THE PLUS AWARD WINNERS • JEEPERS, CREEPERS ARE TRENDING • SPECIAL REPORT: THE GIRLS EFFECT
BRIGHT IDEA Splashes of Color Smarten Up Men’s for Fall
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BØRN HANDCRAFTED FOOTWEAR | NEW YORK SHOWROOM | 1441 BROADWAY | 15TH FLOOR | NEW YORK, NY
FOP_1 1 Footwear+ March 2013.indd 1
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TO OUR RETAILERS AND INDUSTRY FRIENDS. IT’S AN HONOR TO BE RECOGNIZED WITH THE 2012 PLUS AWARDS.
Company of the Year
2012 Plus Award for Design Excellence
2012 Plus Award for Design Excellence
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Meet the waterproof ‘Belt’ boot. Found in Cougar’s fresh 2013 Collection.
For more details, call 1 888 COUGAR-1 or visit us at cougarboots.com Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/cougarboots | Follow us on Twitter: @CougarBoots 2013 Cougar Collection featured at: Denver Show (La Quinta Hotel) March 1 – 3 | Michigan Show (Embassy Suites, Livonia) March 3 – 4 Minneapolis Show (Mystic Lake Hotel) March 8 – 10 | Mid Atlantic Shoe Blast (Sheraton Suites at the Philadelphia Airport) March 11 – 12
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M A R C H
2 0 1 3
Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director
Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher
Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Fashion Editor
Lyndsay McGregor Associate Editor Social Media Editor
Maria Bouselli Assistant Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Tim Jones Senior Designer
Judy Leand Contributing Editor
6 PA G E
ADMINISTRATION Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Laurie Guptill Production Manager Melanie Prescott Circulation Manager Mike Hoff Webmaster
Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director
12 Girl Power How HBO’s hit series Girls is making its mark on fashion by using everyday, real styling. By Angela Velasquez
14 Q&A: Rocky Brands CEO David Sharp on two launches and a brand makeover, and the organic growth opportunities they present. By Greg Dutter
21 And the Winners Are...
42 Jeepers Creepers Statement-making creepers edge back into fashion. By Angela Velasquez
46 Trend Spotting Wedges remain a fall staple, while men’s gets that tassel touch. By Angela Velasquez
48 Modern Man Style evolution: color and prints send men’s into new territory. By Angela Velasquez
Industry leaders turn out to salute the 14th annual Plus Award winners in New York.
24 Profiles in Excellence Recognizing the designs, innovations and retail concepts that made each Plus Awardworthy. By Greg Dutter, Angela Velasquez, Lyndsay McGregor and Maria Bouselli
8 Editor’s Note 10 This Just In 44 What’s Selling 58 Shoe Salon 60 Outdoor 61 Accessories 64 Last Word
On the cover: Bugatchi penny loafer, Reiss jacket, shirt by Uniqlo, Dockers pant, stylist’s tie, H & M hosiery. Photography by Augustus Butera. Model Andreas from Red Model Management. 1. Rockport 2. Johnston & Murphy 3. Ted Baker 4. Conceptual Application 5. G.H. Bass & Co. 6. Wolverine 1883 7. Ecco Photography by Trevett McCandliss
OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 9Threads.com Circulation 21 Highland Circle Needham, MA 02494 Tel: (800) 964-5150 Fax: (781) 453-9389 circulation@9Threads.com Corporate 9Threads 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Xen Zapis Chairman Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno Chief Financial Officer
FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) Vol. 24 issue #3 The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by Symphony Publishing NY LLC, 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl., New York, NY, 10003-7118. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48.00 in the U.S. Rates oustide the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10.00. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2013 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.
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! " # $ % & $ '()*' ! ! " # $ + , & $ -). # / + , & $ '0)*1 ! +! 2 + + , & $ '()*'
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editor’s note a cast of thousands
It Takes All Kinds In case anyone has been counting, I’ve been writing for Footwear Plus for 20 years. That amounts to thousands of articles, totaling millions of words about what seems like countless shoe trends and innovations, brand strategies, consumer shopping habits and new retail formats. It has involved interviewing hundreds of industry personalities about one subject: the business of selling shoes. But that’s where the similarities end. Each person I have had the pleasure of writing about is truly one of a kind. They include a growing cast of characters—visionaries, number-crunchers, divas, artists, hustlers, leaders, gamblers, young and old, men and women, winners and… Well, let’s just say not everyone winds up victorious in this business. I’ve interviewed people on their way up, others making a comeback (some repeatedly) and many whose love for the industry—its ever-changing nature, speed and creativity—keeps them in the game long after they could have cashed their chips in for a life of leisure. Take, for example, Kevin Mancuso, CEO of White Mountain Footwear and our first-ever Plus Award recipient for Lifetime Achievement (profiled on p. 26). Mancuso is now in his fourth decade working in footwear and his entrepreneurial spirit burns as bright as ever. It has taken him from entry-level salesperson all the way up the executive ranks to leading a company that manufactures millions of pairs annually under White Mountain, Rialto and Cliffs brands as well as a private label division. During the past 24 years at White Mountain, the company has made shoes first in New Hampshire and then in Italy, Brazil, Mexico, China and India. While that aspect of his career bio may sound familiar, the way it all began for Mancuso is unique. For starters, how many of you never intended to enter the shoe business? Maybe, in need of any job after bumming around Europe for a year post-college, you responded to a classified ad seeking a salesman to sell shoe lasts. Perhaps you didn’t have a clue what they were. Possibly the only reason you got the job was because the person who made the hire was a piano bar buff and you happened to teach the instrument during col-
lege. That’s how Mancuso’s footwear career started, an opening chapter I couldn’t make up even if I tried. It’s another great “behind the shoes” story for me to share with you. Every one of our Q&As, retail profiles and “Designer Chats” spotlight people with their own fascinating, sometimes funny, and often inspiring stories of how they’ve come into this business, their dreams and their plans to bring them to life. David Sharp, CEO of Rocky Brands and the subject of this month’s Q&A (p. 14), presents another great tale about the company’s recent period of introspection and the resulting birth of two innovative brand concepts as well as the exciting transformation of another that has put Rocky Brands on the road to meaningful organic growth once again. The same holds true for the winners of the 2012 Plus Awards: Each brand and retailer featured in our Profiles in Excellence section (beginning on p. 24) has a one-of-a-kind story worth sharing. To those of you who take the time to read this column in each issue, thank you. I hope you enjoy it. As you can probably tell by now, I don’t always take my self too seriously. But I do take the responsibility of saying something relevant and meaningful on this page very seriously. My goal is to keep you, my readers, informed, enlightened and entertained. Looking back on the past 20 years, I feel fortunate to have had a seat at the table, entrusted with communicating your personal stories and company strategies to the industry and beyond. I never profess to know how to make a shoe or to predict which style will blow out at retail. (My crystal ball broke a long time ago.) My mission at Footwear Plus is to provide you with unbiased, honest reporting and insight gained from two decades covering the business of selling shoes—never overlooking the colorful human quotient. That adds up to millions of words… and counting.
ILLUSTRATION BY TIM JONES
Marking 20 years writing for Footwear Plus with this very issue, I’ve enjoyed getting to know you all and spreading the good word.
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THIS JUST IN
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FOR A GENERATION that has grown up watching reality television, it ever was,” says Nikki Surawski of the East Village Buffalo Exchange. The should come as no surprise that a show based on four tewntysomething twentysomething associate manager at the bustling resale store near NYU girls living in Brooklyn, NY, with a raw—and sometimes unflattering—realand the L subway stop to Brooklyn sees outfits on the show that look just ity of trying to make it on their own has struck a nerve with young women like something in her own closet. “The characters on Gossip Girl were the nationwide. Unlike Friends, which featured the Rachel hair cut and its stylsame age as the Girls characters, but they were Henri Bendel girls from the ish female cast members living in palatial apartments (who knew being a Upper East Side,” she says. “The average twentysomething just wants a great waitress, an entry-level chef and a masseuse paid so well), these girls are not deal and something cute.” really the best of “friends.” And while the girls have sex in the city quite reg“I live in the East Village, there’s lots of NYU kids around and there’s all ularly, it’s without the glamour of a dashing Mr. Big set amid a world where those cool twentysomethings in Alphabet City, and I see them wearing our $600 designer shoes are everyday wear. To wit Gossip Girl, which helped land shoes,” confirms Anita Da Silva, designer for Bass Loves Rachel Antonoff, names like Carolina Herrera on the tip of teens’ tongues, Dhani Mau, associthe go-to shoe for Hannah, adding that young women today like to mix old ate editor for Fashionista.com says Girls keeps it real—warts and all. In parwith new. “That’s what makes this twentysomething generation so unique,” ticular, the series has excelled at depicting each of the four main characters she says. “They don’t mind mixing colors and prints. They are willing to through a believable more accessible style each their own—not just one allexplore and go further in their style.” encompassing fantasy look. “Each character is different and the show’s design Launched in Spring 2011, after Antonoff enlisted Bass to design shoes team does a good job showing that all twentysomething girls don’t dress the for her Fall ’12 Murder Mystery collection, the collaboration has resultsame,” she explains. ed in a partnership befitting a TV Much of the Brooklyn-based show based on female friendships. show’s style is influenced by Da Silva says designing the line is current street fashion. “I live like being a kid on a playground. in Brooklyn and we shoot in “Rachel is the sweetest person to Brooklyn and we do a lot of peowork with. She brings homemade ple watching here,” explains Jenn cookies and an element of fun to Rogien, costume designer for the process. Time flies by,” she Girls and the recipient of the describes. Style Awards’ 2012 TV Costume That wholesomeness shines Designer of the Year prize. “New through in the collection as it York, as a whole, is always lookrevisits the 1950s, a time Da Silva ing forward and finding better says the footwear brand reached ways to express itself.” its first peak in popularity. By That might mean having to refreshing classic models like look at photos from a specific penny loafers and saddle shoes event like an art opening or a with updated colors and whimsitrendy party if a scene calls for cal accents, the styles fall in line From wedges to oxfords, the shoes featured on HBO’s Girls reflects a real world take. it, but Rogien says she prefers to with Antonoff’s throwback design find a more realistic way to comaesthetic. For instance, instead of plete a look for a character by a traditional penny catcher, the mixing high and low, which mirrors the trend for an increasing number of two-tone Wendybird loafer (seen on Hannah) features a heart-shaped real world women today. Any stigma of shopping Marshalls, Target or H&M penny catcher. has long since faded. A good deal is just that. As such, women have no prob“Whatever we’re choosing, we hope it connects to the characters’ emolem pairing $800 English riding boots with a pair of black leggings they tional lives,” Rogien says. Of course, she notes that storytelling extends to picked up at the corner drug store. “It varies depending on the girl’s financial footwear. “Shoes impact the way a character stands and walks,” she offers. situation and where she lives, but myself and the people I know mix pieces “Even though we may never see it in the shot, because it’s the farthest thing from Zara and H&M with thrift items,” confirms Mau, who is 24. “And then away from their faces, shoes make an incredible impact. They affect the there’s the occasional splurge on a $300 Rachel Comely boot, but it pales in actors’ height and stance and how they carry themselves.” comparison to the amount of J.Crew in the closet.” It’s the reason why Rogien chooses wedge sandals and Nine West pumps So, for a show that depicts friends sharing bathtubs, girls noshing on for Allison Williams’ character, Marnie. “Marnie is more polished than the cupcakes in the shower and its lead character Hannah, played by Lena other characters,” she says of the former-gallery assistant. Platform pumps Dunham, donning a mesh tank top braless, is its fashion really that real? are a must and, in the second season, Rogien says she’s exploring more More imporantly, what sort of discernable impact is it having on fashion? advanced, fashion-forward shoes like asymmetrical pumps for the character. “For me it’s very real. More real than Sex and the City and Gossip Girl Stefani Greenfield, creative officer at The Jones Group, agrees: “Shoes, >62
PHOTO: JESSICA MIGLIO/HBO
Grittier and grimier (Brooklyn as opposed to Manhattan), the HBO hit series Girls is putting its stamp on the latest fashions. By Angela Velasquez
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BY GREG DUTTER
Entrenched in the hunting, work and military markets, David Sharp, CEO of Rocky Brands, discusses the company’s ventures into emerging new categories and the significant growth opportunities they now present. OME MARKETS ARE mature, like hunting and western. Others have taken a heavy hit from a lingering recession, like work boots. And the demand for military footwear can often ride the level of our country’s engagements around the world, which is never predictable and, of late, have been winding down. Taking all these factors into consideration, one can plainly see that Rocky Brands has been faced with challenges for growth the past several years. The fact that the Nelsonville, OH-based company has largely been able to maintain sales overall—while reducing operating expenses significantly—is nothing short of impressive. Nonetheless, CEO David Sharp knew the company’s position did not present long-term growth prospects so, beginning a couple years ago, it embarked on several new initiatives that are beginning to pay dividends this year. “It’s been tough for us to move the needle, because we’re in markets that have been contracting the last few years,” Sharp confirms. “But that made us become very introspective about how we could grow the business organically.” The cornerstones of that organic growth plan are this year’s debuts of the Rocky S2V outdoor performance brand
and Rocky 4EurSole that targets nursing professionals. The push also includes the company’s ongoing makeover of Durango from a western staple into a lifestyle-driven women’s fashion brand. So far so good, Sharp reports, on all three fronts. S2V, which first hit stores in December, is not just another me-too collection of earthtoned trail runners and hikers. For starters, it’s climate-mitigating footwear and apparel designed to keep people dry and warm, or cool, depending on conditions. Even bigger news, thanks to an exclusive partnership with Ultimate Survival Technologies, is the lifesaving tools integrated into S2V designs. How about a fire starter built into the heel of S2V’s Substratum hiking boot? Or fuchsia colored insoles for signaling, military-grade paracord laces and outsoles that are crampon and snowshoe compatible. S2V apparel includes a compass, signal mirror, whistle, emergency blanket, medical kit and even a saw built into the items. It’s the type of survival gear desperately needed by James Franco’s character in the movie 127 Hours—products that enable the wearer to not only enjoy the great outdoors but also survive them if conditions suddenly take a turn for the worse. In fact, Franco’s character, based on real-life canyoneer Aron Ralston, fits S2V’s target consumer to a tee—people that are into such outdoor sports as climbing, adventure racing, mountain biking and
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O&A paddling. “It’s really aimed at millennials,” Sharp says, citing what is now the nation’s largest demographic group. “These consumers really push themselves and go out every weekend looking for new conquests and things to brag about. They’re into apparel and equipment that helps them and mitigates the risks that they are taking.” S2V is receiving a solid response from its targeted outdoor specialty space, Sharp reports. “That’s where we want to be right now, these momand-pop-type expert stores,” he explains. “The person on the selling floor is often the owner and is looked to for advice on products by this consumer. It will drive credibility for our brand.” Sharp adds it’s how a lot of millennials like to shop and discover brands. “This customer wants authenticity and What are you reading? The integrity. They don’t really respond to Thomas Jefferson biography, national advertising,” he says. “They The Art of Power by Jon want to know from their buds whether Meacham. this item really performs.” As such, S2V is also embarking on an extensive What one word best product placement program, getting describes you? Right it on experts so they can become now, optimistic. I’m pretty evangelists. optimistic where the country Similar to S2V, Rocky 4EurSole is headed, the direction of the targets another rapidly emerging economy and where Rocky market in nursing and, once again, Brands is headed. does so by going beyond the ordinary clog that’s worn by many healthcare What is inspiring you professionals. The design features a most right now? U.S. unique three-shoes-in-one concept. Army veteran Brendan Built on a PU unit sole, a strap atop the Marrocco. He lost all his clog’s vamp can swivel and turn it into limbs in a roadside bombing a slingback. And while Sharp admits and recently underwent a that there’s nothing very special about double arm transplant. It’s that, it also comes with two removable an incredibly inspiring story inserts, one of which features a heel about how a person can extension that turns it into a full shoe. overcome anything if they “A woman can wear it as either a clog, have the right mindset. a slingback or a full shoe,” Sharp says, noting the shoe, straps and inserts What famous person in all come in a wide array of colors history do you most identify and patterns. This variety allows with? Winston Churchill. He consumers to further customize their shoes—a fact, Sharp notes, appeals to a lot of nurses whose shoes are the only way to make a fashion statement in their uniforms. The 4EurSole market research also revealed that nurses often wear sneakers, which aren’t durable enough, or clogs, with complaints of twisted ankles and the shoe’s weight and inflexibility. “We observed them using their feet as tools—kicking doors open and putting on gurney brakes,” Sharp says. “And they are often working on hard tile floors and around a lot of fluids.” As such, Rocky incorporated its Lehigh safety footwear brand’s non-slip outsole into the 4EurSole design as well as addressed durability and comfort in a lightweight, flexible construction that offers good arch support for people who are generally on their feet all day. Not to be overlooked is 4EurSole’s attractive demographics. “The healthcare industry is going to rocket over the next few years in terms of jobs,” Sharp reports, citing one forecast of 3 million more jobs created by 2018. “Those jobs are 80 percent women and many of them have a nice discretionary income,” he adds. Moreover, many
women admire nurses, which Sharp believes should help foster 4EurSole’s extension into the women’s casual market in the coming seasons. For Rocky Brands, successful expansion into the women’s market is arguably its Holy Grail. Which brings us to Durango’s ongoing transformation into a women’s lifestyle brand. For some reason the brand’s former owners, EJ Footwear, had shed its biker boot collections, which were particularly popular along the I-95 corridor, in favor of a more western focus. The company’s research discovered that a lot of consumers still had those boots in their closets and the trade still respected the brand’s potential in that segment. Thus Durango’s new positioning, dubbed “Outlaw Fun,” was launched a couple of seasons ago. Aimed at a younger, self-confident woman who would be my most coveted wants to make a fashion statement, the dinner guest, too. I think initial results have been highly encourthis world would be a totally aging. “Durango experienced a 52 perdifferent place if he hadn’t cent increase in sales last year overlived. He was the right guy all, which was split 60 percent fashat the right time. He was an ion to 40 percent core western,” Sharp incredible leader. reports. “That’s phenomenal when you take into account the overall economWhat is you most guilty ic climate.” The growth includes new pleasure? I’m almost channels of distribution, which should obsessive-compulsive about expand further when the brand introbeing organized. So my duces leather jackets and accessories biggest guilty pleasure is this fall. luggage. I have more luggage Durango, S2V and 4EurSole all presthan any man should have. ent significant organic growth opportunities for Rocky Brands going forWhat might people be ward. The company’s period of introsurprised to know about spection looks to have been well worth you? Aside from the luggage the effort. “All three growth vehicles thing, that I’m originally from are not weather-dependent or focused England. I’ve lived here so on males, yet they are just baby steps long that I don’t think people from our core competencies,” Sharp can even pick up my accent. explains. “We didn’t want to go down a road that our brands might not be Your accent sounds less welcome in or that we didn’t have the English than Madonna’s. competencies internally.” She worked hard at getting Not to be overlooked in all of this is hers, I can tell (laughs). the fact that 2013 is off to a heady start in Rocky Brands’ core businesses as well. It was recently awarded a military contract that could mean as much as $15 million to its top line and a private label program in hunting could add another $10 million. “That’s 10 percent growth on a business that’s overall around $250 million,” Sharp says. What’s more, the housing market is showing signs of life that should have a positive impact on work boot sales. “As the economy improves—and we believe that it’s going to this year more than last—it’s highly likely that we’ll do more work boot business than last year,” Sharp says. Add it all up and one can see why Sharp is very optimistic about 2013 and beyond for Rocky Brands: “I believe we are now in a position to where we are going to see solid growth.”
OFF THE CUFF
Would you say Rocky Brands has officially entered into a new phase? Yes. We are embarking on the next phase of our growth, both organically and, once we find the right brand, through acquisition. Looking back on the EJ acquisition, the first couple of years of any merger are the toughest,
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O&A particularly since EJ was bigger than us. And then 2008 hit, so that didn’t help. But over the past five years we’ve taken out 27 percent of our SG&A expenses and our inventories are down 17 percent. We also improved our margin percentages and net profits nicely—all while holding our top line sales steady. We also converted our Lehigh safety footwear retail trucks platform into a web-based model that is now very profitable. Lastly, we borrowed $100 million to do the transaction and in 2006 and 2007 our interest payments were north of $10 million annually. In 2012 it was less than $1 million and, by the end of this year, we should be out of debt. It must be more fun working in this type of environment, right? This is a lot of fun right now, and not just for me but for everyone involved. People see the opportunities we now have. Even in work boots and hunting? Despite all of the pessimism regarding the economy and how it’s growing in fits and starts, it is growing. Certainly, the housing market is improving and there has been very favorable news in the real estate market during the last 60 days. So we believe there is potential for improvement in the work boots market. But it should be noted that on top of the lingering unemployment of the past few years, the fact is that 75 percent of our business is currently in work boots and hunting, where a lot of our constituency is blue collar and the unemployment rate is actually much higher. So that’s what made us become very introspective and to think about ways we could grow the business organically. Well, if that guy finds a job, perhaps he can more afford to take a hunting trip. Is there reason for optimism in that segment as well? The hunting market is tough. When I joined Rocky in 2000 there were only a few dominant players in that space at retail. Cabela’s had one store and a catalog and Bass Pro Shops probably had three or four stores and a catalog. Today, they both have many superstores. As a result a lot of mom-and-pop stores have fallen by the wayside around those locations. And the aspect that is most dominant in those stores is private label. So, in effect, our largest customers in that space have become our largest competitors. And I say that affectionately because those outlets need Rocky to validate their price points because ours is the premier brand. That’s why we continue to innovate in that space to maintain our premium position. And while consumers are responding to our efforts, compounding the difficulties in hunting the last couple of years has been the weather. We need it to be cold and wet when the hunting season starts in late September and early October, and we haven’t had that. In fact, this past season it didn’t really get cold and wet in most of the country until mid-December, which is too late. Has the climate changed to a point that you have to change your approach to how product is designed? That’s exactly what we are doing. For example, we are focused on building the lightest, most flexible product that is warm but without all the bulk that you would normally see in previous models. We are also introducing features that make the boots really quiet so the wearer can be stealth on dry leaves. Those types of design initiatives help maintain Rocky’s leadership role in hunting. Along those lines of innovation, exactly how did the S2V concept come about? We have a long history of working with the U.S. military and we are particularly proud of a boot (the S2V) that was developed especially for the Navy SEALs. They had requested a boot for amphibious landings
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and their charge to us was one that would go completely dry after being drenched in water in one hour, which this boot achieves. Last year we sold $20 million in that style to the U.S. military after market. But, frankly, we were never successful in connecting Rocky with the guy who doesn’t hunt but likes the outdoors. That’s why we believe incorporating S2V’s survival components and connecting the brand on the level of what we have done for the U.S. military will resonate far better. It’s a target customer who is younger and most likely more white collar, and it’s a much bigger demographic than hunting. What’s not to like? You are absolutely right. It’s an overall market that is many, many times larger than hunting. And participation in activities like adventure racing, orienteering, mountain biking, paddling and climbing are all growing significantly. Climbing, in particular, grew almost 25 percent between 2008 and 2010. If we get S2V in the right outlets and get a buzz going, I believe we could be a major player. It’s right in our wheelhouse in terms of what we’ve done for the hunting and U.S. military markets. We are in it for the long haul, because if we can get cache in this market it should give us license to extend the Rocky S2V brand into casual outdoor footwear as well. Is that a similar strategy for Rocky 4EurSole? Yes. I’m very optimistic this business will expand our presence with female nurses initially as well as going forward, with the introduction of casual styles. We will begin shipping shoes in early May and the initial reaction from retailers has been very strong. We’ve been visiting with key accounts
for the last six months and allowing some of their buyers to suggest a few design enhancements, which we’ve incorporated. The fact is, on average, women buy eight pairs a year while men buy only two pairs. Hence, the Durango brand transformation into women’s lifestyle. Absolutely. And, right now, with no dominant trend in women’s, it presents opportunities for new brands and styles. I think the eclectic nature of fashion right now speaks to how confident this consumer has become in wanting to make her own fashion statement. Is eclectic being the new black, so to speak, a good thing for the industry overall? I believe this multi-faceted array that you are seeing right now is great for the business overall because it gets people in stores and buying more footwear. As long as you can discern what is going to be meaningful, you can be very successful as a wholesaler or a retailer. You just have to pick the trends that you can exploit. You can’t exploit every trend. If you do that, you’ll probably just dilute everything and you won’t have a place on the wall. But if you are really good at exploiting two or three trends, then you have more of a chance to be successful. Perhaps the variety is a factor behind department stores and their launch of shoe meccas inside their flagships? It’s a chicken or the egg scenario. They wouldn’t be building these shoe meccas if there wasn’t a demand. And a lot of the demand comes >63
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And the Winners Are... The 14th Annual Plus Awards cermony, held at the New York Hilton and co-sponsored by FFANY, recognized design and retail excellence for 2012. Lifetime Achievement
Company of Year, Work Boots
Kevin Mancuso CEO White Mountain
Jim Salzano President Clarks Companies, N.A.
Rob Moehring CEO Chooka
Amanda Cabot CEO Dansko
Craig Reingold President Sperry Top-Sider
Tim Bushell VP & General Manager Wolverine Worldwide
Scott Meden EVP/GMM Nordstrom
Brand of Year; Running
Boots; Launch of Year
Retail Customer Service
Gavin Thomas Director Media Relations Nike
Nancy Mamann & Morgan Hallme VP Marketing; Senior Manager Ugg Australia
Lisa Gorlicki Buyer/Merchandiser The Tannery
Paul Labarbera Design Director Teva
Dave Levy & Anne Catapano Owner; Senior Fit Specialist Hawley Lane Shoes
Carlo Tagliapetra & Lauren Shaw Design Director; Account Executive Toms
Phoebe Goodman Director of Design BBC Int’l./Ralph Lauren
Dave Pompel & Jason Boie VP Men’s; Design Director Rockport
Angela Edgeworth President Pediped
Lisa Park & Melissa Gallagher VP/DMM Women’s; VP/DMM Men’s Barneys
Jon Caplan & Jason Jones CEO; VP Design Johnston & Murphy
Steve Hill VP Merchandising Zappos
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PLUS AWA R D S
PH TOGRAP HY BY DE AN POWE L L
Footwear industry stars shined at the New York Hilton’s Bridges Bar in celebration of winning a Plus Award. Congratulations to all on a job well done.
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
THE PLUS AWARDS Recognizing Excellence in Design and Retail for 2012
COMPANY OF THE YEAR
WOLVERINE WORLDWIDE It’s little surprise that Wolverine Worldwide took home the Plus Award in the prestigious Company of the Year category for the second straight year. Coming off record growth in 2011, the conglomerate made even bigger waves with its $1 billion-plus acquisition of the Performance and Lifestyle Group, including Keds, Stride Rite, Saucony and CEO Blake Krueger Sperry Top-Sider brands. Overall, sales grew to a record $1.4 billion last year. “This was a huge milestone,” says CEO Blake Krueger of the aquisition. “We’re now the third largest footwear company in the world, behind the two biggest athletic players.” He adds that these brands were a great fit for the company, as they help to cover unfulfilled markets, such as children’s, athletic and women’s. The PLG added key talent to Wolverine’s roster as well, including Stride Rite’s Sharon John and Sperry Top-Sider’s Craig Reingold, aiding Krueger in his quest to bring in multi-talented execs to the Wolverine Worldwide family. In the last year, Wolverine Worldwide put an emphasis on developing relationships with key retail partners and also focused on product innovation. “We appreciate the fact that product is king in this industry, so we want to be out there with something that is new and fresh every season,” Krueger says. Merrell’s M-connect series helped to boost the company’s outdoor category while Keds’ collaborations with Taylor Swift and Kate Spade look to advance the women’s offerings, and he names Sperry Top-Sider as a star brand (winner of the Plus Award in the “Men’s Street” category) in 2012. “Five or six years ago they were pigeon-holed as a mid-priced, men’s boat shoe brand, and today the team there has done a great job extending that brand into adjacent categories, and focusing on women, making it the No. 1 footwear brand in America,” Krueger says. He also doesn’t count out the success of the Hush Puppies’ classic Americana styling and Wolverine’s heritage at the forefront of the 1000 Mile collection. Krueger notes business was “good and steady” in the U.S., Asia Pacific and Latin America for 2012, but that Europe was a challenge due to its economic environment. In the coming year, however, he sees an uptick in international sales. “The world shops American, the world knows what the fashion trends are in America and what brands perform well,” he says. He adds that the company is looking to expand the PLG brands in the international market in 2013 while continuing their growth stateside. With a 16-brand portfolio, more than a thousand years of brand equity, and a presence in 200 countries and territories around the world, Wolverine Worldwide shows no sign of slowing down. “We’re going to continue to focus on our people, developing the talent we have in the company and recruiting new talent, and maintain our focus on product and try to exceed the expectations of our retailers and our target consumers,” Krueger says. —Maria Bouselli
For Nike, 2012 was all about innovation, from a stitched-up shoe made from single thread (Flyknit) to a new take on a classic, garnering two Plus Awards in Brand of the Year and Excellence in Design in Running. “Our passion for innovation along with our unique insights from working with the best athletes in the world enables us to deliver premium products and experiences for our consumers, whether they’re [professionals] or running in a local 5K race,” says Gavin Thomas, director of media relations. Standouts in 2012 for Nike’s running category were the Flyknit, the Free Run+ 3 and the Lunarglide+ 4. With the Flyknit, Nike looked to fill a void in the market for a running shoe with a sock-like feel. After years of development, and searching for the best material that’s supportive, flexible and breathable, the Flyknit was born. This technology is used in the Flyknit Racer, a version for the marathon runner (seen at the past Olympics), and the Flyknit Trainer+ for everyday running. The Nike Free Run+ 3 is an updated model of the original Nike Free shoe from 2004. Using their knowledge of the foot’s natural movement, designers engineered a Dynamic Fit construction, which offers arch support where the wearer most needs it, and a midsole that aids the runner’s natural motion and imitates barefoot running. The seamless mesh upper and the sock liner, which molds to the foot, guarantees both perfect fit and comfort. The shoe delivered on its performance, but it was the wild array of colors offered that turned the shoe into a runaway fashion statement last summer. For the Lunarglide+4 (part of the Nike Lunarlon Collection), the design team concentrated on support, fit and stability. They used Flywire technology (also implemented in the Zoom Superfly R4 and Zoom Victory Elite), which employs cables that reposition with every move, and molds to properly fit the wearer. Lunarlon foam lines the midsole in the Dynamic Support platform to help cushion the foot and a firmer carrier foam adds to the runner’s stability. A report by industry sales tracking firm SportsOneSource states overall running sales for Nike grew in the high single digits in the $6.6 billion category. The brand upped its market share in running as well, from 50 percent in 2011 to 54 percent in 2012. The Nike Free made up about 4 percent of overall running sales last year alone. “Nike understands that we are in a ‘Technology as Fashion’ cycle right now, and is creating appropriate concepts,” says analyst at SportsOneSource Matt Powell. Along those lines, Nike’s training category sales shot up almost 40 percent, had an increase in sales in its cleated footwear with a 60 percent share in the category, and a 40 percent sales gain in sandals. And the entire brand itself had a mid-teen sales increase in the overall athletic category, with a 41.5 percent share in sales. Of the top 250 athletic styles sold in 2012, 119 of them were Nike. As for what the future holds, Thomas promises more innovation: “We challenge ourselves to purposefully and actively solve problems with the potential to make the biggest difference.” —M.B.
BRAND OF THE YEAR; RUNNING
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©2013 A GENESCO COMPANY
To our retailers and industry friends, it’s an honor to be recognized with the 2012 Plus Award for Design Excellence in the Men’s Dress Shoe category.
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
KEVIN MANCUSO Some people know what they want to be when they grow up from as young as age 5. Others discover their calling in high school or their college years. And then there are those who really don’t know what it is they were meant to do until it falls in their lap. Consider Kevin Mancuso, CEO of White Mountain Footwear, makers of White Mountain, Cliffs and Rialto brands, in the latter group. Going strong at 40-plus years in the footwear industry, it is quite obvious Mancuso has a talent for what it takes to survive in CEO Kevin Mancuso this business. But that was never really the master plan. The story goes: if Mancuso didn’t just need any job after bumming around Europe for a year post college on the verge of being flat broke, his footwear career never would have gotten past day one. “I came home with $10 in my pocket and I had to get a job,” Mancuso recalls. “I went for an interview, answering a classified ad about selling shoe lasts. I didn’t know what the heck a shoe last was.” As fate would have it, the last line of Mancuso’s resume noted he had taught piano while in college. It just so happens the person conducting the interview at the Vulcan Corporation (at the time it was one of the largest shoe component manufacturers in the country) was a piano bar buff. “He kept on talking to me about my piano playing and I kept wanting to ask him about the job,” Mancuso says. “Anyway, he hired me because I could play the piano, and that’s how I got introduced to the shoe business.” During the ensuing five years Mancuso sold lasts and unit soles to nearby New England shoe manufacturers until one day he received a call from Ted Poland, head of Bennett Footwear and makers of Main Woods. Poland must have had an eye for footwear talent as he asked Mancuso to assist him in line building as well as to be his national sales manager—both skills that have since served Mancuso well in helping lead White Mountain into a successful branded and private label conglomerate. However, at the time, Mancuso had zero experience in either ability. “I said, ‘Mr. Poland, I’ve never sold or built a shoe in my entire life.’ And he just said, ‘Kevin, I’ve been in the business for 50 years and you’ve got what it takes—I want you.’ So that’s how I got on the other side of the fence building and selling shoes.” Mancuso spent the next eight years doing just that for Bennett until his next career twist of fate. It was back in 1989 and Mancuso and his business partner Peter Fong (now a partner at White Mountain) were negotiating to buy Maine Woods as Poland was looking to retire. One day while most of the industry was at the shoe show in Las Vegas, two of Mancuso’s industry friends Gerri Dameshek and Nick Connors, partners for White Mountain, had a cancellation in their golf game and asked him to join. Right on the golf course the White Mountain job offer was made. While Mancuso said he would love to join, he mentioned how he couldn’t just drop his partner, Fong. Their response was memorable: “They said, ‘Kevin, if he’s associated with you then we’d gladly take him
on as a partner too.’” Mancuso says it didn’t take much selling to convince Fong to join him at White Mountain. “I’d known these guys for years and told him they’re the most honest people he’ll ever meet,” he notes. And it’s probably a reason they are still partners 24 years later. At first, Mancuso headed sales for White Mountain while Dameshek was the line builder. After he retired about five years ago, the company hired a couple of line builders that didn’t pan out. Mancuso offered to take over the role, which was met with apprehension at first as his partners knew that he had done the job—but it was years ago—and the sales team didn’t know he had ever done it. Fortunately, Mancuso’s first boots collection was well received and, you might say, the rest is history. The company has since introduced the Rialto and Cliffs by White Mountain brands to very successful receptions. In fact, Rialto sales were up 50 percent last year and Cliffs was up about 48 percent. Today, the company cranks out 40,000 to 50,000 pairs a day between its three brands and extensive private label operation. When Mancuso first joined, the company was making just 3,000 pairs daily in its New England factories. Along the way, White Mountain was the first to import leather shoes from China, thanks largely to its shoemaking capabilities back home. “We did all the R&D in our plant in New Hampshire, bought rubber soles in from Italy, leather in from the U.S. and China became the labor force,” he explains, adding it wasn’t an easy sell at first. “A lot of people were suspect, but because of our relationships we were able to sell some very large accounts—Famous Footwear being one of the first that gave us a shot—and the rest is history.” All of this success over the past two decades and one might think: It’s gotta be the shoes, right? At least, some people might want to take credit for it. But not Mancuso. He attributes the success in part to the company being privately owned and the flexibility that offers. “We’re able to zig and zag as well as anybody,” he says, adding integrity plays a significant role as well. “Our customers enjoy doing business with us. We make it easy for them.” Lastly, Mancuso gives credits to his employees: “I can’t overemphasize that none of our success would have ever occurred without the personnel we have to have made it happen.” That’s not to say White Mountain never faced adversity. In 1995, Mancuso says the partners feared it was all over. “We kept open a domestic factory probably a few years longer than we should have. We felt obligated to our workforce and it almost cost us our business,” he recalls. And then Monica came along, specifically the Monica clog. “We were really up against a wall and that clog saved us,” he says. Imported out of Italy, it was just a basic clog, but for whatever reason it took off. “It was the right fashion at the right time and we were one of the first people to catch on to the trend,” he says. “We began selling millions and millions of pairs.” For a person whose piano skills landed him a job in the footwear industry, Mancuso says shoes have long since became a labor of love and he sees no reason to stop any time soon. “I guess I could retire, but that’s the furthest thought from my mind,” he says. “I love what I do. Fashion is always changing and the adrenaline flows with each new season.” It’s a love affair driven by a true entrepreneurial spirit that has taken Mancuso and his partners from New England to Italy, Brazil, China, Chile, Mexico and India making shoes. “Looking back, I never thought this would have happened to me,” Mancuso says. But he is sure glad it has. —Greg Dutter
“Our customers enjoy doing business with us. We make it easy for them.”
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Where the domestic content is at least 70% we have labeled them â&#x20AC;&#x153;Made in USAâ&#x20AC;?.
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE NATIONAL CHAIN
NORDSTROM MEN’S DRESS
JOHNSTON & MURPHY In the great fashion Ferris wheel that is revisiting past decades, your granddad’s shoes are back, and storied dress shoe brand Johnston & Murphy is embracing that revival by fresh takes on classic styles and offering cool tips for spicing up a man’s wardrobe. Think monk straps with trousers and a sports coat or even jeans, or a sporty splash of color on the outsole to liven up a traditional wingtip. “What we’re hearing from the millennials who are now entering the workforce is that there’s a recognized need to fit into the environment and to not look and act like they don’t belong there,” says Jon Caplan, CEO, Johnston & Murphy, a division of Genesco. “We’re seeing [dress shoes] worn with not just business clothes, but across casual attire as well.” Since the venerable Johnston & Murphy was founded in 1850 in Newark, NJ, its name has become synonymous with a commitment to quality. Now based in Nashville, TN, the brand is gaining market share, recording a 6 percent increase in sales in the third quarter of 2012.
This just in: Rob Moehring is a psychic. Last year Chooka, a division of Washington Shoe Company, stretched beyond its rubber rain boot roots to introduce some fashion skimmer styles, and the U.S. witnessed its driest year in more than half a century. Coincidence? We think not. “At this past Outdoor Retailer show there was a lot of grumbling because that’s really a weather-related show and two non-severe weather years has really taken its toll,” the CEO says. “But our strategy of creating lightweight, functional footwear makes us less weather dependent.” Moehring adds, “Incorporating all these new ideas has really generated an increase in sales.”
“The magnitude outpaced our expectations. We knew that wingtips were coming back into fashion again, but perhaps we underestimated to what degree,” Caplan says. Jason Jones, vice president of design and development, agrees. “[Wingtips] did well across all age groups, selling particularly well among men under the age of 30 due to the coloration and styling,” he notes. The brand has sewn together vintage roots with contemporary cool for added snap, with styles spanning saddle shoes and cap toes to driving mocs and deck shoes. “We concentrated heavily on our own archives and looked internally versus externally,” Jones says. “We really wanted to go back to those better days of shoemaking and offer an heirloom quality.” Adds Caplan, “It’s such a wonderful challenge, but what you’re seeing right now is younger consumers responding to the classics and what our team does particularly well is figure out a way to keep it relevant. When you’re a great heritage brand you just don’t survive unless you figure out how to reinvent.” —Lyndsay McGregor
Long gone are the days of basic galoshes and clunky wellies—these waterproof shoes look exactly like regular fashion styles. “We’re moving away from the flash and fun and dramatic prints to reflect what’s going on in fashion leather boots,” he says. Skimmers and smoking shoe silhouettes do double-duty, looking cute enough to kick around in even when skies are sunny. “In New York and some other urban areas women don’t always require that big, full-height rubber boot. They find they can get by with a mid height or a bootie or even a skimmer,” Moehring notes and is quick to point out the success of the latter. “They keep you out of the water and are lightweight and functional.” He has the neoprene to thank for that. Incorporating the material into the lining of Chooka’s rubber-based constructions was nothing short of a technical breakthrough. But that’s not to say the brand abandoned its roots completely. “In the standard boot construction we’ve created a slimmer, feminine last and added straps and a new finish, which is not shiny and not a plain flat matte,” he notes. “We’ve spent some time developing a finish that’s more fashionable, a nice textured feel,” Moehring reveals. “And we’ve increased the quality of the rubber so it’s more supple.” —L.M.
Luxury retailer Nordstrom ended 2012 with a bang, exceeding $2 billion in total sales for shoes, and taking home the Plus Award recognizing Excellence in Retail in the National Chain category for the second year in a row. With fourth quarter same-store sales jumping 7.3 percent compared with the year-ago period in fiscal 2011, Scott Meden, executive vice president and GMM, shoe division, says the company ended the year at an all-time high. “We follow a customer strategy at Nordstrom—not a brand, price, channel or any other corporate strategy,” he explains. “We’ve found over the years that we’re most successful when we do a good job of putting the customer first.” The Seattle-based department store chain weathered the recession better
EVP, GM Shoes Scott Meden
than most retailers, handily increasing sales since 2009. And so far so good for 2013—Nordstrom reports its January sales climbed 11.4 percent, topping the 6 percent rise that analysts expected. Its success has come through a series of smart investments and strategies to entice younger shoppers—all key to sustaining growth. And after scouring the market for two decades, Nordstrom is set to add to its 200-plus stores nationwide by opening a 285,000-square-foot space in Manhattan in 2018. “We try to stay focused on the customer and serving them on their terms; that all starts with great fashion and delivering compelling product,” Meden offers. “At the same time, it’s also about the strength of our team and how, together with new capabilities and technology, we’ve been able to further personalize the service experience regardless of how the customer chooses to shop with us.” —L.M.
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
MADE IN U.S.A. Currently the only athletic shoe company that manufactures such shoes in the United States, New Balance ramped up production on its home turf in 2012. Why, you ask? Because, company officials believe it’s the right thing to do on many levels. “Our history of domestic manufacturing in the U.S. sets us apart from our competitors and our ability to draw inspiration from our own history and our surroundings makes our product unique in the marketplace,” says Jennifer Lynch, senior product manager, New Balance Lifestyle. “This authenticity, coupled with strong seasonal stories and executions, resonates with consumers globally.” With two plants in Massachusetts and three in Maine, its U.S. workforce continues to produce 25 percent of its shoes sold in North America, focusing its domestic production on making what the customer wants—and quickly. For Spring 2012 the Boston-based shoemaker released a mini collection featuring three iconic models— the 998, the 1300 and the 991—all sporting a Made-in-the-U.S.A. build and manufactured with premium suede, canvas and mesh. “The 1300 has always done very well in the U.S. and internationally, but I’ve been very happy to see the 998, which is a different profile from our other made-in-the-U.S.A. product, really connect with consumers on a global scale,” Lynch declares. After years of being available only in Japan, the 998’s stateside re-release was a cause célèbre among sneaker connoisseurs. Last year New Balance also celebrated its homegrown capabilities with an extensive “Craftsmanship Redefined” marketing campaign backing the 30th anniversary of its iconic 990 running shoe. The effort involved TV, social media, print and in-store POP. “Our Made-in-the-U.S.A. collection for 2012 highlighted designs that were authentic to our brand and iconic to the U.S.A. We focused on seasonal stories, inspiration and material and color executions on our heritage made-in-the-U.S.A. styles,” Lynch notes. “Besides looking at our own history, we looked at American folklore and menswear, everything from denim to suiting, which worked so well in terms of color and material richness with our heritage styles.” —L.M.
This year Sperry Top-Sider sailed the high seas in fashion with premium leathers, fresh colors and a new crop of non-boat footwear collections that attracted consumers with an appreciation for original designs and style. As the company’s Senior Marketing Manager David Mesicek puts it, “Sperry Top-Sider’s authenticity is key to becoming a trusted brand in our consumers’ wardrobe, regardless of the particular style.” To keep the heritage brand relevant, the exec says, “Each season we dive deeper into what a ‘Passion for the Sea’ means to our consumers and create seasonal themes based on trends and the time of year.” In 2012 that meant growing core products such as the classic A/O, Billfish and vulcanized styles and expanding the Gold Cup collection—a range Mesicek describes as “our pinnacle men’s footwear line.” He attributes the success of the collection to its trend-right styling coupled with premium materials and construction. More traditional streetwear silhouettes including oxfords, sandals, chukkas and Sperry’s Cold Bay boots helped buoy the brand’s success, too. For Sperry, the Plus Award honor recognizes its investment in furthering design and product creation efforts. Be it wave-siping, nautical detailing or other elements of the original boat shoe, Mesicek says consumers see a level of functional integrity that relates back to the brand’s nautical roots. “We celebrate our authenticity of being the world’s first boat shoe and incorporate our Sperry DNA in every product that we create, and that’s what makes us unique,” Mesicek explains. The company, recently acquired by Wolverine Worldwide, expects the momentum to carry into 2013 with new product classifications and expanding distributions to new territories. —Angela Velasquez
ONLINE RETAILER By touting one of the widest selections of footwear imaginable, offering free next-day delivery and a very forgiving return policy, not to mention top notch customer service that even tests endurance—in December, Zappos broke its personal record for the longest customer service call that clocked in at 10 hours and 29 minutes and ended in an Ugg boot sale—the Downtown Director e-giant has set one of the Jeanne Markel highest standards for service and expectations. And it shows no signs of backing off in this pursuit of excellence. “What we focus on day in and day out is to offer the right product and the right quantity at the right time,” says Zappos Downtown Director Jeanne Markel. “To be honest, a lot of what attributes to our success is just a continuation of what we do well.” That’s not to say visitors to the site won’t see newness and innovation. Markel maintains that Zappos aims to improve upon the shopping experience by making it as easy and customer friendly as possible. “Along with the product page enhancements made last year, we have more on the roadmap for this year that will make it easier to navigate and search on the site along with continued updates to our mobile apps,” she reports. Additionally, the site is taking successful cues from the brick-and-mortar by incorporating shop-in-shops. “We plan to expand brand boutique pages for top brands to provide an enhanced experience with lots of lifestyle imagery directly from the brands,” the exec explains. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then consider Zappos brick-and-mortars’ biggest fan. As department stores and independents test new categories, diversify merchandise and reconsider ways to convey brands’ stories, the e-tailer has sought ways to recreate those fresh experiences online. “Ultimately we strive to provide our customers as close to brick-and-mortar experience as we can possibly deliver,” Markel states. Ironically, in 2012 the footwear behemoth saw the most growth in its apparel category, which has taken off thanks in part to targeted marketing and social media strategies. A conglomerate of blogs focused on everything from couture to weddings dish out quick and relevant advice that keep visitors engaged, while Zappos stylists cull together complete shop-able looks. “Now you can see head-to-toe outfits with accessories and shoes,” Markel adds. Fully aware that consumers typically think of the site as a source of footwear, Markel says the key to growing the other categories is to capture viewers’ attention and let them discover what else the site has to offer. Just as word of mouth helped the online store reach name recognition status, she believes communicating with the consumers directly will give the niche categories the boost it needs. Markel says, “Consumers are very engaged in the shopping experience. It’s all organic communication and interestingly enough, we’re not paying for this.” —A.V.
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
“We like to create collections that are both familiar and unexpected, in addition to unexpected and familiar,” offers Leah Lawson, Ugg vice president and creative director. For 2012, that meant spring and fall boot collections that contrasted the allure and relaxed glamour of Southern California’s classic beach communities (complete with a spring marketing campaign shot at the world-renown Hotel Del in Coronado) with a fall homage to New York, home to two new Ugg stores in 2012, and as Lawson notes the inspiration to “showcase fashion products that can live on cosmopolitan streets.” The fact that a boot brand can take style cues from the sunny West Coast and the bustling East Coast all in the same breath says a lot about Ugg’s diversity. In 2012, highlights ranged from the Heirloom lace-up boot with grosgrain ribbon and the Bailey Bow that soften the classic silhouette with playful details to the short Mini Bailey and Tularosa Detachable cable knit cuff boot, both of which toed the line comfortably between spring and fall. Ugg’s utilitarian head reared in the Belcloud, a durable waterproof leather duck boot, while it made a fashion-forward statement in the same season with the pebbled leather Channing stacked wood heel boot finished off with an antiqued-metal stirrup that beckoned the city pavement. “The products that resonate with our consumers continue to be those that embody that Ugg DNA and fit their personal style or an occasion in their life,” Lawson says. But the exec points out that in each collection the brand strives to give an “element of surprise.” For instance, in the Downtown Collection, an edgy motoboot silhouette made a tough and rugged statement, but once the consumer pulled it on there was the unmistakable Ugg comfort. Lawson credits those visual and tactile clues that let consumers know it’s an Ugg product, be it sheepskin in the heel counter or buttery soft materials, as the keys to the brand’s ongoing success. —A.V.
Ugg knows where the men are looking. When the brand decided to make a concerted effort to reconnect with its male roots, it launched what Vice President of Marketing Nancy Mamann describes as “highly targeted, multiplatform integrated campaigns” that were staged during two timely phases—the opening week of the NFL season and the holidays—with one of the most recognizable American athletes. Just in time for football season, Ugg hit its stride with digital, print, mobile and social media advertising, and a national TV spot called “Invisible Game” featuring New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady as a leader on and off the field. Around the same time, a 240-foot wall featuring the quarterback went up in Manhattan, attracting media attention from the likes of ESPN. But the Ugg Men’s launch was just warming up. The second act hit the market during the holiday shopping season, when Mamann notes men are watching football on Thanksgiving. In a TV spot called “Pink Slip” Brady welcomes a rookie on the team with a pair of Ugg slippers—a storyline based on a vignette that Brady shared with the brand. “Before Tom started working with us, he had a tradition of giving his teammates Ugg Australia slippers as a way of saying ‘thank you.’ We loved the authenticity of this story and felt it would resonate with our male consumer— especially around the holiday gift-giving time,” Mamann states. Mamann notes one point of differentiation for the men’s product is a line the company uses to describe that sector of business: “Ugg inside. Man outside.” The result was a range of handsome styles that ranged from the Branton urban work boot with brogue details to the burnished chukka Kaldwell. The Brady effect has treated the company well. Mamann reports that since the launch of his campaign, the men’s business has grown significantly. She adds, “Awareness of Ugg for men has increased—it’s now a bona fide search term.” The success has lead to the opening of the very first Ugg for Men store in New York and there are plans in the pipeline to expand the business domestically and internationally. —A.V.
LAUNCH OF THE YEAR
Imagine slipping on a work boot that adjusts to your specific comfort requirements. Wolverine made that vision a reality with the introduction of its Individual Comfort System (ICS) in 2012. “It lets you adjust the cushioning of the boot to your own particular needs,” says Roger Huard, vice president of product development. The gel disc located in the boot’s heel allows the wearer to choose one of four settings to ensure maximum comfort by reducing pressure on the heel and increasing shock absorption. The brand also introduced an anti-fatigue technology, the PeakFlex, engineered with flexibility and impact in mind to give its wearer all-day comfort. “One of the things we like to do is not only introduce technology that claims it’s comfortable, but that actually is comfortable and works,” Huard says. “We pride ourselves on testing—lab, biomechanical and wear testing.” Josh Lizotte, vice president of sales, notes that retailers and consumers look to Wolverine for advances in comfort technology in its top-quality work footwear. “When they see a new comfort story from us or a new technology that pertains to work shoes, they trust us and they adopt it,” he says. A standout style from 2012 is the Gear Boot in 6- and 8-inch and Wellington styles. Versatile and lightweight, it employs ICS technology and features waterproof full-grain leather, a wave-mesh lining to reduce moisture, an OrthoLite footbed for arch support and an oil-, abrasion- and slip-resistant outsole, and customers receive a 30-day comfort guarantee. “That’s something we’ve been doing on our premium comfort boots for 20 years, and it’s been successful,” Huard says, with Lizotte adding that the boot is proving itself at retail. After a record year in sales, Lizotte and Huard are looking ahead to further their success this year. Huard notes that there are five fundamental research projects in the works and that the brand plans on offering a new anti-fatigue technology, which will be available later this year and officially launch in 2014, that will further Wolverine’s mission to offer its customers the most comfortable work boots possible. “We’re an authentic work brand since 1883 and we hold on to that authenticity and tradition by creating new products that are giving the consumer a value, and that value in a work shoe is being comfortable and being able to be on your feet 12 to 15 hours a day and not realize it,” Huard says. —M.B.
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HAWLEY LANE SHOES
PLUSil R A E FOOTWnce in Reta
e Excell omer Service2012 Cust ne Shoes y La Hawle
( Thank You used in expressing gratitude )
Excellence in Retail Customer Service Hawley Lane Shoes 2012 ( Excellence is a quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards )
( Customer Service is a series of activities designed to enhance the level of customer satisfaction )
We are proud and honored to win the 2012 Footwear Plus Award ! Thank you to all our vendor partners and amazing team for making this happen!
We fit your feet 速 We change your life. FOP_33 33
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE OUTDOOR
RETAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE
HAWLEY LANE SHOES Paying close attention to customers’ needs and wants has always been something Hawley Lane Shoes has focused on, and after a tough 2012, customer service is more important than ever. The Connecticut-based footwear retailer took a wallop from Hurricane Sandy, and suffered again in December as one of its four stores is down the street from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. “We dropped almost $1 million in the fourth quarter,” admits owner Dave Levy. But the four-store chain’s commitment to offering top-notch customer service never wavered. With more than 100 employees on staff between all stores—and the omnipresent threat of the Internet—Levy stresses the importance of providing exceptional customer service and making sure the stores are stocked with various sizes and widths so they never miss a sales opportunity. “We try to personalize our service in any way we can, fitting [customers] based on their specific foot type,” he says. “I believe that our customers feel like they can trust us, but at the same time have fun with the experience. The selection overwhelms a lot of people so we say, ‘You’re in our hands—let’s have some fun.’ We fit you with the right shoes that you’re going to love for every aspect of your life.” One step the retailer took last year to up the service ante was to introduce consumer focus groups. “We have women’s, men’s and young moms’ groups,” Levy explains. “We bring them in and serve lunch and talk about how we can better service their respective needs. We always try to stay on top and ask ourselves how we can improve our [customers’] lives.” To that end, every customer receives a “thank you” note, because sometimes even the smallest of gestures can pay enormous dividends. And despite a difficult 2012, Levy is hopeful that the coming year will reap plenty as consumers remain loyal to a retailer that has always served them well. (Although the epic blizzard that socked the Nutmeg state with more than three feet of snow, shutting stores down for several days, didn’t help matters.) “We have passion—a passion to really listen and care, and to me that’s probably one of the biggest things contributing to our success,” Levy maintains. —L.M.
For Toms, 2012 was the year of the wedge. It started in the summer, when the company introduced a strappy wedge silhouette. “We drew our inspiration for the summer collection from the vibrancy of city life and incorporated bright colors and bold stripes,” Lizzy Schofding, a Toms spokeswoman describes. It was followed up with a fall desert boot wedge that provided a fresh canvas for a season centered on textiles. Schofding says, “Woven tribal patterns were the main focus for the fall collection and plusher, warmer fabrics, like shearling and wool were incorporated into the styles for the holiday line.” In general, Schofding says it’s encouraging how female customers are accepting new styles from the brand that made its mark with über casual footwear. “Our team was excited to release both the strappy wedge and the desert wedge because they add to the number of styles available for less casual occasions,” she notes. “Additionally, the desert wedge is a fancier style for colder climates, featuring a closed toe with wool and suede materials.” Still, Toms counts the Classic as a highlight of 2012. “The crochet Classics were a big hit with our customers,” she says. “The light and feminine crochet material is truly unique to Toms and has become a staple in our warm weather collection.” —A.V.
Teva has been gaining market share of late in the outdoor space by taking the trail less traveled. The belief is that serious outdoor play doesn’t need to be all business, nor does it all have to look like the same earth-toned trail runner or hiking boot that continues to be overly prevalent in stores. In contrast, Teva’s 2012 collections featured plenty of pops of color and athletic styling as well as waterproof constructions that stood out from the crowd. “We’re really challenging the status quo of the industry,” says Juerg Geser, senior director global product merchandising. “We believe in a product that is super functional, but really as a design that you can just wear all day long.” The results speak for themselves: Third quarter net sales of the Deckers Outdoor subsidiary increased 22.1 percent to $17.9 million compared with the year-ago period. The success is, in part, to a broader international reach as Teva made its Japan debut. In addition, the brand continues its evolution into becoming more than a seasonal sandal player. That included breaking the mold with the waterproof Chair 5, a packable winter boot that’s one of the lightest on the market with 250 grams of 3M Thinsulate. And a removable inner bootie that works great as a slipper for kicking around the cabin because, “What we discovered was [when you’re done shoveling snow] you either bring it inside on your boots or you take your boots off and your socks get wet,” Geser says. On the water shoe side, Teva debuted a new traction outsole with the sneaker-influenced Fuse-Ion, built with an ultra-sticky Spider rubber and a proprietary fabric coating to keep the synthetic uppers from absorbing water, while Raith and Sky Lake joined the trail shoe lineup. “[Customers] loved the versatility of these products. In women’s, you don’t wear [hikers] casually around the town so we designed a low-cut hiker for the ladies that is much sleeker than anything else in the marketplace. It looks great on the trail and on the street,” he says. Looking to 2013, Geser is excited about this month’s debut of Tevasphere collection of trail running shoes, a design process that was four years in the making. For starters, TevaSphere differs greatly from the bulkier, squared-off heels and over-cushioned soles of most trail runners and running product. “We’re super stoked. It’s already won awards in the U.S. and Europe and we can’t wait to see how consumers react,” he says. —L.M.
34 footwearplusmagazine.com • march 2013
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
DANSKO Ann Dittrich, creative director of Dansko, describes 2012 as a “banner year” for the company. Building off its original clog, Dansko expanded its women’s offering to give customers the option to wear their favorite brand in every aspect of their life, from workdays and weekend getaways to a night on the town. “We thought, ‘If this is our core, if this is our strength and it’s what we do better than anything else, then why can’t we own that business in different applications?’” New silhouettes for 2012 included an espadrille-style clog that features a jute wrap on the sole as well as a kid-suede enfolded clog for fashion-conscious customers. Dansko also introduced a new collection called XP. “It’s a re-imagining of our Professional clog with different elements,” she says. “It has a softer ride, removable foot bed and a slip-resistant outsole. The success rate was huge; people seemed to love it and it’s growing leaps and bounds.” Dittrich notes that Dansko’s sandal season performed exceptionally well this year, naming the Sophie double-buckle sandal as the “runaway favorite.” Dittrich believes that Dansko’s ability to identify with its customers is a main reason for the brand’s success. “We were very conscious of expanding the wearing occasions we can offer a woman,” she says. “We’re cognizant of a woman’s whole life, offering as many opportunities to be comfortable as much as she can.” But it’s not just the designers who should get the credit—she says the employee-owned company works together in order to be successful and turn out a great product. “Everyone has pride in [Dansko], from the mailroom and the sales team to the designers,” she says, adding that being honored with a Plus Award for a record eighth consecutive year in this category is “gratifying.” For 2013, expect further growth from Dansko in their women’s collections with both dressier and active styles, as well as a ballet flat. “We have some real solid plans to give our customers more opportunities to wear Dansko [with] styles you haven’t necessarily seen before,” Dittrich says. —M.B.
A Cambridge, MA, mainstay for more than 40 years, The Tannery ended 2012 on another positive note. In fact, Tarek Hassan, the front man of the business founded by his uncle, Sam Hassan, reveals that the store achieved almost-tripledigit growth. “And 2013 so far shows that we are trending in a positive direction. We won’t miss the opportunity to capitalize on that. We’re doing well and we can’t complain,” Hassan says. When The Tannery opened its 21,000-square-foot mega-outlet on Boylston Street across the river in Boston in late 2009, it wanted to be a one-stop destination, with three concepts on three different floors. “Each has its own look and feel. When you walk in it’s outerwear, or you can get your fashion products, or you can get your comfort, all under one roof,” Hassan explains. “Customers walk in and feel comfortable. Each floor sets its own mood.” Aesthetics are extremely important to Hassan, and the clean, modern space lets the merchandise play a starring role. From classic brands like Frye, Ecco, Dansko and Ugg offered on the main floor, to made-inAmerica brands such as Danner, Wolverine 1000 Mile and Eastland downstairs in the wine cellar-like basement, to upscale labels Helmut Lang, Opening Ceremony and Alexander Wang featured in Curated by The Tannery upstairs, Hassan believes the format covers all the key bases and is well-positioned for continued sales growth. This year the store added Bottega Venetta, Viktor & Rolf and Maison Martin Margiela to its mix, and a team of in-house designers works with brands for one-of-a-kind collaborations with the likes of Nike, New Balance and Canada Goose. “At the end of the day it’s about product mix and what we are and what we do and what we offer” Hassan notes. “It’s also about working on collaborations and doing unique stuff that can’t be offered anywhere else. It’s about understanding what your customer is looking for and trying to be a step ahead of the curve.” —L.M.
Bob Mullaney, president of the Rockport Company, part of the Adidas Group, credits the brand’s design team as the key to its success in 2012. “The design team tapped into the DNA of the brand and translated it into modern and current day, and have done a great job of addressing the needs of our consumers,” he says. Dave Pompel, vice president of men’s products, explains the brand’s revival in the comfort space in more detail. “What we’ve done over the last four to five years is rebuild the foundation, rebuild the design resources working with Italian last makers and reorganized our platforms,” he says. This rebuild focused on the wants of Rockport’s core customer—the metropolitan man—and giving him a larger range of footwear with its Ledge Hill series and the RocSports Lite and Business Lite collections. While Business Lite and Ledge Hill focus on dressier comfort styles, such as wingtips, RocSports Lite offers customers casual looks such as slip-ons. “Men are looking for details that add more value, design and luxury to the product, and are taking a little bit more risk in colors,” Pompel says. “And with the hands-free era we live in, they also need shoes that you can slip on in and out the door.” Pompel also notes that Rockport is breaking the compromise between comfort and style and giving its customers both, most notably with its technology in the RocSports Lite. The footwear has a threedensity lower construction, which entails an outsole grade EVA, an internal chassis of softer EVA and a wedge of Adidas Adiprene foam, which absorbs shock and disperses foot-fall energy. The collection is also lightweight, flexible and mobile—perfect for all-day comfort. “Once people put the shoes on their feet, they knew it was the real deal,” Mullaney confirms. While he calls this component the “hero piece,” he notes all three collections experienced the same reaction: “They made customers’ lives better at the end of the day.” Finishing out 2012 up by double digits with a 60 percent conversion rate with customers, Mullaney and Pompel are looking to continue that momentum this year. Stars for this year’s Rockport collections include the Total Motion series for customers searching for a combination of stability and flexibility in lightweight footwear, as well as a new concept still under wraps for Fall ’13. “We will continue to innovate and solve problems for our customers to make their lives better,” Mullaney says. —M.B.
36 footwearplusmagazine.com • march 2013
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE
PEDIPED Since its start in 2005, Pediped has been a favorite of moms looking to outfit their children in supportive and comfortable shoes from a very young age. The brand’s pre-walker range aids children during their crawling and learning-to-walk phase with flexibility and roomy toe box. Pediped also looks to keep their customers safe, emphatically testing materials to ensure they exceed the CPSC guidelines and avoiding any small moving parts that could easily fall off the shoes. “Consumers have learned to trust us because when we put out a product it’s going to be good quality and healthy for the development of children’s feet,” says Angela Edgeworth, president and
founder of Pediped. In 2012, Pediped offered a revamp of its original sole, making it more slip-resistant, which received a positive response from both consumers and retailers. “We also tried to infuse a little bit more fun and whimsy into the line,” Edgeworth notes, adding that the theme for girls in 2012 was candy and flowers and boys’ designs were centered on preppy styling. Pediped added a boot and athletic line in their fall collection, as well as new sandal silhouettes for spring. Traditional styles, however, still remain popular with customers. “Our classics perform the best,” she says. “We have some styles that have been in the line for more
than five seasons.” Overall, Edgeworth describes Pediped’s design aesthetic as a more sophisticated take on baby shoes. “We try to keep it pretty classic and I think that differentiates us. We like styles that stand the test of time,” she says. Sales for the brand were strong in 2012, as it continues to expand its breadth of product with their additional collections. “We’ve given our customers more reasons to come back to us to buy all of our footwear,” she notes. As for 2013, Pediped will introduce a playground collection for older kids and new silhouettes and fun color blocking for the youngsters. As for Pediped’s second straight Plus Award in this category, Edgeworth says the recognition is a “huge affirmation to what we’re doing and certainly means a great deal to us. And it gives our consumers confidence in our brand as well.” —M.B.
BBC INT’L/POLO RALPH LAUREN
For Barneys New York, 2012 was a year for makeovers. In May, the luxury department store launched a revamped website where visitors can create a list of their favorite items for others to follow and like on social media sites. Tastemakers like Jane Aldridge, Katie Holmes, Michael Chernow and Julianne Moore got the ball rolling. And in September the retailer unveiled the flagship’s newly renovated first floor by displaying baubles from Bottega Veneta and Repossi with commissioned artwork from designer-turned-artist Helmut Lang. But the biggest news and reason for its excellence in retail Plus Award was its exquisitely remodeled shoe boutique. To truly standout from Manhattan’s influx of mega-shoe floors, Barney’s borrowed design cues from nearby New York City institutions. A stone’s throw away from some of the city’s finest museums and galleries, the luxury department store’s brand new fifth floor shoe department opened in July dazzling label aficionados with a museum-quality interior worthy of masterpieces from the likes of Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin, Narcisco Rodriguez and Chanel. Designed by architecture firm Yabu Pushelber, in collaboration with Barneys’ Creative Director Dennis Freedman, the 22,000-square-foot department—40 percent larger than the former space—features minimal enclosures for an open, gallery-like flow with Italian marble walls, limestone floor and display tables made from glass and ebony macassar wood. The new space allows for 350 more styles on the selling floor, which opened the door for more exclusive styles from Maison Martin Margiela, Giuseppe Zanotti and Manolo Blahnik. And for the first time, the flagship combined men’s and women’s footwear to create an all-encompassing source for luxury footwear. Barneys New York marked the grand opening of the shoe floor with a “Perfect Pairs” initiative to support the Human Rights Campaign and its Americans for Marriage Equality Program. During the shoe floor’s grand opening week, the retailer donated 10 percent of each shoe purchase to the HRC. And to keep the buzz alive, the store has enlisted designers and trendsetters to share their favorite shoe moments on its blog, The Window—a perfect read on an iPad, which are dotted around the shoe floor for customers to peruse while trying on their new stilettos. —A.V.
If Tracey McLeod, president of worldwide product sales and marketing at BBC International, could sum up Polo Ralph Lauren’s 2012 in one word, it would be color. “It was a really big card in our spring collection. We offered lots of brights, whether it was uppers, linings or lacings,” she says, noting that the collection tied back to the fashion label’s ready-to-wear. “If they did yellow polo shirts with purple players on the runway, we would then emulate that on the footwear.” Spring’s top-seller was the Faxon, a vulcanized canvas sneaker with contrasting laces, while the Cantor, a more upscale version with leather tags and embroidered pony accents, and the Sag Harbour Hi, available in five colorways spanning plaid canvas to gold metallic for a fun and sporty look, did well across the board for fall. “I think they’re very nice styles between lifestyle and athletic,” McLeod notes. “They meet a consumer need. It’s not an active sneaker; it’s a lifestyle, ready-to-wear approach.” With striking colors seen everywhere last year, the brand is in sync with trends as a whole, offering fresh takes on category staples like the Mary Jane and boat shoe as well as takedowns of popular adult styles. Along those lines, animal prints played a strong role in the brand’s success in 2012, with the fall collection consisting of youthful leathers combined with leopard prints. “The silhouettes in the women’s and men’s definitely influenced the kids’ collection, but I think in order to appeal to the kids’ market you also need to include the high neon brights, something a little more fun like cool closures and you also need to consider fit,” McLeod says, adding the push to introduce fresh looks continues this year. “Polo is a really strong kids’ brand and this year we will welcome more opportunities to expand globally,” McLeod says. —L.M.
38 footwearplusmagazine.com • march 2013
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PROFILES IN EXCELLENCE ATHLETIC LIFESTYLE WHOLESALE CUSTOMER SERVICE
With some companies, the clue to what they do is in their name, while others, like Clarks, evoke a warm-and-fuzzy feeling of tradition. To say the almost-190-year-old brand knows a thing or two about customer service would be a gross understatement—retailers have long considered it top-of-the-class. As one of the biggest privately held footwear firms in the world, Clarks’ approach is simple: “The primary component of what we’re doing constantly, and it wasn’t anything different last year, is first of all listening to our customers, making sure that we’re focused on their objectives—not ours—and ultimately being the easiest company for them to do business with,” says Jim Salzano, president of The Clarks Companies, N.A. Regardless of point of purchase, Clarks wants all of its customers to have the same Clarks experience. In 2011 when it rolled out a customer-focused platform it aspired to improve the shopping experience and get a better grip on why buyers reach out. And it’s a two-way street: the platform President Jim Salzano also enables retailers to check availability, place and track orders and access marketing materials. The focus, as ever, is to keep product on customers’ feet and deliver service that centers on accessibility, commitment and partnership. These ongoing efforts haven’t gone unrewarded, starting with Clarks being recognized in this category for the second straight year. “We’re a couple of days away from a record year, thanks in large part to our wholesalers who worked with us through some challenging conditions,” Salzano reveals. Beyond the systems and technologies put in place to assure everything runs smoothly, Salzano credits the human touch as well. “We’re really fortunate to have such great people as part of the Clarks team,” he says. “We’re fortunate to have great retailers to work with in the best distribution places around America.” A final piece to the puzzle, Salzano notes, is the strength of the Clarks brand. “It’s stood the test of time and our retailers and consumers recognize that. It really comes down to the people on both sides that have developed a fantastic, deep and rich connection to the brand,” he says, adding, “We don’t take that for granted.” —L.M.
DOLCE VITA In 2012 Dolce Vita’s effortless approach to design caught the sartorial eye of fashion editors across the world, landing in the pages of Marie Claire, Lucky and InStyle to name a few. The brand hit an androgynous mark with man-tailored smoking slippers, patent oxfords and tassel-accented loafers, while sculptural pumps and cut-out wedge sandals in lush suede jewel tones complemented fashion’s mood for futuristic, fantasy footwear that paid homage to ’70s and ’80s style icons. That mood was also reflected on Dolce Vita’s Pinterest boards, where electric blue pumps were sided next to images of Prince in head-to-toe blue latex. Sites like the content sharing hub, as well as a lively Twitter feed and Dolce Vita blog, which follows DV staff on jet-set adventures and sheds light on the ins and out of the shoemaking business, have become go-to sources for the brand’s fans to discover the upcoming creations. Connections with style blogger friends like Flashes of Style, Behind the Seams and Jag Lever offer further inspiration, showing head-to-toe looks that capture each of the girls’ individual style and the many faces of Dolce Vita. —A.V.
ADIDAS ORIGINALS Brian Forester, design director of Adidas Originals North America, calls 2012 a “fantastic year” for the brand. He cites collaborations with Big Sean and the Brooklyn Nets as two of last year’s highlights. “What’s great for Originals is that we’re always able to crossover, and not just with sports access but with artists giving an original feel to us,” he notes. Whimsical designs from Jeremy Scott and collaborations with David Beckham and Ransom helped to keep the Originals as the frontrunner in the athletic lifestyle category that combines both sport and style. Forester names the ’90s as an inspiration for the brand in 2012. “We wanted to take that [inspiration], reinterpret it and offer it in a new way,” he says. He adds that last year’s success comes from the brand knowing its target customers and offering them innovative styles. “We look for someone who is comfortable with who they are, who wants to stand out from their group of peers and looks for something that’s [unique] for their wardrobe,” he explains. “We want our customer to pull our product against all others on the wall.” Updated looks that were standouts for customers included the iconic Superstar, Samoa and the Roundhouse. Adidas Originals also joined the “Adidas all in” campaign for Fall/Winter ’12 with the tagline “All Originals Represent,” for which singer and rapper Nicki Minaj wrote the track “Masquerade.” The campaign encouraged fans of the brand to represent themselves as unique individuals through their own style, and featured shoes from Adidas Originals by Jeremy Scott collection to footwear designed by skateboarders for hitting the streets. “For us, we’re constantly growing and changing,” Forester says. “One of the things to our advantage is we don’t want to do the same thing over and over; we’re always looking for progression. And our target consumer keeps us on our toes to keep us moving forward and have an eye for nuance and detail to bring something new to the market.” —M.B.
40 footwearplusmagazine.com • march 2013
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j e e p e r s
c r e e p e r s THE CLASSIC SILHOUETTE RESURFACES AS THE SEASON’S HEAVY HITTER.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL
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what ’s selling
sit & fits
MIROBALLI SHOES Orland Park, IL
A Orland Park
Top-selling brands: Beautifeel, Ugg, Wolky, Rieker, Toms, Naot, New Balance, SAS, Aravon, Clarks, Dansko, Ecco Has the past season met your sales expectations? The holiday season started off slow; I think people were holding back. But it took off towards the second week [of December] through the first week of January. The good news: The relocation of our Orland Park store into our new building. It’s a more accessible, visible location and right on the main road of the village. Customers love the brightness of it and the way the product stands out. We have Rieker, Clarks and Brighton shop-in-shops and will be adding a New Balance shop this spring. The bad news: The economy, although it’s improving slowly. Consumers who are facing higher taxes are going to be a little bit stressed. There’s going to be some headwind when it comes to disposable income. BEST NEW BRANDS ADDED TO THE MIX IN THE PAST YEAR:
Fly London (pictured) and Gentle Soles. And, for sizes and widths, Aravon.
WITH TWO LOCATIONS—a recently opened 3,800-square-foot store in Orland Park, IL, and a smaller one in nearby Wheaton—Miroballi Shoes is continuing its 52-year legacy of fitting customers professionally with quality footwear. “We sell teenagers up to senior citizens because of our wide assortment,” says Perry Miroballi, co-owner. “Customers know us for our quality footwear and that we’re the very best in customer service and can fit the foot no matter what condition.” Miroballi adds, “We make it very easy and convenient for them to shop in our stores.”
WHAT IS ONE OF YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES? With so many foot
conditions and different foot shapes, and within that all the brands are sized differently, there is no consistency. So it’s important that our team knows how each shoe is made, their features and benefits, and how each fits. We measure each foot and match the appropriate footwear, which is something you cannot get online.
If you could change one thing? I would put more emphasis on social media. We’ve started with Facebook so we alert followers about special events and sales as well as befriend nearby businesses, whether it’s restaurants or boutiques, to possibly work together. What’s your outlook for sales this spring? I’m hoping we maintain compared to last spring. In fact, most of our increase for last year overall came out of spring thanks to all the warm weather we had. Any particular category you are optimistic about? If the weather cooperates, I expect fashion comfort sandals with interesting treatments and materials, whether it’s ornamentation or jewels, to be strong. I am expecting color to be important as well.
By Maria Bouselli
Your customers are... Very cautious but I don’t see them buying less quality. The customer today is very information savvy and educated about products. They come into our store with preconceived notions. Are you optimistic about your business in the long term? I’m optimistic with a plan. You have to be flexible in order to adjust as you go along. Otherwise, you’re kind of stuck according to the conditions and not necessarily in control of what you’re doing. What are your goals for this year? Continue to strengthen the relationships we have with our core businesses and to elevate the level of our customer service through additional training.
WHAT ARE YOU TOP-SELLING ACCESSORIES? Brighton, which spans handbags, jewelry, charms, home accessories and glasses.
44 footwearplusmagazine.com • march 2013
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BENGE’S SHOE STORE Grand Junction, CO WITH MORE THAN 100 years experience serving its community, Benge’s Shoe Store is still going strong with third-generation owner Bruce Benge running the show. “We try to cater to people’s needs and be good listeners to see where our customer is going,” he says. Outfitted with oak shelves and “goodies” such as an antique button appliance and x-ray machine, the retailer juggles dressier brands like Nina and outdoor ones such as Keen with comfort staples like Dansko and Birkenstock in order to appeal to a local clientele and tourists passing through from nearby Aspen. “We have customers from their teens to their 90s,” he says, adding that, no matter the age, comfort reigns supreme. Top-selling brands: Dansko, Keen, Merrell, Wolky, Alegria, New Balance, Pikolinos, Rieker, Teva, Fly London, Birkenstock, Cobb Hill, Miz Mooz, Naot What makes Benge’s unique? Our history, for one. We’ve dealt with many generations of people. And our unique selection. We have 48 lines right now and it’s not the same offerings you’re going to find in a lot of stores. We look for emerging new lines that are fresh, and we carry a broad range of patterns— like 17 different colors of Dansko’s Professional clog (pictured below). More is better? A lot of people that come into our store—people from big cities—can’t believe all the shoes we carry. They say, “If I was in L.A., I would have to go to five or six different stores to find all the shoes you’ve got.” Top-selling handbags: Brighton, Hobo, Victoria Leather, Anuschka and Ellington
WHAT’S YOUR STORE’S GO-TO BRAND AND WHY? Dansko. We’ve
carried it for almost 19 years and it’s our No. 1 brand.
Good times: Last year was our best year ever, despite the economic situations and rumblings around the world. I think it’s just our good product mix, a great staff and taking care of people. We do a lot of special orders and give customers a good experience when they hit that door that hopefully keeps bringing them back.
A Grand Junction
HAS THE PAST SEASON MET YOUR SALES EXPECTATIONS? Winter
has been pretty intense; we’ve had 25 days of subzero weather. It’s normally in the 30s and 40s. We did sell a few more boots, but people don’t feel like going out when it’s 5 degrees.
Best new brand added to the mix this past year: Vibram FiveFingers did well until they got over distributed. Fly London has also done pretty well.
Are you optimistic about business going forward? Yes. I’m an optimistic guy. The power of positive thinking is easier. How would you describe the mood of your customers? I don’t think there’s a consensus. They want to make good decisions and get value because they realize that shoe is going to last them three to four years. That’s why we try to educate them so they see what their dollar truly buys them.
Why is fit so important? If people get the right fitting shoes, they’re happier with their purchase. But studies have found that 80 percent of people buy the wrong sized shoe. Feet change over time and some shoes run bigger or smaller than others. The godsend is brick-andmortar stores to help with such discrepancies.
If you could change one thing... I’m kind of an old-school guy so there is a lot of new technology that I don’t embrace as much as I should. We have a website but we don’t sell online. I go back and forth with that. It’s a WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FACING way to generate more dollars, but YOUR BUSINESS? Online sales and where that whether we’ll get there I will take the retail industry overall. don’t know. What are you looking forward to most this year? Good health and selling shoes— new colors and styles that get our customers jazzed up.
I read retail will change more in the next 10 years than the last 100. There’s talk about virtual reality sites where you can log in and see yourself in some outfit. It boggles my mind.
2013 march • footwearplusmagazine.com 45
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Wedge of Glory
Designers take a no-fuss, rugged approach to the fall staple.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MCCANDLISS AND CAMPBELL
46 footwearplusmagazine.com â&#x20AC;˘ march 2013
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What a Tassel Kilties and tassels add a gentlemanly flair to loafers.
2013 march â&#x20AC;˘ footwearplusmagazine.com 47
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COLOR AND PRINTS ADD A JOLT OF PERSONALITY TO MEN’S FOOTWEAR. PHOTOGRAPHY BY AUGUSTUS BUTERA
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JUMP IN! Allen Edmonds brogues, Ted Baker London jacket, Bar III shirt, sweater and tie by Uniqlo, Dockers pants and H & M socks. 49
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MIXED MEDIA Aetrex slip-ons, Dockers pants, H & M socks and shirt, vest and tie by Ted Baker London. 50
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FAN CLUB Giorgio Brutini wingtips, Uniqlo jacket and sweater, H.E. by Mango shirt, Bar III pants and hosiery by Happy Socks.
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FASHION EDITOR: ANGELA VELASQUEZ; STYLIST: KIM JOHNSON; HAIR: SEIJI @ THE WALL GROUP; MAKEUP: KIRSTIN HILTON @ THE WALL GROUP; MODEL: MEGAN V. @ IMG.
Johnston & Murphy oxfords, Bar III suit and shirt, Happy Socks hosiery and stylist’s tie.
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FASHION EDITOR: ANGELA VELASQUEZ; STYLIST: KIM JOHNSON; HAIR: SEIJI @ THE WALL GROUP; MAKEUP: KIRSTIN HILTON @ THE WALL GROUP; MODEL: MEGAN V. @ IMG.
Angela Scott striped oxfords, Topman suit, Uniqlo shirt, H & M socks and tie by H.E. by Mango.
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STEPPING OUT Mark McNairy polka dot lace-ups, Ted Baker London jacket and shirt, and Dockers pants. 54
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ON THE ROAD Sebago wingtips, Boglioli pants and jacket, shirt and bow tie by Ted Baker London.
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WING MAN Oxfords by Blackstone, Boglioli suit, Ted Baker London shirt and socks by H & M.
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FASHION EDITOR, ANGELA VELASQUEZ; STYLIST, ROBYN VICTORIA; HAIR, CHUCK JENSEN AT MARK EDWARD INC.; MODEL, ANDREAS AT RED; FASHION ASSISTANT, ENAYA KENCHEN
Alejandro Ingelmo slip-ons, Topman suit, Ted Baker London shirt, tie by Uniqlo and Happy Socks hosiery.
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D E S I G N E R C H AT : GOFFREDO FANTINI
Red Alert The deep hue makes an impact on military silhouettes.
somewhat of a reintroduction to the U.S. market— is a modern interpretation of pastel and acidwashed colors from the Baroque era, accentuated by the intermingling of materials including multi-color furs and wool and metallic accessories. Silhouettes span boots and booties with low heels to wedges, platforms and round toes that pump up the volume. Fantini describes the line’s refined nappa leather and suede as treated in ways that enhance their natural beauty. —Angela Velasquez What do you look for in shoes for yourself ? I always base my look on the particular shoes I choose to wear and dress accordingly. My taste as a shoe designer is very personal. The shoes must be sophisticated yet sporty and, depending on the occasion, they must also appear a bit ironic and carefree. Where do you shop for shoes? I like to have some of my shoes custom made by Calzaturificio
E DI TO R’S P I CKS
London, where the owner—a master shoemaker— has patented a special process to make a flexible and extremely comfortable Goodyear welt. Which city is the most fashionable? London, Paris and New York have the most cosmopolitan air. Who do you consider the most fashionable woman of the moment? My wife, for her impeccable taste and because she shares my thoughts and vision on what is fashionable. What do you love the most about your job? I can say one thing only: creativity. If you weren’t designing shoes, what do you think you would be doing? I just don’t know because I am the shoes I design. I could do nothing else. This becomes even truer in the silence of the night when I design when nothing else exists other than me and my creations.
EDITOR’S PICKS PHOTOGRAPHY BY TREVETT MCCANDLISS
“ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS to pass before me can offer inspiration,” explains Goffredo Fantini, designer of the high-end eponymous line and Materia Prima—an offshoot collection with a more youthful, trendy point-of-view. Footwear comes easy to the Italian who had a double education in design. Mentored by his father Giovanni Fantini, one of Italy’s celebrated footwear pattern makers, Fantini also attended art school where lessons ranged from fresco to mural design. “Let’s say that school taught me to become a very skilled designer, while my father taught me to become a talented shoemaker. My father taught me all of the technical aspects of footwear, what is possible and what is not possible to realize from designs,” he explains. Fantini launched his initial line in 1993 after collaborating with the likes of European labels Janet & Janet and Baldinini. “These experiences helped me understand how to address the various markets and how to adapt my hand to commercial needs,” he says. The projects also confirmed Fantini’s belief that in order to reach his full potential, he needed to have “free reign of [his] creativity, without necessarily following parameter or being bound by productive or commercial limitation.” When designing, Fantini tries to find ways to make a woman more original and unique while maintaining his mission to create special, yet refined footwear with natural elements such as wood and glass. “Obviously fashion’s evolution touches everyone over the years, but I can affirm that the spirit of the collections has always been maintained with extreme coherence,” he adds. The Fall ’13 Goffredo Fantini line—and 58 footwearplusmagazine.com • march 2013
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One Industry. One Goal. One Place.
2/20/13 12:01:53 PM
UPCLOSE OU TDO OR
Light and Balanced GoLite returns to its adventure travel and casual roots.
Split Decision Sazzi founder Mark Thatcher is on a mission to create the ultimate sport sandal—again. ALTHOUGH SAZZI IS a newcomer to the sport sandal market, company founder Mark Thatcher is widely credited with having created the category—and for coining the term “sport sandal”—when he launched Teva in 1984. Eighteen years later, Thatcher sold Teva to Deckers, but feeling that his work was not yet done, he re-entered the market in January 2012 with Sazzi Toe Motion Footwear. The sandals offer a modern spin on an ancient design, with multiple toe posts and separate toe platforms that provide support, stability, comfort and connection to the physical environment. According to Thatcher, Sazzi’s name and product design are derived from the woven sandals worn by the Anasazi tribes who used their footwear to navigate the rugged terrain of the American Southwest. Today, the word “Sazzi” translates in native languages as strong, agile and light. Thatcher has always been inspired by the Anasazi people and their incredible footwear innovations, including their concept of lateral control and support in a sandal. “I always wanted to explore that as a core technology in greater depth within a modern footwear brand,” he says. “You could say that I’ve been thinking about this one for the last 30 years or so, but the design and development of our modern product launch took about eight months.” Sazzi currently offers two sandal styles in men’s and women’s versions. The Digit has a single independent toe, four toe posts, a lateral stability system, and a heel strap to accommodate rugged trail and water environments. The Decimal thong-style model has all of its toes split, which allows each to move independently and thus gain a better connection with the ground. On the eco-friendly side, all Sazzi sandals are made from 100 percent recyclable PLUSfoam, a material that also boasts antimicrobial properties and positive traction in wet and dry conditions. Each Sazzi outsole incorporates a web address—“recycle at PLUSfoam.com”—to instruct consumers on how to participate in the recycling effort. Distribution currently focuses on outdoor specialty and fitness retailers as well as footwear stores and boutiques. “We have a wide range of customers using our sandals before, during and after a variety of activities,” Thatcher says. “We believe that anyone who lives an active lifestyle will enjoy and benefit from wearing our sandals.” —Judy Leand
GOLITE IS EXITING what was once its core lightweight trail running category in favor of the broader-reaching and potentially more profitable Outdoor Cross Training, Adventure Travel, Recovery and Comfort segments. “Although we are now out of the trail running market, we will take all of our learnings and research and apply them to a more middle-of-the-road approach,” says Doug Clark, president and CEO of New England Footwear, licensor of GoLite. “In terms of both comfort and performance, shoes shouldn’t be too light or too heavy.” To this end, GoLite is expanding its Outdoor Cross Training (OXT) collection that combines the lightweight agility of a trail runner with the versatility, support and protection of a hiking shoe. The Fall ’13 line includes six new models, the highlight being the XT Comp (pictured below) that’s designed for speed hiking. The shoe includes a mesh upper, a lightweight EVA midsole, a TPU cage to hold the foot in place, a 2-mm heel drop to promote a natural stride, a resin-impregnated rock plate for underfoot protection and a Gripstick rubber outsole. In the Adventure Travel category, the mission is to create hybrid shoes imbued with innovative technology, versatility and plenty of color. “Adventure Travel is the heart and sole of the brand and is the No. 1 category for us because it crosses channels,” Clark explains. The category also includes the Lime Lite XT, an update of its top seller available in both mesh and leather versions, that is engineered for light hiking, adventure travel and rugged walking. The latest addition to GoLite’s repertoire is the Recovery Shoe series, a collection of slip-on styles that surround the foot in memory foam and provide a balance of comfort and compression to promote blood flow and revive tired feet. Key items for women are the open-back Elixir, and the mesh and synthetic Calamus slip-on. Men’s models are the Exit (available in leather and mesh versions) and the mesh and synthetic Anomoly. All of the Recovery styles work in cold and hot weather and can also be used for walking and travel. “Our goal is to make comfort the most profitable part of retailers’ business.” Clark adds, “It will provide quality, comfort and craftsmanship, and it will be a premium product that offers good value.” —J.L.
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UP C L OS E AC C E S S O R I ES
In a Cinch Customers call the shots at Badichi Customized Belts. MEN’S MAGAZINES GQ, Esquire and Details are telling guys to tuck in their shirts and let theirs shine, while First Lady Michelle Obama regularly dons one. Belts are back, but just because FLOTUS favors waist-cinching accessories from J. Crew doesn’t mean you have to, too. Within the past year Jerusalem native Yinon Badichi has opened five belt stores in New York where shoppers can custom-create the belt of their dreams. “The belt is the last touch of an outfit and big fashion companies never give it the attention they should,” says Badichi, whose family has operated a custom belt retail chain in Israel for years. Recognizing a niche in the U.S. market for made-to-order belts, he opened his first Manhattan space in Soho three years ago and plans to open up to 20 stores in the near future in such fashionable hot spots as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago. Customers can choose between hundreds of colors and textures of leather, most of which come from South America and Italy, and hundreds of buckles, from basic to bedazzled. Belt designs run from standard shades of black and brown to floral patterns to variously scaled alligator pieces. Once a leather and buckle are chosen, an in-house expert measures the customer and cuts the final product while he or she waits. Starting at an affordable $60, some combinations can run up to as much as $400. “We deliver an original shopping experience for customers who are looking to personalize their most important accessory that synchronizes an entire look,” he says. —Lyndsay McGregor
Carry On Haul your stuff in style with handbags from Kempton & Co. LET’S FACE IT: air travel sucks. Not only do you have to shed your shoes and sweater at TSA, but that 10 minutes you spent carefully organizing your carryon is all for nothing because as soon as you pull out your laptop, everything else usually dumps mercilessly all over the dirty floor. Tired of schlepping multiple items of hand luggage when flying, Fiona Kempton decided to design a techfriendly handbag for herself. “I basically had a shoemaker in Hong Kong make a design I’d come up with that had a central compartment that could fit my laptop,” the British transplant says. But it was only when an actor friend of hers brought the sample along to a QVC host audition (the panel loved it) that she realized she was onto something. That was three years ago and since then Kempton & Co.’s Wiltshire carryall was named Best Green Handbag of 2012 at the Sixth Annual Independent Handbag Designer Awards. Using reclaimed jute with gold hardware and lambskin scraps, the roomy tote with the hidden computer compartment has been a bestseller since birth. Elsewhere in the line lambskin totes and satchels feature built-in wallets and multiple interior
pockets for iPads and the like. “I always keep technology in mind. I’ve heard one person refer to my bags as ‘urban toolboxes,’” Kempton says. Daughter of racehorse trainer and jockey, John Kempton, who won England’s Grand National in 1967, the practical element is always at the forefront of her designs. “[My father] used to stitch saddles so I was inspired by a lot of equestrian aspects, whether it was the horses’ rugs or bridles or feed bags,” she says, adding, “I’m also extremely active—I surf and sail—so my bag always has to be rugged.” And now that she has a baby on the way, Kempton has started to design bags that can clip to a stroller, with easily accessible pockets and insulated bottle holders. Wholesale prices range from $128 to $218, and most of her production is done in Mexico and China (though some of the simpler silhouettes are made in the U.S.) and she’s about to look into Columbia. “Obviously with being a smaller, newer brand, minimums are an issue with China. But then Mexico and Columbia have a very ‘mañana, mañana,’ attitude,” she points out wryly. While one day Kempton would like to expand into heritage-inspired outerwear, for now she’s focusing on opening her first storefront in Brooklyn, NY, and enjoying the odd piece of fan mail. “Someone e-mailed me recently and asked if she could take me out to lunch the next time she’s in Brooklyn because she loves her bag so much!” she laughs.—L.M.
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THE PLUS AWARD
WINNERS • JEEPERS,
CREEPERS ARE TREND
continued from page 12
T T: THE GIRLS EFFEC ING • SPECIAL REPOR
IGAHT BRIDE Splashes of Color Smart Up Men’s for Fall
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especially high heels, ignite a woman’s transformation and give her confidence. I think Girls, and the character of Marnie in particular, is a great representation of how young women today are balancing their careers and personal lives while expressing themselves through fashion.” Similarly, Rogien finesses trend-conscious Shoshanna’s sweet and feminine looks with Sam & Libby wedges and low heels, but the still-in-college character (played by Zosia Mamet) is better known for her collection of pajamas. “To play into her youthfulness and role as a NYU student, we use a lot of loungewear and Ugg slippers,” Rogien describes. To contrast Shoshanna’s innocence, there’s her British cousin Jessa (Jemima Kirke), the most stylish and eccentric of the gang. Rogien keeps the welltraveled character elegant in vintage shoes and clothes, noting, “She has a pretty highend wardrobe that we find at sensible budget prices.” Jessa’s fashion moment came at the end of the first season when she wore a pair of saturated blue Alexander McQueen shoes for her wedding. And then there is Hannah. She’s a flats girl, often seen in old huarache sandals and weathered oxfords— and that may be one decision based on necessity rather than storytelling. When Dunham accepted her Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a TV Comedy recently, she infamously struggled up the stage in her 150mm black patented Christian Louboutin peep-toe heels. “I’ve come to describe Hannah as lovingly disheveled,” Rogien explains. “Her clothes are intentionally ill-fitting. Her dresses are a bit off and her shorts are unflattering. She’s our not-all-together girl, but there’s a sweetness and uniqueness to her character.” Traits that drew Rogien to the Bass Loves Rachel Antonoff line. She describes the collection of penny loafers and oxfords as “a little quirky and a bit hipster.” Surawski of Buffalo Exchange, a Brooklyn resident, says her borough’s acceptance of eclectic and hip mix of fashion is part of what makes her neighborhood stylish. “You’ll see everything from bohemian fashion to edgy, rock-inspired stuff. It helps make it a very exciting place to live,” she says. And it’s unpredictable and fluid. “The minute I think I know Brooklyn style, it changes,” Rogien quips. While researching for the line and looking at Bass’ archives, Da Silva kept running into blog posts and tweets about how girls found their mom’s old Bass shoes in the back of a closet. “They like a little nostalgia and heritage—shoes that look like treasures—but they also like the fact that many of these old styles were made with great
leathers and visual interest,” she says. As a result, Da Silva tries to make shopping for the new versions like “discovering a vintage gem.” To that end, she notes that there are plenty of outlets in Brooklyn that offer vintage clothes at affordable prices that blend well with new merchandise. In addition to Buffalo Exchange, there’s Beacon’s Closet and Mini Mini Market on the über-trendy Bedford Avenue, where shoppers can pick up almond toe flats by B.C. International and TUK creepers for under $100. Or they can shop Bird for unique and higherend styles by the likes of Dieppa Restrepo, Loeffler Randall and Isabel Marant. While Rogien says Jessa’s mysterious, globetrotter background lends itself to “true vintage fashion,” she believes vintage-inspired styles at attainable prices are better suited for Hannah. “We go to thrift stores, but we’ll also hit up the sales rack at Anthropologie and Madewell,” she reports. “One of my other favorite places to find shoes is DSW because you have access to so many affordable brands and it is easy to shop for both the girls and boys featured on the show.” With so much attention paid to accessible fashion, should retailers be waiting with baited breath for a Sex and the Citygenerated sales rush? Da Silva reports Bass gets a notable bump in sales and visits to its website when a particular shoe appears on Girls, similar to when it gets a shout-out from a magazine. “We tweet about it. We’re just so grateful and happy,” she says. Other companies have taken a more direct approach with Girls tie-ins. To mark the start of the second season, Urban Outfitters launched an “Urban Outfitters x Girls” sweepstake offering one lucky winner a year’s worth of rent and $5,000 in home improvements. Deborah Lippmann created a limited-edition collection of nail polish, four colors to represent each character. Other Girls tie-ins included Drybar in New York, which linked up with HBO to offer free blowouts for three days (and resulted in a booking catastrophe), and SoulCycle offered free spin classes for a week. But, some marketing experts believe, the buck stops there. The show might be too real. As Fashionista.com’s Mau believes, Girls’ influence on fashion hits that target audience but lacks the broader appeal that luxury fashion possesses. Perhaps not every gal aspires to go braless in a mesh top?And while Mau enjoys watching the show, the New Yorker sees that fashion every day. Surawski agrees: “Teenagers might find the fashion interesting, but it’s geared to the twentysomething crowd and, for that crowd, it is reality.” •
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from our less-than-stellar economy, where it’s about men and women and their need for self-gratification. Footwear is a simple pleasure in a lot of respects. It’s an affordable accessory that can make a statement. Certainly, a lot of the women’s footwear is exactly that in terms of materials, colors and silhouettes. I think that’s the reason why footwear is trending so well right now. On that note, we introduced a new collection under the Durango brand called Rebelicious that combines a colorful sneaker-type bottom with a western upper. They have been booking really strong. It’s no secret that utilitarian fashion, a.k.a. ugly chic, sells. It goes all the way back to the first Rockport shoes, which were butt-ugly but wildly successful. If something is so unusual or a little ugly, a real “shoe dog” believes it’s either going to be really bad or a breakthrough item. Well, the world doesn’t need just another pump or wingtip. Right. Fortunately for us, the last three years have seen a nice increase in boot sales overall, and we don’t see that slowing for this year. I think that while Ugg sales may be slowing, women are largely replacing it with a variety of other boot styles and not a pump or a sandal. That gives me more confidence that we can continue to grow Durango further this year. How are you trying to make Durango stand out in what is the most highly competitive and crowded field? Durango’s positioning as a head to toe story is helping us in that regard. The brand should penetrate on different levels and in different kinds of outlets, which should get the product exposed to more consumers overall. We have also launched an aggressive print and social media campaign around our new positioning. And we’ve participated in a couple of fashion events in New York. We were also one of the participants in Project Runway. In fact, the woman who won last season’s series used Durango harness boots in her final collection.
but some companies have managed to do it very successfully like Wolverine and VF Corp. Speaking of looking elsewhere, what’s your take on your current sourcing situation? We just celebrated our 25th year of making shoes in the Dominican Republic. Three years ago, we were making 350,000 pairs a year there and this year we will make more than 1 million pairs, which is largely in our Rocky and Georgia businesses. We are very bullish on sourcing in the Dominican Republic as we are learning a lot of our competitors are. I think it helps mitigate issues we have with regards to sourcing in China. The other place we are looking at is India, not only as a sourcing partner but also a consumer market. We are getting some very good pricing from there right now. But we want to go slowly to make sure that we align with the right partners.
“Three years ago, we were making 350,000 pairs a year [in the Dominican Republic]. This year we will make more than 1 million pairs.”
Where are you at with regards to adding an outside brand to the portfolio? Now that the EJ acquisition has been fully integrated, our board just approved us to get into the hunt for another acquisition. But this time around we’re not looking for anything to double our size, rather something in the $20 million to $40 million range. And maybe it’s in the women’s market to complement what we are doing now with Durango and 4EurSole. Specifically, it might be something in women’s casual. Another criteria could be something that might help with our international footprint. Maybe it has a small business in the U.S. but is larger elsewhere. We don’t want anymore of the same. We have enough work boots, western and hunting space. Is it slim-pickings? We just started to look around. It’s a big universe and I believe there are plenty of interesting companies out there. Although, once you get into that $20 million to $40 million range the pie gets a little smaller. Hopefully, we’ll find one that makes a lot of sense for us. It’s not that easy of a process,
Aside from your military production, do you envision any U.S. manufacturing for Rocky Brands? I get asked that question many times by people in the trade as well as by friends and relatives. It’s a wonderful feel-good story, but the fact is there are one-and-a-half man hours involved in making a pair of waterproof boots. So if we were to make that here that would be $18, whereas in China it’s more like $3. So is a U.S. consumer now paying $100 for a waterproof work boot willing to pay $150 for one made in the U.S.A.?
If it cost less than $25 there might be a customer base that believes employing Americans is a worthy tradeoff. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to see how, only a few years ago, people thought the industry would never leave China and that is surely not the case now. The cut and sew industries are always going to seek out the lowest cost labor. And as long as the American consumer is focused on acquiring a lot of things versus fewer, more quality things, then country of origin is going to be important from a labor standpoint. I think it works when a smaller part of the total value of the item is in labor—like in automobiles and heavy equipment. But in footwear and apparel, where pennies and dimes have always been so important for competitiveness, country of origin remains key. Right now, frankly, I’m more concerned about the price of leather. There’s been another upward trend during the last 60 days where hides are more than $100. The meat consumption in developing counties like China and India isn’t accounting for the overall demand in leather for luxury items like cars, bags and shoes. You’d think that being able to afford a pricey leather bag or a fancy car, they’d also enjoy a nice T-bone steak. They just don’t consume beef the way Americans do. Where do you envision Rocky Brands in five years? We are optimistic. We are around $250 million in sales today and we need to be much larger to remain competitive, so that’s our goal: to be a much larger company. What do you love most about your job? Working with the folks here, providing leadership and making this workplace the greatest place that it can be. It’s all good stuff. • 2013 march • footwearplusmagazine.com 63
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Comfort Meets Compassion Hari Mari takes on pediatric cancer with its comfy sandals. UPON RETURNING TO the United States after three years in Jakarta, Indonesia, volunteering and working on campaigns to bring attention to such issues as malnutrition, Lila and Jeremy Stewart knew they wanted to do something to make an impact at home. “While there are so many companies doing great things philanthropically overseas, we thought, ‘Why not do something here in the U.S.?’” Lila Stewart says. Combining Jeremy’s background in marketing and advertising and Lila’s time on the executive board for the American Women’s Association in Jakarta, the husband-and-wife team decided to launch Hari Mari, a sandal company built on the premise that a portion of every sale would go to the fight against pediatric cancer. Officially launched in March 2012, the brand donates $3 for each pair purchased to families battling pediatric cancer (which doubles to $6 in July for the brand’s Flops Fighting Cancer month). “The money
Clockwise from top: Hari Mari’s Parks collection; founders of the brand Lila and Jeremy Stewart; Hayden, who was treated by a partner hospital, is now cancer free.
specifically goes to pay the medical bills for the kids whose families can’t afford it,” she says. The brand partners with hospitals that never turn away families based on their financial status, beginning with the Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth, TX, located near Hari Mari’s base in Dallas. Stewart notes the launch strategy aligns with the “buy local, give local” philosophy. And, in the coming months, the company will reach out to hospitals in Austin, TX, Tulsa, OK, Atlanta and Chicago—areas where the brand’s popularity is growing. A unique brand platform was one piece of the Hari Mari puzzle, but in order to be successful the Stewarts knew they had to make a sandal that stood out and performed as well. Not footwear experts themselves, the couple enlisted the services of footwear industry veteran Jamie Horton (formerly of Teva) to ensure they created a durable and comfortable flip-flop. Each pair is made out of recycled foam and rubber, with a cotton and nylon blend for the upper and hemp footbed, which helps to wick away moisture. A design highlight is a memory foam technology placed on the thong for comfort. “If you ask people why they don’t wear flip-flops, nine times out of 10 they say they don’t like having something between their toes—it’s uncomfortable. So we wanted to alleviate that,” she says of the toe piece, which molds to the shape of the wearer’s foot. Stewart adds, “There is no breakin period. You’re not going to get blisters.” Another signature feature of Hari Mari sandals, she says, is plenty of color, which features contrasting hues on the inside and outside of the sandals. The debut Parks collection and the new spring line, Scouts, feature six colorways each for men and women. Suggested retail is $60 and comes with a one-year guarantee. Stewart adds that a leather flip-flop collection and a kids’ line are in the works. Reaction to Hari Mari has been positive in its first year, Stewart reports. The brand opened 50 accounts, spanning outdoor specialty stores to fashion boutiques, in 12 states in 2012, and is adding steadily to that total this year. “When people think of a flip-flop, we want Hari Mari to come to mind,” she says, noting that Hari Mari (which roughly translates “of the sun and ocean”) executes a zero-landfill practice as well. “We encourage people to mail in any pair of flip-flops, whether they’re ours or someone else’s. We in turn will recycle them and give [customers] 15 percent off their future purchase with us to encourage people to be a little bit more responsible with their actions and the choices that they make.” Stewart notes that the brand hopes to use the recycled flip-flops in a unique way, such as building an outdoor basketball court at one of its partner hospitals. —Maria Bouselli
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