoe care remains relevant.”
Now, it appears that SCJ makes the assessment that such markets don’t exist anymore, since recently American retailers of Kiwi were informed that the company is to discontinue the brand. Shoegazing has received this information from several from each other independent sources. Regarding when this would happen information is not fully clear. However one date stated is June 30 in 2024.
When reaching out to SC Johnson asking for a confirmation that the company will discontinue Kiwi, a spokesperson stated the following in an email: “SC Johnson is exploring our options for the KIWI® shoe care brand including a potential sale of the business in certain regions. KIWI® is an iconic and beloved brand that has been part of the SC Johnson family since 2011.”
So, maybe we’ll see another owner take over the Kiwi brand, at least in some markets. Or maybe SCJ change their minds and decide to continue themselves after all. Only time will tell. But the future certainly doesn’t look bright right now. However, more niche shoe care segments, like premium shoe care for more serious shoe aficionados, or sneaker care, are still growing in numbers. According to a study by Zion Market Research the global shoe care market size was worth $10,1 billion in 2022, and expected to more than double and reach $20,3 Bn by 2030. This would indicate that more people will care for their shoes, something that would be truly positive, and in such world a strong brand like Kiwi could surely have its place, one would think.