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UPDATED CLASSICS ARE ALL THE RAGE
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THE BOOT ISSUE
Ankle to Over-the-Knee: Mixed Textural Details Enrich the Season
SCOTT HOME ON BUILDING BRANDS THE OLD-FASHIONED WAY
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BRAND OF THE YEAR
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FEATU R ES 12 Home Field Advantage Scott Home, president of Fashion Major Brands, is building his business the old-fashioned way: great products, partnerships and passion. By Greg Duttter 18 Trend Spotting Our Fall ’17 boots preview: the latest materials, colors, patterns, silhouettes— we’ve got it covered from ankle to overthe-knee. By Ann Loynd
On the cover: Velvet bootie by Hispanitas, Asos sweater, vintage skirt and sweater. Karl Lagerfeld gloves available at Bloomingdale’s.
36 Tried and True Outdoor brands go back to their roots since authenticity appeals to Millennials and boomers alike. By Emily Beckman
Photography by Trevett McCandliss Fashion editor/ styling: Ann Loynd; hair and makeup: Nevio Ragazzini/ Next Artists; model: Jenny F./Red Model Management.
42 The New Classics What’s old is new again, as brands reintroduce traditional favorites with fine-tuned aesthetics and upgraded comfort. By Ann Loynd 44 Good Company Paired with relaxed apparel, brogue boots kick it up a notch. By Ann Loynd
This page: Penny Loves Kenny patchwork booties, Marcmarcs tights. McQ Alexander McQueen dress and Cara New York scarf available at Bloomingdale’s.
PA G E
48 Indie Queen Crushed velvets, posh prints and baroque embroideries add wrapped-heel appeal to ankle boots. By Ann Loynd
DEPA RTM ENTS 6 Editor’s Note 8 This Just In 10 Scene & Heard 40 What’s Selling 58 Shoe Salon 64 Comfort 68 Last Word
Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Ann Loynd Fashion Editor Emily Beckman Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Melodie Jeng Contributing Photographer ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Katie Belloff Associate Art Director Production Manager Allison Kastner Operations Manager Bruce Sprague Circulation Director Mike Hoff Digital Director OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 135 W. 20th St., Suite 402 New York, NY 10011 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 9Threads.com Circulation 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 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 Debbie Grim Controller
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ED ITOR’S NOT E
Old-School Remedies RECENTLY, A WELL-established independent retailer called me nearly at his wit’s end. He said the first few weeks of the holiday season had been especially challenging and exasperating—on the heels of what had already been a pretty deplorable year. If another balmy fall coupled with the election from hell hadn’t been enough of a drag on sales, the apparent abandonment of longestablished industry practices was pushing him to the brink of despair. It started when a national chain slashed prices by 30 to 50 percent on a major boot brand’s entire line, its MAP pricing policies be damned. Rumor has it the chain—like a lot of retailers—was cash-starved and desperate to move inventory that must have been figuratively sweating on its shelves. The (assumed) consensus: The chain had no choice but to jumpstart sales, even though off-price is a highly debatable strategy for generating traffic among consumers long conditioned to expect discounting and prone to shop only when they need a product, thanks to the 24/7 immediacy of online retailing. So if it’s beach weather in the heart of football season, shoppers don’t “need” boots, even if they’re priced 25-, 50- or 75-percent off. As if that wasn’t bad enough, another cornerstone brand of this retailer’s fall merchandise mix decided to slash prices on a key style on its direct-to-consumer (DTC) site. Apparently, the brand was also sweating over its inventory backload and needed to generate sales rather than wait to see whether the weather eventually cooperated. From the perspective of this frustrated caller, competing against fellow retailers as well as a growing legion of third-party sellers on price is inevitable, but getting his legs cut out from under him by a longtime “partner” made him question whether the concept of a vendor-retailer partnership still exists. For the record, this retailer has sold the “heck out of ” the style in question for decades and has relied on it as a prime source of revenue. Increasing DTC competition from brands is one symptom of a widespread sickness in our industry: over-distribution. And thanks largely to the smartphone, shopping has mutated into a runaway, margin-eating, brand-eroding cancer for both retailers and wholesalers. There is a potential cure: controlled distribution. While some brands expand DTC efforts and retailers counter by upping the dosage on private label programs, neither are long-term solutions that
will lead to greater well-being for our industry. For starters, such a divided landscape makes shopping inconvenient. It’s like trying to sift through a tower of branded babble. A controlled breadth of selection, where shoppers can’t whip out their phones and easily find the same style cheaper elsewhere, is a more sustainable approach for retailers and wholesalers. In this setting, brands can compete and generate excitement about categories, allowing them to thrive. When wholesalers and retailers meet in the middle to build strong partnerships grounded in trust and better margins, they create a more profitable and sustainable environment. Scott Home, president of Fashion Major Brands, distributors of Coolway, Musse & Cloud and Freestyle by Coolway and the subject of this month’s Q&A (P. 12), is one proponent of the middle ground. While his private-label business is on the uptick, the former retailer is quick to note that he’d much prefer to grow his wholesale brands the old-fashioned way: through a controlled distribution of valued retail partners who are reasonable on matters like freight, pricing and return policies. He believes it’s a healthier approach for both sides. Home speaks from experience, having been a turnaround specialist for Nordstrom shoe departments for years, then a key figure in the impressive growth curves at Dr. Martens and Diesel. It’s quite a career legacy. This issue is full of tried-and-true approaches. The strong heritage brands and styles movement running through our Fall ’17 outdoor preview (p. 36) is one example. Our feature on why upgraded classics are scoring again at retail (p. 42) is another. Last, our What’s Selling profile (p. 40) of The Elephant’s Perch discusses how, for four decades, this Idaho-based specialty outdoor store has maintained its foothold against all odds. Indeed, what’s old and proven might very well serve as a worthy New Year’s resolution. To that end, be sure to check out the inspiring resolutions in our roundup for Last Word (p. 68). This brings me back to that retailer’s phone call. As we discussed potential answers to his problems, we found that some of the best ideas involved old-fashioned business practices. For example, discovering and nurturing new brands and dropping overexposed ones. Brainstorming solutions had a calming effect on both of us—particularly after a year that can best be described as surreal (the most searched word in 2016, according to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary), when many industry members floundered or were forced to the exits. Living in a world of seemingly unsolvable problems is stressful. It’s comforting to remember that readily available solutions—strategies that have proven to work many times—might just be the elixir we’ve all been searching for.
6 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
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THIS JUST IN
these boots are made for walking Small to tall, New Yorkers take it to the streets in the seasonâ€™s staple silhouette. Photography by Justin Ryan Kim
8 footwearplusmagazine.com â€˘ january 2017
2017 Collection My Islands take me to my friends, my special places, and the things I love.
Platform, Surf Expo, North West Buyers, WCTS
HAND-MADE IN HAWAIâ€˜I SINCE 1946
SCENE & HEARD
Ugg flagship’s RFID mat informs shoppers what’s in stock.
Brave Cool World BRICK-AND-MORTAR retailers have been taking it on the chin of late. They’ve been getting beat up at the register and largely dismissed for being an outdated, low-tech, slow-to-react format that nearly everyone predicts will be a thing of the past in the not-too-distant future. While there are some truths in these scathing assessments, they also might be a tad over-the-top. For starters, even Amazon is opening brick-and-mortar stores, and, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey, online accounts for just 11 percent of total retail sales. What’s also wrong is the assumption that the physical store will remain a destination
for a dwindling number of luddites. Not true. Try these hightech gadgets—like bots, virtual reality goggles (enabling one to envision a dining room set in their home) and interactive try-on mirrors—that are making their way into stores now. A bot, for example, can guide a customer through the aisles to find requested items. A smart mirror can make recommendations of the perfect outfit to go with those snazzy new boots. The experience is less time-consuming. More importantly, such new technologies are just super-cool, making a brick-and-mortar experience fresh and entertaining, not to mention a way for retailers to generate add-on sales. Radio frequency identification (RFID), which enables data to be embedded into clothing tags so items can be tracked in the store, is another new gizmo being introduced. Ugg and, believe it or not, Zappos have tested RFID. Zappos installed a Magic Checkout in a pop-up shop in San Francisco where shoppers walked over an RFID-reading mat that scanned the tags and, through mobile payment, their purchases were completed in seconds. Ugg’s use of RFID involves another magic carpet of sorts: When a customer steps onto the carpet in tagged boots, style tips and product information (like what styles are in stock) appear on the nearby screen. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers like Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s are also in beta mode on smart dressing room mirrors. Rebecca Minkoff has smart mirrors up and running in her flagships. There’s even the ability to try an outfit on without “trying it on.” Pretty cool, indeed.
Worth a Visit SÃO JOÃO DA Madeira is often referred to as “a Capital da Calçada” (the Capital of Footwear). The Portuguese city and its surrounding areas has been a wonderland of footwear manufacturing and fashion for decades, and now it has the Footwear Museum dedicated to celebrating its rich history. The Footwear Museum currently boasts more than 500 shoes on display out of a collection of more than 7,000. In addition, visitors can marvel at the machinery, tools and stories from generations of Portugal’s legendary shoemakers. There’s even a “time tunnel” that transports the visitor through history via the evolution of footwear. In addition, a section on contemporary art as it relates to footwear, “Shoe Me Again,” lends an inspirational aspect to the museum’s experience. “We hope visitors realize the evolution of the Portuguese footwear industry, which is currently present in all the major international stages of fashion, incorporating more and more design, technology and creativity,” says Ricardo Oliveira Figueiredo, mayor of São João da Madeira. “This museum belongs largely to the entrepreneurs and workers from the shoe industry. We want them to take ownership of it and use it as an instrument of industry competitiveness.” Figueiredo says since the museum opened its doors in the fall, it has become a destination for industry professionals and entrepreneurs seeking a leg up on the competition. Here, he says visitors can learn about past success stories as well as be inspired by new ones. “We are promoting a sector that has a unique history in our country and a very bright future ahead,” he says.
High Praise IN LINE WITH its earth-centric brand philosophy, Astral is introducing 77-percent Cannabis Sativa (commonly known as hemp) uppers in its Donner and Tinker styles for men and women, respectively, for Fall ’17. Besides being eco-friendly, the material reportedly sports better abrasion-, tensile-, tear- and UV-resistance than cotton. “Hemp was an easy choice for us,” says Christie Dobson, vice president of sales and marketing. “It’s durable, antimicrobial and breathable, and it’s also petroleum-free and grown without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers.” Suggested retail for both styles is $100.
10 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
1/24/17 11:23 AM
Making the world a little more bootie full
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
W i t h a p r o v e n t r a c k r e c o r d , S c o t t Ho m e , p r e s i d e n t o f Fa s h i o n Ma j o r B r a n d s ( d i s t r i b u t o r o f C o o l w a y, M u s s e & C l o u d a n d Fr e e s t y l e b y C o o l w a y ) i s b u i l d i n g t h e b u s i n e s s t h e old-fashioned way: great products, partnerships and passion.
BY GR EG D U T TE R
COTT HOME KNOWS a thing or two about how to build footwear brands into big businesses. His track record speaks volumes—really, really big volumes. Try these stats on for size: During Home’s sevenyear tenure at Dr. Martens beginning in 1993, where he first joined the sales department and quickly rose through the ranks to president of its U.S. subsidiary, sales rocketed from $28 million to $385 million annually. Next came his run at Diesel, a license of Global Brand Marketing Inc., that went from startup to nearly $500 million annually in about five years while Home served as vice president of sales. Prior to those runs, Home worked for 14 years at Nordstrom, where he rose from a sales associate on the floor of its South Coast Plaza location to buyer for its Brass Plum department just a few weeks into the job. He eventually became a Mr. Fix It for the Seattlebased retailer, traveling to locations across the country to turn its struggling shoe departments around. “They would send me in to clean up the crews, the inventories and buy new shoes,” he says. “I was known as ‘Attila the Home,’ which 12 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
I’m not necessarily proud of because I often had to fire a bunch of people and clean up the mess. But that was my duty.” Before Nordstrom, Home performed various duties for his family’s chain of women’s shoe stores, Home Shoe Company, which, at its peak, consisted of 15 stores in Washington and Oregon. In fact, he began his footwear career at the tender age of nine, working in the stockroom and moving onto the floor by age 13, selling the
chain’s mix that spanned Nike to Charles Jourdan. At 15, he lived in Spain for a year with an uncle who was putting together a wholesale collection. Home had a ringside seat to the art of shoemaking. Upon his return, he finished high school, tried college for a year or so and then returned full-time to the business he knew and loved. He worked his way up, becoming manager of the family’s biggest store in Portland and then a buyer before making the move to Nordstrom. Home credits his first and greatest role model—his late father, Harry—with teaching him nearly everything he learned about the business and for helping him develop his deep-rooted passion for product. The elder Home was a longtime industry veteran who is noted for being the first non-family member to become a vice president at Nordstrom. He led the company’s expansion into Oregon before deciding to build a retail business for his family. (As shoe lore goes, Everett Nordstrom lent Home the money to get his business off the ground. “He
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O&A asked where he was going to open stores, and my dad said, ‘Right outside of your stores because I guarantee you are going to be missing size sevens, and I’ll have them,’” Home says.) In particular, Home credits his father for instilling a work ethic in him that led to his 24/7 approach to the business. One of his fondest childhood memories, in fact, is of Sundays when he and his father would climb a hill on the family farm and tally the weekly store receipts. “We would see where we were for the week, and then we would chop wood for an hour or two,” Home recalls. “That was his way of teaching me a good work ethic and discipline. We chopped a lot of wood every week.” What are you reading? That discipline has come in handy as Killing of the Rising Sun Home introduces three new brands to the by Bill O’Reilly. I also read U.S. market—Coolway, Musse & Cloud the Bible every night for and Freestyle by Coolway—under his new 10 to 15 minutes before I umbrella company, Fashion Major Brands. go to bed. To me, it’s like The company opened shop in Culver City, another history book. CA, in 2013, following several short stints
ton of volume, but we got it placed in the right spots,” he says. And despite a rough year for the industry overall, Home says his sales tripled, and he projects a 40 percent increase for 2017. “I think this company can be a major player in the next couple of years in this country,” he adds. And while Home’s track record and the relationships he has built over the years factor into his growth plans, the longtime former retailer knows that will only go so far. “You’re only as good as your last shipment. If the shoes aren’t good, people won’t continue to give me orders because they ‘like’ me,” Home explains. “I believe in the product and, if I do my job with the design team properly, we’ll continue to grow the brands.” still alive. His passion Home’s track record for building bigfor product, the way league brands is evident. It’s as though he he presented it and his has been groomed from childhood to be knowledge of this business successful in this business. He has a firm were incredible. Of anybody grasp on both the retail and wholesale living, [Skechers CEO] sides of the equation, which is enhanced Robert Greenberg because by a genuine love of product. The numhe knows how to market bers speak for themselves, but Home has and sell stuff, period. The always been dialed in on how you achieve guy is great. them: product, product, product. Asked what he loves most about the shoe busiWhat was your firstness, he replies, “That’s easy. It’s product ever paying job? In my first. I’ve just got a passion for footwear.” family’s stores [Home Shoe Home notes that whenever he presents Company] at age nine, shoes and sees people’s eyes light up, it’s working in the stockrooms like opening Christmas presents for him. on Saturdays for $5 a day. “Shoes have just gotten into my blood,” he says, adding that every level of the busiWhich talent would you ness—product, materials, people, building most like to have? To build an organization—excites him. “I guess I’m something, like a house, or entrenched, and that’s partly my dad’s be able to fix a car, because fault for bringing me into this business the only thing I have ever and teaching me all about it,” he says. “I done is work in the shoe was fortunate to have one of the best shoe business. guys ever as my coach. He taught me that this isn’t just a one-dimensional job. I was What is your favorite taught all aspects, and I love all aspects. hometown memory? I’m very lucky in that regard.” Growing up with my eight brothers and sisters on our Having built major brands, how would nine-acre farm in Lake you assess the introduction of Coolway, Oswego, OR. We had horses Musse & Cloud and Freestyle by Coolway and cows, and it was just a to date? Are they where you expected beautiful place. them to be?
OFF THE CUFF
where Home had been brought in to launch What is inspiring you? or revive several businesses, including The excitement of a new Palladium, Charles David, Jay Adoni and, government and a new day most recently, as president of Chinese that it’s going to bring us. Laundry. Home chalks the interim period The country needs a ton between Diesel and his new company up of change, and I think we to (not always fun) learning experiences need to move to the head and to helping out some dear industry of the class again. I think friends. “I’m not the kind of guy who likes the new administration to change jobs,” he says, noting he was in will spark the economy the process of launching his own brand and help business. when a phone call from the Mayordomo family, the former Diesel distributor in What is your motto? Only Spain, changed his plans. “They said do things in life that will it’s their father’s dream to expand their add value to your existence business into the U.S. and that I was the and never waste any time. right guy to do it,” Home says. He was sold on the opportunity after a week spent What sound do you love? meeting the family in Spain and learning I grew up on a farm in more about the company, Grupo Yorga, Oregon, so a river running which, in addition to the aforementioned through the woods and a brands, includes eight others and more crackling campfire. than 160 stores in Spain. “What attracted me is that the family has six kids running If you could hire the business who all grew up working in anybody, who would it their stores, just like I did,” he says. “They be? My father, if he was are learning how to be better wholesalers, and I saw an opportunity to give them a hand. Plus, they have given me the freedom to run their business in America.” Beyond those backroom synergies, what attracted Home to the job was the product—specifically the styling, the European-made quality and terrific leathers—and the fact that the price points were phenomenal. “All the stars aligned: good people to work with, the freedom to do what I know how to do in America and great product that could fill a void in this market,” he says. Coolway was first to come ashore in the spring of 2015, Musse & Cloud followed this year, and Freestyle by Coolway will make its debut this spring. So far, so good, Home reports. “The reaction has been good. We didn’t do a 14 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
First of all, unless you are Steve Madden or Camuto, selling shoes today is really hard, especially when launching new brands. All you can do is put good shoes in front of buyers, explain why they are good and talk about the attributes of your company and how you are going to be a good partner. But at the end of the day, product is king. Easier said than done these days, correct? Buyers used to take more of a chance, and the business was more exciting. Our economy was better, and you could afford to make some mistakes. Today, people are afraid. So they keep buying more from the same brands to try and
easy street ®
• 43 SIZES & 4 WIDTHS • IN-STOCK & OPEN-STOCK • FALL 2017
O&A protect the shelf space and sales they had from the previous year, even though in some instances they know the shoes aren’t as good. Everybody is just too cautious. What niches are you aiming to fill with your brands? For 2017, Coolway will become a much more junior brand. It will be a lot more Asian-made product and a lot trendier. When we introduced Musse & Cloud this year, because it and Coolway were made in Spain, they kind of overlapped. I had to find a new identity for Coolway. Musse & Cloud, in contrast, will be more middle-of-the-road Dolce Vita and Jeffrey Campbell level of fashion. And Freestyle by Coolway will be more athleisure, but not entirely. Meaning? I want Freestyle by Coolway to break into the sneaker market, but I don’t want it to compete directly with Nike, Skechers or any of those guys. We want to make sneakers that are comfortable, colorful and a little bit different. It won’t look like just another tennis shoe or jogger. Freestyle is a lot like the concept we did at Diesel; we made a hybrid between sneakers and street shoes, and it worked really well. I think that’s what this market is really crying for now because all their options are either tennis shoes or booties over and over again. And with tennis shoes, consumers want the brand name of Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc. So we are creating something totally different. It’ll still have sneaker influences, but it’s going to be another category of casual footwear. Will Freestyle by Coolway be strictly athleisure? No. We’ll also have boots, over-the-knee boots, sandals…it will be a complete line. We believe there are a lot of people that don’t want to wear just sneakers or booties. They are looking for alternatives. If we design the right shoes and launch the brand properly, then Freestyle should be a big growth vehicle for us. To get the ball rolling, we’ll have this amazing electronic booth at FN Platform next month that’s all white and, when a shoe is lifted off the display, the entire wall changes to the color of that particular shoe. When it’s put back on the shelf, the wall changes back to white. We’re also in the process of signing an up-and-coming actress to be our brand ambassador and we’ll be rolling out a fleet of Freestyle trucks for a college tour this year. Students can try on shoes and order them via our iPads. We may have one of the Freestyle trucks for the August show in Las Vegas as part of a parking lot party. What do attribute Musse & Cloud’s initial success to? I’ll tell you exactly why: The shoes are a little bit different in the way we interpret the trends. They have a lot more going on, the leathers are great, the made-in-Spain factor is huge and the price points, at $100 to $120 for this level of quality, is amazing. Good buyers and shoe aficionados can still identify intrinsic value in footwear, and these shoes have a lot of that value. Well, it’s encouraging that some buyers can identify and appreciate intrinsic value in shoes. That’s one of the big problems with the shoe business these days. There are fewer and fewer people who are actually shoe aficionados. People who really love the product and will pick up a shoe and say, “Oh my God, this construction is amazing, these leathers are fantastic…” People that truly know and appreciate the difference. So, in presenting your brands to buyers who may be relying on spreadsheets more than their eye, what do you say? I point out the attributes of the product—the leather qualities and, in the
case of Musse & Cloud, the made-in-Spain factor. I tell then about the heritage of our company, that it’s a family-owned business and that they are honorable people. This business is not so filled with honorable people, anymore. If there are issues with our product, we’ll certainly take care of them. In my heart, I’m a retailer. We are here to help. If a retailer wants us to go into their stores to educate their sales crews, we’ll do so gladly. In general, I have my reps do things the way we did in the old days, like trunk shows and in-store presentations. Many brands have gotten away from that because it’s deemed not cost effective. They see their accounts at shows and that’s the last time they’ll see them until the next show. That’s no way to grow an independent business. You’ve got to be in their stores and see what those businesses are like. I love doing that. If it’s a proven strategy, why is it becoming increasingly rare? Two main reasons. First, it’s just much harder today for older sales reps to make the same amount in commissions compared to when, years ago, there were 15 brands that were all hot and they couldn’t get enough shoes to ship. That’s not the case these days. It requires a lot more effort on their part—to be in the stores and make the sales happen. Secondly, many of the younger people in our business feel entitled and don’t know how to travel, nor do they want to. They are basically really lazy. I still do everything, whether it’s shipping shoes, working in the factories to help build a line, attending as may reps meetings as possible and visiting retailers in their stores. I’m a hands-on, in-the-field kind of guy. So, I guess to answer your question, we dinosaurs are a dying breed [laughs]. How would you assess the past year overall at retail? Was it really as bad and disruptive as many claimed? It was crazy and it was bad. I heard nothing but horror stories speaking with rep and retailer friends. Retail is confused because there is not enough direction and not enough uniqueness. While the weather has been part of the problem, the biggest issue is third-party selling online and the fact the same shoes are everywhere. So a customer walks into a Nordstrom, tries on a pair and then walks outside and buys it on her phone from Amazon. Brick-and-mortar retailers are the ones who are getting hurt the most. Having said that, a lot of my growth is coming from opening small clothing boutiques. I’ve got my guys doing apparel shows, and you’d be amazed by how many new stores are out there that want to buy 36- or 48-pair runs and double it the next season. That requires a lot of effort to find and service those accounts that a lot of bigger brands won’t bother with, correct? That’s exactly right. Our pride is not too big; we’ll take any sized order if the store is right for us. Another factor contributing to the sameness at retail is that while we all chase the same trends, the trick is to do so a little bit differently than everybody else. It’s really easy for someone to go online and look at a Jeffrey Campbell shoe and make the exact same one except for a different buckle. Our industry has become too vanilla, and that’s another reason why stores all look the same. What’s more, today everybody sells everybody on all levels of distribution. It seems as though all retail formats are in a state of upheaval and uncertainty? Retailers in general are so confused right now because there are so many things going on all at once and nobody can figure out what’s going to take hold. We all know that online will continue to be a big deal. We also know that major vendors are selling retailers like Target, Payless and Walmart. Ten years ago, they only carried closeouts, and now they are buying special makeups, like Dolce Vita’s DV line for Target. A big portion of my growth is going to come from makeups, as well. We do a private label program >65
HOME RUNS: FROM DOCS TO DIESEL H o w a c o l d c a l l c h a n g e d S c o t t H o m e ’s career trajectory and put him in the c o p i l o t ’s s e a t o f o n e o f t h e g r e a t b r a n d r u n s i n f o o t w e a r h i s t o r y.
HINGS COULDN’T HAVE been going much better for Scott Home back in 2000. As president of Dr. Marten’s USA, he was coming off a terrific year with sales hitting $385 million—impressive considering that when he had joined the company seven years earlier as a salesperson, yearly sales had been only $28 million. Home was back in his home state and all signs pointed to future success at the company. But then he got a call that changed his career path dramatically. The caller was Killick Datta, CEO of Global Brand Marketing Inc. and licensee of the recently launched Diesel brand. Home had never heard of Datta. So when he asked Home if he would like to come work with him, Home was skeptical. When he learned Diesel’s current volume was basically nonexistent, he replied: “Why would I want to leave a $385-million company that I’m running to work for a company making zero?” Undaunted, Datta convinced Home to visit the company’s offices in Santa Barbara, CA, over a weekend and look at the shoes to give his opinion. What did Home think of those initial Diesel shoes? “They were absolutely terrible,” Home recalls. “They were made in Romania, they were stiff, and I told Killick, ‘You don’t stand a chance.’” Somehow, a few weeks later, Home found himself taking Datta up on his offer to help launch Diesel as its vice president of sales. Why? “I like building companies, and I thought this was an opportunity to build something from the ground up,” he says. “Killick gave me a lot of rope to work with the product and build the whole deal. It was a challenge, and I like that. We built it together.” Not in Home’s wildest dreams, however, did he think the brand would take off like it did. He credits its success to tapping into a new hybrid that struck a chord with millions of consumers around the world. “What led to our success is exactly what the shoe business needs right now: a new hybrid, which was a sneaker/street shoe,” he explains. “We made shoes that were like sneakers, but they weren’t. They were also like street shoes, but they weren’t. It was a hybrid, and that’s what the market wanted.” Boy, did it ever. “When you are selling Journeys $45 million worth of shoes wholesale a year, Dillard’s $30 million and Nordstrom’s $48 million… Yeah, it’s a pretty good clip to grow a business at,” Home says. “That ride was amazing.” Toward the end of the run, however, it became the toughest job Home ever had. As a salesperson programmed to sell, he no longer could; it became all about controlling distribution. “At shoe shows I’d sit behind closed doors telling people I couldn’t sell to them over and over again,” he recalls. “That wasn’t any fun at all.” But Home has no regrets about that jump to a startup. It was a memorable run that helped build and cement connections throughout the industry that have led to new jobs and, more importantly, new sales opportunities—the latest being as president of Fashion Major Brands and the introduction of three new brands, Coolway, Musse & Cloud and Freestyle by Coolway. Home says his Diesel lineage still opens doors more than a decade later. “I’ve been fortunate because my relationships have helped me get my latest shoes placed,” he says. “For a lot of other people, it’s not that easy.” —G.D. 2017 january • footwearplusmagazine.com 17
T R E N D S P OT T I N G
1. Restricted 2. Pikolinos 3. Ariat 4. Durango 5. Earth 6. Naot 7. FCC New York
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T R E N D S P OT T I N G
1. Earth 2. Blossom 3. Keds 4. Seven Dials 5. Khombu 6. Pikolinos
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T R E N D S P OT T I N G
1. Sorel 2. Birkenstock 3. Sebago 4. Joules 5. Lamo 6. Cat 7. Ugg 8. Merrell
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2017 january â€¢ footwearplusmagazine.com 25
T R E N D S P OT T I N G
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2017 january â€¢ footwearplusmagazine.com 35
Outdoor brands go back to their roots: Heritage and authenticity are key product c ues that appeal to younger and older consumers alike. B Y E M I LY B E C K M A N
Tried and True T’S TIME TO put your money where Millennials are. According to a report by the Outdoor Industry Association, the generation (currently between the ages of 19 and 35) is expected to have more purchasing power than any other consumer segment this year and will outnumber the next target demographic by 22 million people. What’s more, in the not-too-distant future (2020), annual U.S. spending by Millennials is projected to hit $1.4 trillion, representing 30 percent of total retail sales. Yes, the prospect of the outdoor business depends heavily on capturing the hearts and minds of “Generation Next,” thus the reason why many brands are broadening their focus from the Ole Faithful outdoorsman to reach this (allegedly finicky) younger demographic as well. Fortunately, heritage and authenticity are brand traits that play well among Millennials
and Baby Boomers. The current retro Alpine hiker trend, for example, is just one instance where classic styling is appealing to a broad age range. For Fall ’17, the story extends to subdued autumn-inspired colorways and patterns, clean-cut silhouettes and several remakes of classic styles. “Fall prints have become subtler by nature,” says Kelly Santos, vice president of product for Bogs, advising buyers to be wary of bold prints. “Whether its triangles or simple plaid, keeping things uncomplicated is key,” she adds. Hy Rosario, director of product for Teva, affirms that the authentic retro trend resonates with Millennials. “In working with trend companies, their research shows that if product is built with the right nostalgia factor, Millennials will love it,” he says, adding it extends beyond the outdoor industry to Hollywood capitalizing on superhero movies and Coca-Cola reintroducing Surge for a limited time. “Brands are effectively elevating emotional experiences from childhood
and bringing them back in a meaningful way to Millennials and beyond. The classic Alpine look has the same emotional connotation.” Outdoor brands have picked up on the signals. By and large, brands are anchoring their fall collections in what got many of them here in the first place: heritage products and classic styling. Indeed, nostalgia appears to be the new black. “I think this stems partially from society just being insecure about what is real in this new digital world we’re living,” says Carrie Hill, senior design manager for Wolverine. “When a brand starts building a line around real vintage ads and archival styles, they hold something very special and unique, which is attractive.” Jim Walsh, senior director of innovation/ active for Rockport, labels Millennials, in particular, as nostalgia-loving even if they are relatively young to really look all that far back. “Social media calls it ‘early-onset nostalgia’ as information overload has compressed their sense of time,” he explains. “They cope with this
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information overload by reminiscing about the comforts of the past, so old is new again.” He adds, “Brands that are authentic are relatable to the ‘always on’ generation.” Jacob Haddad, senior manager of business planning and product at Vasque, adds that Millennials’ mighty integration of social media has been particularly beneficial to the outdoor industry. Instagram is the most impactful platform, serving as a massive outdoor travel guide. “Epic landscapes and hidden swimming holes are no longer for insiders only,” Haddad offers. “Today’s youth has this information at their fingertips, making them more inspired and inclined to be part of the community.” HERITAGE IS HAUTE Not surprisingly, brands that already possess a rich heritage are positioned well to capture this consumer sentiment. Greg Duffy, senior performance footwear director for Timberland, believes heritage is something that can’t be bought or made new; it’s only something a brand can earn over time. For example, he notes how the 65-year-old outdoor brand is able to leverage its rich heritage through its leathers. “We are one of the world’s largest purveyors of leather,” he says. “We have a lot of expertise on how to craft it into beautiful footwear.” By taking a multi-tiered approach to hiking, Timberland continues to improve upon such authentic Alpine roots for Fall ’17 with its re-issued classic, the 1978 Hiker. “Our construction techniques are a little bit better, but we didn’t reimagine the whole boot,” explains Duffy, noting how the aesthetic was kept almost identical but with the incorporation of better, sleeker performance technology. “We now know how to better gusset tongues and reduce excessive leather,” he says. Another brand delving into the archives is Rockport. While known for introducing innovative comfort technologies in walking shoes for more than 40 years, the reintroduction of its XCS rugged boots collection this fall is “firmly rooted in heritage and authenticity,” according to Walsh. “We dove into the Rockport archives to update our classic styles with modern comfort technology components and materials,” he says, noting that the fresh, lightweight outsole construction and mixed leather textures on the uppers elevate the classic alpine look into a more contemporary utilitarian silhouette. In a balance of classic aesthetics and new materials, Merrell infuses its rich Vermont heritage with the launch of the Eagle AC+ and Solo AC+ collections. Revolutionary in its time, Merrell mixed athletic materials and flexibility into hiking boots in the late 1980s
with the Eagle and Solo. For Fall ’17, the brand is reintroducing these classic silhouettes using modern “sew-up” uppers, full-front comfort features, cushion and flexbility, while still respecting its heritage with the classic design. “We protect and cherish the products our consumer cherishes every day, but also are not afraid to listen to consumers and move our key drivers forward as materials/processes help improve experiences,” says Martin Mellish, vice president of active lifestyle product. “Our product is not meant for glass cabinet status, we are not building collectors’ items. Our heritage is built on experiences and living an amazing outdoor lifestyle.” Sorel is also blending authentic style and functionality, reaching back into its 50-plus years of archives for design cues. Marion Minary, product line manager, singles out its Joan of Arctic Wedge Mid, Dacie Lace and Caribootie styles as highlights of the fall collection. “A strong sense of heritage helps to maintain consumer trust in the brand,” she says. “Our customers know these values are represented in our boots—whether it’s an elegant wedge or a rugged snow boot—and this is one reason they continue to come back to us.” Sorel is also introducing a new hiker-inspired boot, Sneakchic Alpine. Minary assures the flat, ankle-height silhouette will speak to customers’ desires for variety in both heel and upper height. “The premium leather-and-suede upper and gold hardware matched with a tough lug outsole exemplify Sorel’s unique intersection of protection and style,” she says. Sean Beers, president of Portland Product Werks, licensee of Woolrich Footwear, is also focusing heavily on the brand’s roots (known as “the original outdoor clothing company”) for fall. The difference this time, however, is such styles will be categorized as outdoor and comfort as opposed to fashion. “They all feature performance elements that enable them to exist for reasons other than their pure design aesthetic,” he explains. The new styles will feature traction outsoles, waterproof materials and constructions, athletic fit and natural linings rather than just a trendy look. For example, Woolrich’s Fully Wooly cold-weather boot wraps the foot in real wool—offering an authentic insulation story as a point of difference to competitors that typically rely on synthetic technologies. Teva is also tapping into its rich history—one that dates back to the ’80s and white-water rafting—as a badge of authenticity for consumers. The Fall ’17 casual collection builds on the success of heritage favorites with updated design iterations. The popular Arrowood collection and
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De La Vina and Foxy boot styles are examples. Arrowood features FloatLite, a durable outsole that provides “feather-light comfort in every step,” according to Rosario. “Our consumer is looking for product that is versatile and does not compromise style,” he says, adding, “Our Arrowood boots are on-trend yet functional for the consumer seeking multi-purpose footwear.” Founded in Denmark in 1963, Ecco is debuting a heritage campaign for fall, dubbed “Ecco DNA.” A highlight is the update of its Track II rugged casual style in celebration of its 25th anniversary. It includes contemporary executions, the original versions and a limited-edition package featuring full leather Yak uppers. Lastly, a women’s version of the Track II will be in the offering. Felix Zahn, product director for Ecco Americas, believes the Track II is in step with the current consumer mindset. “In times of global political instability and economic turmoil, a lot of people seek stability,” he says. “Plus, our society is changing at a faster pace than ever, so products that have a connection to the past can give a feeling of safety and create the impression that we can slow things down a bit.”
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BEHIND THE SEAMS For some brands, upgrading fit and comfort of archival styles is just part of the story. In the case of Bearpaw and its new faux fur capsule collection, it’s driven by ethical concerns as well. “We understand that people are more conscious about ethical issues relating to fur and even sheepskin,” says Denise LeMons, senior designer. And while LeMons believes that Bearpaw’s authenticity still comes from its use of sheepskin, the detailed faux fur accents on the vamps, collars and shafts also lend a more unique and handcrafted appeal. Along those lines, Emu Australia has collaborated with aboriginal artists to create an exclusive range of product featuring traditional artwork. The brand will also introduce a unique line featuring kangaroo and emu leathers. These styles talk to the brand’s pillars of “innovative” and “natural” but also have that point of difference consumers are seeking, says Sue Meehan, global director of brand and e-commerce. “Authenticity drives the purchasing decisions of Millennials, and that’s a big market to tap into,” she says, adding, “The vast majority of young professionals don’t look to buy from big businesses who are making large profits; instead they place greater value on what brands say and the genuine quality of their products and services.” Meehan adds, “Millennials are digital natives. They’ll see straight through brands who aren’t being authentic.” Rob Moehring, chairman of Washington Shoe Company and makers of Chooka and Western Chief, agrees that no matter how trends evolve, staying grounded in well-made product that >62
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W H AT ’S SE LLI N G
What were your best-selling shoe brands for 2016? We are doing really well with La Sportiva and Scarpa. In the past, Asics and Salomon have performed well. Overall, I think lesser-known brands are actually coming forward for us now due to our backcountry running, hiking and backpacking clientele. Most of the inventory is performance; only about 10 percent is casual. It used to be more, but the trend I see happening now is people looking for footwear that is going to do more than one thing. They want to use it for multiple sports. What were the best new brands added to the mix this past year? We’ve done well with Hoka One One and Altra, but I also picked up a little brand called Astral that mainly produces water shoes. It has cool styles, and they are planning to expand their line soon. What inspires your buying decisions? I’ve always looked for innovation—what’s new. I like to try something different. I think people look toward us to see what’s new in the outdoor market, so I always try to stay on the forefront. Any surprises in 2016? Our performance running footwear was very slow. Probably half of what I’ve sold in the past. I think this was caused by a lot discounting, especially with places like The Sports Authority shutting down. I took action for next year by ordering less and just cautiously waiting to see what happens with the market. How do you think your business faired in what has been a tough year for retail overall? We did ok, but I did cancel a lot of orders. I was definitely more cautious. I just think there is a lot of merchandise available out there. For our clientele, we are kind of a small business in a resort area, so it is really hot or cold. Our down times are pretty quiet. It’s hard for us to change the footwear mix every six months; it just doesn’t really work. It’s easier to stick to the best-selling styles and plan a mix that caters to the most important customers when they are here. It’s certainly a juggling act.
THE ELEPHANT’S PERCH
OR MORE THAN 40 years, The Elephant’s Perch, an outdoor specialty store in Ketchum, ID, has catered to the area’s explorative community with a 5,000-square-foot shop teeming with high-performance apparel and equipment backed by an experienced and outdoor-savvy sales staff. Much of the merchandise—like skis, helmets and paddles—is available for rent in order to inspire patrons to get outside and try new activities. “Our goal is to perpetrate an active lifestyle and give back to the community,” says Liza Wilson, the store’s hard goods buyer for more than 25 years. “It has always been part of our DNA.” Wilson says Bob Rosso, owner and founder, is to thank for the longevity of The Elephant’s Perch as well as its catchy name, which is after a nearby domed rock popular with climbers amid the mostly jagged Sawtooths range. “Bob is incredibly involved in the community,” she notes. “He and his wife are always facilitating events to draw people together for healthy fun.” In fact, The Elephant Perch’s website contains an updated calendar of seasonal outdoor events that allow the community to come together for everything from a weekend ski race to an evening bike ride led by members of the staff or local guides. —Emily Beckman What sets the store apart from the competition? Location and service. We are centrally located, and people come to us if they want to take a hike or go rock climbing in the Sawtooth Mountains. People sometimes just come here to pick our brains on where to go when planning a unique trip. We have five mountain ranges around us, which we use to plan our events. We’ve held cross-country ski races and backcountry runs for years, as well as a Nordic event. Bob is on several recreational boards that help meet the community and ultimately draw in customers.
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What is the smartest decision you made recently? Hopefully, ordering less for next year will be a smart decision. And changing my mix from technical running to more hiking. I think the key is trying to buy footwear that is more useful for a broader range of activities. What is the biggest challenge facing your business right now? I’d say the universality of online retailing, making our competition everywhere. To counteract that, service is key. We have to be friendly and helpful in all ways. That’s what we’ve always done though, so we will just continue to do that. We spend a lot of time giving people information and things that don’t cost money but are valuable to our area. What is your fastest-growing customer or category segment? The younger customer is probably the fastest-growing segment. We do a lease program for kids to get them into Nordic skiing. We also do a bicycle giveaway. We work with a bike company that provide free bikes to local kids. There’s another running program called Girls on the Run, and we give free socks. We are very active in the community, allowing the young people to grow their passion for various sports. We also use social media to reach out to the younger customer. How do you envision your store in 10 years? I’m not sure what that future is going to look like. I almost envision stores as showrooms. People would come and try on things and then order online. Things are changing pretty quickly. I hope we are here—I hope we are doing business as usual, but you just don’t know.
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The New Classics What’s old is new again, as brands reintroduce traditional favorites with fined-tuned aesthetics and upgraded comfort. By Ann Loynd
OW DO YOU improve upon a classic? The short answer: not easily. It requires a delicate balance between familiarity and freshness to retain original customers while attracting new ones. Take Hollywood, for example. Many film classics have been given makeovers, either by coloration techniques or complete remakes. Oftentimes, however, such (expensive) efforts flop at the box office. To wit: The all-female cast of Ghostbusters blasting away goblins as opposed to the original starring Bill Murray—a perfect example of leaving well enough alone. Similarly, Coca-Cola’s efforts to market New Coke back in the mid ’80s as a “bolder, rounder and more harmonious” version of its classic flavor went completely flat. So much so, a marketing meme floated afterwards that the campaign was designed to make consumers demand the return of the original beloved flavor all along. Messing with a classic can be a risky business. Changing too much, for example, can undermine consumer trust, according to branding expert, Rob Frankel. “Brand strategy is all about building trust and differentiation. Differentiation is easy; trust is not,” he says. “If you change too much, you undermine that trust.” Frankel adds that while subtle tweaks and changes are often welcome, ultimately, it’s a question of balance. “It’s a good idea if brands can say, ‘We adopted to this change in a way that only our brand and nobody else could achieve,’” he says. When it comes to remaking classic shoe styles, maintaining the look is key, but just reaching back into archives and slapping together the same exact shoe is not the best approach. Matt Powell, sports industry analyst
for NPD Group, believes today’s consumer expects the benefits of modern design in classic styling. “A couple of brands tried to bring back shoes exactly like they were made, and they were not successful,” he says, adding, “The consumer wants the concept of retro but expects a modern shoe.” Powell’s ‘concept of retro’ is in step with consumers’ current love of all-things nostalgia. Take, for example, the current classic alpine boot craze, spanning trail-worthy replicas to runway iterations, or the ongoing affection for heritage brands. “There’s a nostalgia right now around things that are old—a simpler time without the stresses of what we’re going through today,” Powell explains. He cites a recent Rolling Stone issue completely devoted to the ’90s as an example, along with recently robust sales in retro athletic footwear styles. He reports that the classic athletic category is the hottest trend in athletic footwear, which grew at a 29-percent clip through the fall of 2016 and shows few signs of slowing anytime soon. He adds that virtually every major brand with older styles in their vault is participating. “There’s a massive trend back to retro that’s bringing back old TV shows to retro sneakers,” Powell confirms. “Everyone is on the retro bandwagon these days,” agrees Louise Dirks, who is buying an assortment of throwback styles for Fall ’17 at her Canadian retail chain, Gravitypope. “It’s being done in a new modern way with lightweight/comfort aspects, and, in that frame, retro works.” Two such examples are the recent remakes of Converse’s Chuck Taylor All Star—the shoe’s first overhaul in nearly 100 years—and Vans’ Classic Slip-On. In the case of Converse, the new design incorporates parent company Nike’s Lunarlon foam insoles, a padded tongue and microsuede lining, along with such stylistic tweaks as monochrome eyelets, premium canvas and a fully embroidered patch. It looks like a Chuck but wears more like a Nike Free. The debut in 2015 generated instant buzz at retail. “The Converse Chuck II with elevated materials, clean outsoles void of foxing and the addition of Nike Lunerlon insoles provided consumers with comfort as well as a modern feel to the classic,” attests Dirks. She adds that the “strategic launch with an elite group of retailers created an immediate demand in the market.” RENEWAL RAVES The remake of the Vans Classic Slip-On is considered one of the best in recent memory. If there was ever a silhouette with retro aesthetics that could benefit from a design upgrade to its original clunky, stiff and heavy vulcanized construction, it was this shoe. Thanks to an UltraCush Lite sole and added heel cushioning that combine to improve Vans Old fit, flexibility and increase comSkool fort—all in a lighter-weight packPro age—the Classic Slip-On has been reborn. It became a fashion darling, even seen on several runways. For sure, the style expanded well beyond its base of primarily male surfers and skaters. Vans quickly followed that remake with several others, including the Old Skool Pro this past holiday season, which included an array of skateboarding technology upgrades like UltraCush sockliners, Duracap reinforced underlays placed in high-abrasion areas and a slimmer last for a closer fit in the heel, arch and forefoot. As far as aesthetics, the foxing is wrapped a little higher, the vamp lengthened slightly and the collar adjusted. “All these choices were made to improve fit and increase the life of the Old Skool Pro, as well as a cue back to some of the best details when [the shoes] were manufactured in California,” explains Neal Shoemaker, designer. He adds that
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nods to Vans’ past will continue for 2017. “Our Legacy collection references 1989–93, an era they Converse love in skateboarding and hardChuck II core music, both of which the Old Skool was an integral part,” he says. Scott Baldt, senior director of omni-channel for Rack Room Shoes and Off Broadway Shoe Warehouse, says the Vans remakes are performing well in his stores. Dr. Martens “Mids are gaining momentum and Newton styles featuring their traditional side stripe logo are quickly gaining traction among top sellers,” he reports. Dirks is also excited about a new Ultrarange style for Fall ’17, which features old-school styling with a super light gum rubber and high-density EVA outsole on an UltraCush foam insole. She’s in talks with Vans to nab the style a few weeks ahead of the full release. “Limited availability gives it that push,” she says. “Everyone wants it because they can’t have it!” This fall’s revamp of several classic Dr. Martens styles under the umbrella, DM’s Lite Collection, has also been received well. Like the name implies, the Newton 8-eye boot, Cavendish 3-eye oxford and Edison tassel loafer are lighter (up to 260 grams lighter than their welted predecessors) and more cushioned thanks, in part, to a SoftWair memory foam insole with moisture-wicking properties. In addition, a Phylon midsole, sleeker outsole and triple-stitch construction provides an already broken-in feel. Still, the overall aesthetics— like signature yellow stitching and grooved sidewalls offer familiar brand markers, according to Simon Jobson, marketing director. Also true to the brand’s rich history is the tight palette of black or oxblood red. “DM’s Lite takes all of the iconic DNA and associated comfort and durability that the brand is famous for but in styles that transcend from workwear to fashion and take classic shoemaking skills into street and lifestyle products,” he says, noting that it’s the company’s most evolutionary concept since the original ‘AirWair with Bouncing Soles’ technology debuted in the ’60s. Jobson adds that the goal of DM Lites is to attract a broader audience. “These consumers will include free-thinking individuals who may have never worn a pair of DMs before,” he says. So far so good as Jason Rogowsky, CEO of New York–based Shoe Parlor, reports the DM’s Lite Collection is selling well. “We’ve had success on the DM’s Lite Collection,” he affirms. “The consumer is always looking for a lighter version of something that’s typically a little on the clunky side. But that’s Dr. Martens’ roots. They linked up well in that department.” Dirks notes that although the DM’s Lite Collection is marketed as unisex, the response has been stronger among Gravitypope’s female clientele. “Customers like the look and the fact that they are significantly lighter than the standard Dr. Martens product,” she says. It helps, she adds, that other brands are going lighter and cushier in many of their offerings. “Consumers are becoming aware of the benefits of lightweight footwear, and more and more brands are putting research and development into this type of shoe,” she says, citing the Clarks Originals Trigenics and Camper’s remake of its Pelotas collections as two lightweight stories that have been well-received of late.
WHAT’S ON TAP Look for more classic remakes to land o n s t o r e s h e l v e s i n 2 0 1 7.
TEVA: SO ORIGINAL An integral part of Teva’s DNA, the Original sandal collection will be revamped for this spring with a FloatLite contoured footbed for added support. The brand is also reviving a fan favorite from the ’90s, the Alp sandal (dubbed Alp Premier). It’s available in a range of vintage outdoor hues and updated with FloatLite technology. Fall ’17 will include seasonal color updates and new materials in the Universal Puff sandal inspired by vintage camping accessories and the Universal Premier, available in expanded rich leathers. FRYE: GIDDY UP This spring brings the Frye Western Reissue collection, a revival of styles “saddled in history” as far back as the ’40s. Highlights include the Tulsa Firebird, a modernized, studded and supple take on its stiff, veg-tanned predecessor; the Holly Brogue Short from the ’90s vault, reinvented with three-dimensional, burnished leather; and Ross Braided Tall, a ’60s-era cowboy classic reimagined with padded stitching and a two-tone finish. ADIDAS: ADDED BOOST Adidas’ Stan Smith and Superstar classic silhouettes rose to “it” status over the past few seasons. In an effort to keep the momentum strong, the brand is giving each a re-boost in the form of its modern-day midsole technology attached to the classic uppers. It’s a softer, more flexible ride packaged in two of the most iconic retro fashion statements. —A.L.
UGG OR UGH? One might assume that genuine improvements in construction—be it lighter weight, increased flexibility or improved cushioning—would always be received well. However, it’s not always a guarantee. Sometimes product improvements do not translate at the store level because marketing fails to communicate the upgrades, especially when they are not easily identifiable to the eye. Take Ugg’s re-boot of its Classic, dubbed the Classic II, that hit stores this fall. The silhouette looks nearly the same as the original but the uppers are now water- and stain-resistant, a leather heel plate is sturdier, and a new Treadlite outsole offers improved traction. “We’ve incorporated these innovative technologies, allowing our customer to brave the elements while still wearing their Classics,” says Jennifer Somer, vice president of women’s & lifestyle, adding, “This is without a doubt >59
2017 january • footwearplusmagazine.com 43
G O O D C O M PA N Y PAIRED WITH RELAXED APPAREL, BROGUE BOOTS KICK IT UP A NOTCH. PHOTOGRAPHY BY TREVETT MCCANDLISS
Florsheim wingtips, J. Hilburn sweater. Opposite: brogues by Ariat, Asos denim jacket, socks from Marcmarcs, Stetson fedora.
Thursday Boot Company chocolate lace-ups, Stetson bowler, Spectre & Co. scarf. Opposite, clockwise from top left: Cat mixedmaterial lace-up and Clarks lug-sole brogue; wingtips by Wolverine; Timberland brogue work boots; Rockport dress boot; ornamented lace-up by Samuel Hubbard; Cole Haan burnished brogue. Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd; model: Dennis O. 46
Summit side-zip booties, Mavi jeans, vintage coat. Zadig & Voltaire sweater available at Bloomingdaleâ€™s. 49
All-over glitter booties by Volatile, Asos jacket and skirt, Marcmarcs tights. Karl Lagerfeld clutch and Alice and Olivia sweater available at Bloomingdaleâ€™s. Opposite: Matisse calf-hair bootie, Betsey Johnson pizza clutch.
Seven Dials cheetah-print platform booties. Scotch & Soda coat and Denim x Alexander Wang jeans available at Bloomingdaleâ€™s. Opposite: Velvet booties by Indigo Rd., Christian Siriano dress. Scotch & Soda top and Zadig & Voltaire faux-fur vest available at Bloomingdaleâ€™s. 52
Brocade Western booties by Nine West, Marcmarcs tights. Faux sheepskin coat by Sanctuary and BCBG Max Azria dress available at Bloomingdaleâ€™s. 54
Firenze Studio brocade velvet ankle boot. Opposite: embroidered booties by Shellys London, body suit by Asos, Mavi jeans. Alice and Olivia velvet tuxedo jacket available at Bloomingdaleâ€™s. Photography by Trevett McCandliss. Fashion editor/ stylist: Ann Loynd; Hair and makeup: Nevio Ragazzini/ Next Artists; Model: Jenny F./Red Model Management. 56
D E S I G N E R C H AT
JOSHUA BINGAMAN, FOUNDER and designer for Helm Boots, possesses a rare fusion of artistic passion and entrepreneurial spirit in whatever he endeavors to achieve. Before starting his men’s and, new this fall, women’s boot brand in 2009, Bingaman owned a successful shoe store, called Subterranean Shoe Room, in San Francisco and later opened a popular café and coffee roasting company in Austin, TX. Seven years into that new venture the shoe bug bit again and the designer began crafting men’s boots in Istanbul, Turkey, where he had been visiting family. Three years later, after knocking on doors of factories still operating in the United States, he began manufacturing stateside, where production has remained since. “Italy, Spain, Germany…they’re rad,” Bingaman muses. “But I’ll design some stuff in the U.S. that will make you look twice.” For many brands, that “Made in America” tag would be the main selling point, but Bingaman deems it icing on the cake. “It’s the design that stops you,” he says. “You pick it up, look it at and see how it’s made…then, the fact that it’s made in America can be the tipping point.” In Helm’s tightly distributed retail accounts, Bingaman notes that the brand isn’t even merchandised on any made-in-the-U.S.A. tables along with the likes of Chippewa, Red Wing and Wolverine. Rather, it shares shelf space with designer labels such as Prada and Gucci. “I didn’t enter the market to compete with work boots,” he says. With an average price point around $500 retail, Bingaman’s target consumer is quite like himself: a creative professional. “Architects, film and movie producers, musicians, even surgeons—people who are aware of detail,” he says. But Helm’s consumer isn’t limited to those earning six-figure salaries and above. The designer notes that many wearers include bartenders, restaurateurs and baristas who save up for long-lasting, quality product. “They’ll spend $500 on shoes and $1,000 on a suit, because fit matters,” Bingaman says, adding, “It defines who they are and how they feel. It’s why I design shoes—for that confidence.” —Ann Loynd What’s the theme of your Fall ’17 collection? It returns to the origination of the brand—more European and slightly dressier. 58 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
COVER STORY Nine West
Are men, in fact, becoming more fashionforward? Dudes are starting to care more. Whenever we do t-shirts, men are willing to spend $60 or $70. They see the difference and care about where they’re made. Tell me about your new women’s line. I knew when I had my shoe store in San Francisco that women just buy more shoes, so I wanted to take on the challenge. It will be two boots and two shoes. The Helm boots for women have a tomboy look with a sexy feel. Why is it important for you to manufacture in the U.S.? Manufacturing in Istanbul became difficult for quality control and
Over-the-knee boots kick style up a notch.
inspection, plus port fees and customs. I started cold-calling U.S. factories. I showed up at a factory in Maine and saw that it was the heartbeat of this rural town. I had this impassioned feeling of, ‘Holy crap, this community depends on the factory.’ It made me realize, at 37, that this is a huge part of our history and economy. What are you most passionate about? Our customers. I want to know who they are—not just why they’re buying [Helm] . Who is your fashion icon? James Dean, Marlon Brando, Mickey Rourke—tough guys who are cool. It’s always the guy with the jeans, t-shirt, leather jacket and boots.
E D I TO R ’ S P I C K S P H OTO G R A P H Y BY J O S E P H P LU C H I N O
Keds Champion Jersey
Ugg Classic vs. Classic II
continued from page 43 the biggest launch Ugg has ever taken in its 38-year history.” (The technology upgrades have also been introduced in four other styles—Street, Luxe, Cuff and Slim.) Home run, right? Joe Gradia, co-owner of Hawley Lane Shoes chain in Connecticut, believes the Classic II is absolutely an improvement. “It has an ultra-thin heel and arch built into the footbed, which counters the opinion that Uggs are bad for you,” he explains, adding, “They’re really putting support in the product and have made it better.” However, he notes, the boot has met some resistance in his stores to date. Gradia says the challenge lies in selling customers on the belief the new version is worth $30 more. “You have a product that looks similar but now has water-resistance,” he offers. “A lot of customers, however, are deciding to buy the original with the waterproof spray and save.” Gary Hauss, owner of J. Stephens chain (with stores in California and Arizona) has experienced similar difficulties upselling the Classic II to his customers. “The updates they did are fine—if the original wasn’t around,” he says. “But there’s not enough difference to sell them side by side.” Most agree that once the original –joe gradia, Classic is flushed out of the market, co-owner, hawley educating consumers on the new and improved boots will translate into a lane shoes successful remake story. “The price hike makes sense, but the consumer is seeing too much of the same thing when the old and new versions are side by side,” Gradia says. “The consumer really needs to understand why these shoes are more expensive than the original, and that takes a strong marketing campaign,” notes NPD’s Powell. He believes marketing new features and benefits is imperative to the success of any revamped classic. “When there was marketing around the Converse All Star II and Vans Old Skool Pro, the response was brilliant,” he says. Along those lines, Ugg has teamed with model/actress Rosie HuntingtonWhiteley as brand ambassador of its new Classics collection. “Our partnership has helped us communicate these upgrades to fans,” Somer says, hinting that the redesign is just the start of new branding for Ugg. “We’re not just celebrating the launch of the new Classic, but it also marks the beginning of a whole new line of product you will soon see from Ugg, including updates to our men’s and kid’s lines.”
“The price hike makes sense, but the consumer is seeing too much of the same thing when the old and new versions are side by side.”
Keds has incorporated a similar celebrity-centric approach as it reintroduces remakes of its classic Champion style in tandem with its 100th anniversary celebration last year. Exclusive design collaborations with such names as Kate Spade, Malhia Kent and Taylor Swift are part of product upgrades that include OrthoLite footbeds and new upper materials such as tweed and leather. “It’s a comfort story,” says Gillian Meek, president. “If you look around the footwear industry, it’s becoming a price of entry. We live in that space where you can be on-trend and fashionable, but it must be really functional.” Meek adds, however, that the brand is careful not to stray too far from the original version. “An original is something you can’t invent, and that’s something to be cherished,” she says. “But in today’s world where female consumers are bombarded about the latest fashion technologies and looks on a daily basis, they need something fresh.” •
S H O W C A S E FA L L ’ 1 7
Fashion meets function in this easy-to-walk-in wedge sole and waterproof suede bootie with leather detailing, soft faux fur collar and inside zipper that screams city-chic. Visit Cougar at FFANY and Platform.
Cougar’s Fall ’17 collection takes ‘Athleisure’ to a whole new level. Drawing inspiration from the international resurgence of sport fashion, Cougar has taken its waterproof expertise and created footwear that encourages you to ignore weather alerts and “get into outside.” Visit us at FFANY, FN Platform, Ourdoor Retailer and regional shows across North America.
Bella~Vita has an array of elegant footwear new for 2017 packed with pizzaz, style and charm and available in a large range of sizes and widths (N, M, W & WW; 5–12). Favorites include the “Klaudia II” burgundy velvet bootie and “Neka” floral brocade block-heel pump. Visit us at FN Platform and all regional shows.
Gabor is Germany’s most popular women’s shoe brand and one of the largest producers in Europe. Renowned for its exquisite quality, Gabor footwear is sought after worldwide for supremely wearable, extraordinarily comfortable and stylish fashion shoes. See what’s new for Fall ’17 at BSTA, FFANY, Tru Show, FN Platform and Northwest Shoe Travelers. Joules, known for its brilliantly
British wellies, has created a collection of footwear sure to surprise and delight for Autumn/Winter ’17. New for the season are the “Pop-on,” a clog-like welly made easy for slipping on and the “Downton,” new stylish faux-fur trim welly. From classic prints to the new on-trend “Biker” style equipped with branded buckles, we’re sure you’ll find the perfect pair!
Each and every Earth Shoe is
Stop by the Joules booth at one
inspired by our founder, a Danish
of these upcoming tradeshows
Yoga Instructor, and her core
to view the full collection:
belief that wellness and healthy living should start from the ground
Outdoor Retailer, FN Platform,
up. For over 40 years, uncompromised comfort has been
Sole Commerce, Atlanta Shoe
combined with fashionable style to the delight of discerning women.
Market, Dallas STRUT.
Preview the Earthies by Earth Athena (pictured) and more at
FN Platform, Outdoor Retailer, Atlanta Shoe Market and FFANY.
S H O W C A S E FA L L ’ 1 7
The Aetrex Addison chukka boot is built using Lynco orthotic technology to promote better support, balance and alignment. Its memory foam footbed offers unparalleled cushion and comfort. With Aetrex’s signature braid detail, you get comfort and style all in one. Preview this style and more at FN Platform and Outdoor Retailer. www.aetrex.com Hispanitas footwear combines the expertise of Spain’s top shoe designers from the Alicante region’s tradition of high quality shoe manufacturing, a trendright European aesthetic, exceptional material detail, comfort engineered into every pair and the heritage of a family owned and operated company. Hispanitas shoes make a woman feel as wonderful as she looks, which is why their motto is “Joy Is A Choice.” Choose Hispanitas! Visit us at Chicago Shoe Restricted Footwear focuses on edgy elements of
Market, Atlanta Shoe Market, Northwest Market Association, FN Platform,
design and unique silhouettes while presenting
BSTA and Sole Commerce.
eye-catching details to the fashion-forward
consumer. The smart shoppers who like to combine fashion and comfort with quality and a great price always look to Restricted for the latest shoe inspirations! Visit us at FFANY, Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, Atlanta Apparel, Chicago Shoe Market, Dallas STRUT and many other regional shows.
RestrictedShoes.com Easy Street is a recognized innovator in all categories of comfort footwear for over 50 years. New for 2017: studded booties and shooties, including the “Shiloh” gray and “Ronda” black with ultra-suede. The stylish booties have built-in comfort Tamaris, the best-known shoe brand in Europe, has been making a name for itself in the U.S. since 2015. Tamaris combines premium quality, excellent comfort and fit, and an exceptional price/performance ratio in perfect synergy. Dionysus, the fashionable double-buckle bootie (#25344) in smooth suede leather and with ANTIshokk heel technology is just one of the many exceptionally stylish items in the Tamaris range. See the complete collection at FFANY, Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, Michigan Shoe Market, Sole Commerce, Chicago Shoe Market and many other regional shows.
innovations such as stretch-for-fit gore and flexible soles. Available in 43 sizes and 4 widths (M, W & WW; 5-12). Open stock/in stock for Fall ’17. Visit us at: FN Platform and all regional shows.
S H O W C A S E FA L L ’ 1 7
JambuKD continues to design with kids in mind for Fall ’17. The collection takes trending features, such as knitted materials and hi-top
continued from page 38 lasts is the key to remaining relevant in today’s marketplace. “Just because I believe we have a great product doesn’t mean I think we can rest on our laurels, especially because brand loyalty isn’t the same for younger people as maybe it once was with older generations,” he explains. “To remain relevant and competitive, a brand has to actively stay immersed in the culture and ultimately tell its customer it is adaptable and committed to fulfilling what they’re looking for.” •
silhouettes for boys and ankle boots and ghillie lacing for girls, and adds durable technology that allows for a unique collection for any activity. See the line at Outdoor Retailer, BSTA, Transit Kids, Kentucky Shoe Buying Market, Atlanta Shoe Market, Midwest Children’s Apparel Group, Michigan Shoe Market, The Children’s Great Event Shoe Show, Northwest Shoe Traveler’s Minneapolis and FFANY.
Merchandising tips that bring the outdoors to life. —E.B. “I really believe in the concept of making an experience and telling a compelling story. Color is important. If you group together a rich collection—like the autumn colors Bordeaux, olive and tan—you will create a cohesive story. Also, materials can be influential like rich suedes or faux fur. It makes an impact when a customer enters into a department and sees it on a shelf.” —Denise LeMons, senior designer, Bearpaw “Everything is so fast today. So anytime you can put a complete look together (how that boot looks with an outfit), it makes the buying decision so much easier. It’s important to set your customer on the right path and inspire them.” —Kate Wright, designer, Chooka “Embody a sense of adventure, a journey the customer wants to go on—either virtually or physically. Emphasize the benefits of the product, be consistent with the branding and use video to tell your story.” —Sue Meehan, global director of brand and e-commerce, Emu Australia
Western Chief ’s light-up LED kids boots are completely waterproof and available in a variety of prints and colors. Each boot features 11 settings with multiple speeds and a rainbow of color options to make rainy days brighter. Visit us at Outdoor Retailer, Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.
“Everyone knows the consumer’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter, so shelf appeal is key. Color is a huge deciding factor and, ironically, color is much more subdued than two to three seasons ago. The cleaner and more sophisticated, the better. Over-the-top silhouettes are perceived as a desperate plea when surrounded by clean lines and easy on/off versatile silhouettes.” —Carrie Hill, senior design manager, Wolverine “We encourage retail partners to highlight the elements of each style that lend themselves to everyday wear, in addition to the true outdoor features and showing consumers through imagery how they can seamlessly incorporate the shoes into their daily lifestyle.” —Jim Walsh, senior director of innovation/active, Rockport
In the spotlight for Autumn 2017, Wolky blazes the boot trail with its lightweight line that makes walking effortless. Focus is on elegant comfort to help achieve the natural walk stride without restrictions and with versatile styling. Wolky has been perfecting the artisan craft of shoemaking with the motto, “form follows the function,” for over 30 years. Come visit us at FN Platform, Atlanta Shoe Market and regional shows. www.wolky.com
“Helping consumers understand built-in technologies that wouldn’t necessarily be seen at first glance is critical. Use merchandising aids like action photographs of top climbers and tactile displays of various grips. For example, we use Continental tire rubber on the bottoms of our performance footwear and have a merchandising display that shows the tire and the shoes.”— Greg Thomsen, managing director, Adidas Outdoor U.S. “Consumers today are savvy and will notice if you’re just trying to take advantage of the trend. So you really need to have authenticity in the space. Storytelling is most important. If you can showcase what’s possible and inspire the consumer, then you’re on the right track.” —Hy Rosario, director of product, Teva
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U P C L O S E C O M F O RT
Booting Up Birkenstock broadens its closed-toe collections.
NEWLY APPOINTED VICE president of merchandising Jacqueline Van Dine says Birkenstock’s days as a sandals-only company are long gone, noting that buyers will see an expanded closed-toe collection for Fall ’17. Particularly well-received at its FFANY show debut, Van Dine says the category is a “no-brainer” for the brand. “We’ve had tremendous success with our boots and closed-toe product,” she reports, adding, “Our consumer is giving us permission to go into that space.” Van Dine says the new boots feature “beautiful rugged and rich, boiled leathers.” In total, 17 new boots range in style from slouch to knee-high equestrian silhouettes as well as moto-style ankle booties— such as the Sarnia, Longford and Stowe, respectively. In addition, new men’s boots for the season include the Zurich in oiled leather and the moto-inspired Hancock featuring a heavy lug outsole. Regardless of style or gender, the one trait consistent throughout the collection is Birkenstock’s cork footbed. “That’s our secret sauce,” Van Dine says. “It works not only for our sandals but also our closed-toe footwear.”
Also new for fall is the Inuit Collection of cozy fur styles. Inspired by a trip to Greenland, 10 styles and two children’s shoes consist of quirky takes on Birkenstock classics—like hair-lined Arizona sandals—as well as new silhouettes, such as the lace-up shearling Nuuk boot. “It’s both the devotee who wants the next limited-edition Birkenstock as well as the fashionforward customer who wants to see us push beyond our classics,” Van Dine explains. The goal is to reach a broader audience, only in a more exclusive retail setting. “Our strategy is to go after boutiques and limited fashion accounts,” she says. “We want the consumer who buys it to know it’s special.” Accordingly, the price range is higher. Suggested retail on the Nuuk, for example, is $350. Building off the fur introductions is Birkenstock’s Shearling Collection. “We have new colors in our Boston shearling clog as well as the Arizona sandal,” Van Dine reports. On the kids front, favorite women’s styles will be offered in a “mommy-and-me” package featuring a fall wool clog with faux-shearling lining. In-house, Van Dine says the expanded closed-toe program has been dubbed Birkenstock 365. It’s the basis of how the brand aims to reach the next level of growth globally and become a year-round business. “We know that our sandal program is extending well into third quarter/back to school, and we’ve had a lot of success with our feminine styles—like thinner strapped wedges,” she says. “Going forward, you’ll see more Birkenstock DNA on the uppers of our closed footwear...We’re just getting started.” —Ann Loynd
64 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
The Good Fight Pozu’s ethically crafted platform extends to Star Wars collab. WITH THE TAGLINE,“shoes with a good sole,” Pozu is always improving on its ethically crafted footwear. The brand is known for the use of such sustainable materials as cork, felt and organic cotton canvas, as well as ethical manufacturing practices: Shoes are made in a small factory in Portugal that employs 70 local workers who uphold a strict non-toxic policy and recycle nearly all waste products. In keeping with that aim, Pozu is introducing Piñatex, a durable vegan faux leather that can be produced in metallic colorways, for spring. And for this fall, it will debut a revamped sole crafted from coconut husk and natural latex for a fashion-forward, weather-ready capsule collection. “The cup sole is an updated version of the one we’ve had for many years,” says Sven Segal, brand founder. “We thought it needed a more modern, clean and fresh look.” The result is side-stitched, glueless construction featuring a 7mm shock-absorbing Foot Mattress insole for optimal comfort, style and sustainability, he says. The four-style capsule collection features two vegan styles—the Slade metallic Piñatex slip-on and Heath T wool tweed hi-top, also available in genuine leather options. Segal says Pozu is trying to reach a combination of higher-end retailers beyond its heritage distribution with the new additions. “We had great feedback from Anthropologie,” he says, adding, “That’s the sort of customer we’re looking for.” While it’s relatively easy to make vegan shoes for spring collections (thanks to lightweight materials like linen and cotton), Segal says it’s more of a challenge to find suitable materials for winter. However, with the introduction of Piñatex as well as incorporating cork more, he reports that over half of the fall line is now vegan, making Pozu a year-round option for a growing number of consumers seeking animal-free footwear. Vegan shoes aside, Segal has high expectations that its new Star Wars x Pozu collaboration will appeal to a broad range of consumers. Unlike other iterations that take inspiration from the movie franchise, several of the styles are high-quality replicas featured in the saga’s latest film, Rogue One. They are not costume pieces, rather everyday wearable replicas. “Beyond the association with Star Wars, the models are very commercial,” Segal says. “We achieved a good balance between something that is inspired by a film yet incredible wearable. It’s a winning formula.” The styles feature Pozu’s comfort foot mattress and butterfly suspension mechanism designed to soften impact and, of course, pesticide-free materials. The Rey, a mid-calf slip-on boot, is made from cork and tweed. Another is the Resistance, featuring a rubberized rebel alliance badge— highly recognizable by any true Star Wars fan—on a hi-top sneaker made of organic cotton. Segal reports that feedback at the recent FFANY show was, well, out of this world. “I’ve never seen buyers getting as excited ever before in my 20 years in the industry,” he says. —A.L.
O&A continued from page 17 for Altar’d State as well as some for DSW and others. That’s a good way to help my bottom line, but it doesn’t help my brands. It might be a life vest until things shakeout. None of it seems particularly stable. Nope. And who is watching out for the independent, old school retailer these days? I don’t think anybody is, and a lot of them might fall through the cracks. I guess we’ll see how it pans out. It almost makes me want to open a store and do things the old-fashioned way: provide great customer service, put shoes on people’s feet, bring out four pairs, offer them a free cup of coffee… It might just be a great way to launch a shoe store because no one is really doing that these days. I believe a store done right in the right areas could be very successful. The right area is key because that’s another challenge many retailers face today: ridiculous rents. Retailers can’t make any money paying $30,000 to $40,000 a month in mall rents. Retailers also need to change some of their ways, too. There are not a lot of partnerships anymore. They make demands like having to pay freight, guaranteeing a 58 percent margin and writing a check if anything goes wrong. And if you don’t like it, leave. New brands like mine are kind of at their mercy. I’m not a big enough to refuse those terms, and that hurts my margin, especially when I’m only taking a 40 percent margin to begin with. It’s only going to get tougher on wholesalers, because the independents that do survive are likely going to be more demanding.
“I MORE THAN DOUBLED MY BUSINESS LAST YEAR. THERE’S STILL BUSINESS TO BE HAD.” –scott home, fashion major brands
What’s the solution, if any? I go back to my trusted solution of doing business the old-fashioned way: Offer great product at great prices and service the hell out of our accounts. Similarly, retailers have to work harder, think more outside the box and stop thinking only about today. They have to think about next year, because the brands they may have now might be all over the place then. They have to look for the next new brands instead of saying, “Oh, woe is me.” They have to figure something out. But it requires a lot of work, and people often don’t like a lot of work. It’s not as fun anymore.
What might the shoe store look like in 10 years? Will it all be like Amazon Go? I hope not! I think consumers in general still like the interaction with store clerks. That said, I think you are going to see a lot more independent online shoe stores and a lot of the brick-and-mortar retailers as we know them will be gone. The new ones may be apparel stores with shoes as an accessory. There will always be fashion boutiques—stores like Koko & Palenki in Miami that just opened its fifth location. They really get this business. Despite the myriad of challenges facing the industry, are you still an optimist? I’m a huge optimist. I more than doubled my business last year. There’s still business to be had. If anybody had product that was a little bit different and had a good handle on the trends, then I think they probably had a good year. I’m also planning for big growth this year, and eventually I’d like to see us get into the $100 million range. I’d also like to open a showroom as well as a flagship store in New York pretty quick and maybe a second store in Los Angeles. In the meantime, we’re going to continue to build good product and sell it to people at a fair price. You’ve got to “find a way
to bring a product to the consumer for cheaper, but not a cheaper product.” That was an old Nordstrom saying and a favorite of my dad’s. You’ve got to give people reasons to buy from you. It can involve a little design tweak, but price often seems to be a deciding factor. But I’m not talking about selling cheap shoes—showing someone product and then taking the leather lining out or changing it to pigskin. It’s about not being greedy on the margin. To be perfectly blunt, there are a lot of whores in our business: guys making 70- to 80-percent markups before they sell to retailers. Our owners will not let me take more than a 40-percent markup and they only want me to pay them back 20 percent. That’s unheard of today. But that’s why our prices are so low yet the quality is high. Do you possess a gut feeling about shoes by this point—something that tells you a style will be big? It’s pretty much based on history and tradition, because the fashion industry keeps regurgitating itself. So you can relate to the trends that will likely follow again, but that’s not always a guarantee. That aside, I believe at this point I can tell if a last is good or not for a particular shoe, if the heel height is right, etc. And while I can’t draw a stick man, I can tell our designers what they need to draw and can amend their drawings, if needed. You could have retired by now, what keeps you coming into work each day? I can bitch all day about this business, but I truly love it. And I’m not the kind of guy that relaxes much. When I get home at night, it’s around 10 p.m. and our Spanish office is opening for business. So I’m often emailing until 1 a.m. Then I get up at 5 a.m., go to the gym and start working right after. I just like to work a lot. It’s probably due to all that wood I chopped on the hill with my dad. •
E - B E AT
Kevin Leffler Appalachian Outfitters
Channel Surfing User-friendly software helps retailers sell through third-party channels.
Robert Yeganeh, director of sales for Commerce Blitz.
THIRD-PARTY SELLING on sites like Amazon, Walmart, eBay, etc., can be an effective way to reach consumers beyond a smaller retailer’s physical and online reach. But the process is not without its logistical challenges, as many retailers are busy trying to manage their primary channels. Not to mention, the rigorous regulations of these third-party retailers leave little room for error. Enter the software program by Commerce Blitz, which manages order fulfillment and inventory management automatically, allowing storeowners to focus their attention where it’s needed most—in their stores. “No one has time to jockey spreadsheets and upload them twice a day after actually doing all the work,” says Robert Yeganeh, director of sales for Commerce Blitz, adding that mistakes can be costly—at least three percent of orders are spoiled by human error, and that ultimately impacts the shipper. “You make one wrong click, digit or dash, and it’ll deprive you from Amazon’s buy box,” he says, adding, “The less you touch things and make a potential mistake, the more profitable you can be at the end of the year.” Commerce Blitz, Yeganeh explains, enables retailers (and wholesalers) to sell through third-party channels by access-
ing a single interface designed to take over the physical input of data and thus, minimizing human error. The license fee is approximately $600 per month. In addition, there’s a setup fee for each channel and a monthly charge of $100 per channel plus the third party’s respective fees. “But that’s like paying rent,” says Yeganeh, the former owner of Love My Shoes chain in New York. “It’s still much cheaper than running a brick-and-mortar store. And what would take a brickand-mortar three to five years to achieve, we can create a presence online within one year at very little cost.” Yeganeh believes Commerce Blitz is worth the investment. With foot traffic declining in stores as well as online, the software’s ability to manage third-party selling helps retailers gain a broader reach. “Retailers can throw their money into opening more brick-and-mortar stores, or they could spend a tenth of that cost and invest in our software to have their products viewed by millions of eyes overnight,” he says. While faced with competitors like Channel Advisor and Frogfish Solutions, Yeganeh says Commerce Blitz not only has more reasonable rates but contains a more comprehensive inventory system. “We can control the inventory from all the products on these channels so you can allocate what goes to which channel, therefore you can limit and manage the inventory properly,” he says. “We also can do fulfillments for you.” As a former independent retailer for nearly four decades, Yeganeh understands the importance of user-friendly software. He also appreciates a solution that presents easy expansion opportunities for minimal investment, dropship capabilities and branding tools. “Honestly, Commerce Blitz is so simple to use it really should be called ‘retail for dummies,’” Yeganeh says. —Emily Beckman
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“APPALACHIAN OUTFITTERS IS more than a job, it’s a lifestyle,” asserts Kevin Leffler, executive buyer for the Ohio-based specialty stores. Leffler, who has been with the company for more than a decade, fell in love with the outdoor industry when he began working on the sales floor. “It was just a natural progression to become a buyer,” he says. From a first-time hiker to an experienced outdoorsman, Leffler ensures every customer finds what they need at Appalachian Outfitters’ two stores—the flagship in Peninsula, near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and a new store in Lodi’s historic Ohio Station Mall. Each house a vast selection of outdoor apparel and equipment. The footwear assortment includes Merrell, OluKai, Keen, Reef, Teva and Sorel. Leffler takes pride in procuring trustworthy products, giving the knowledgeable sales staff a good brand story to tell. “The outdoor customer is not necessarily a top peak athlete, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate quality products,” he says.—E.B. Who is the Appalachian Outfitters customer? They tend to be slightly older, 45 and up. We are in a fairly affluent area, so many have a good amount of disposable income and are going places. They may not be summiting K2, but they are trekking from city to city in Europe. Or perhaps they’re climbing Kilimanjaro with a guide group. What sold well this fall? Not having snow and cold definitely changed the mood. We sold more hiking and backpacking boots than normal, as well as more casual shoes and even some sandals. We did well with Lowa, Oboz, OluKai and Sorel. What are your looking for in a shoe? I hone in on the end use. How’s it going to perform in the field? There’s only a finite amount of room, and if I want to add a shoe, something else has to go. Is this shoe a suitable replacement for what I’m getting rid of? Is it in the same price range? Once I find it fits a purpose, I narrow down by aesthetics. What was one of your best buying decisions of late? Limiting the insoles we carried from three or four brands to Superfeet. It gave the sales staff the opportunity to tell one story with consistency. It helped Superfeet sales and throughout the department because telling consistent stories builds credibility and rapport. You never want to have a sales associate telling customers 10 contradictory things. What might you do differently this year? We are looking more at how vendors go about protecting dealers. During the week before Thanksgiving, a handful of vendors went 20- to 30-percent off on their websites. We noticed a dramatic decrease in sales during that period compared to what we’ve seen historically. With brands that held price on their sites, we saw huge growth. So, going forward, we’re looking to avoid competing with our brands because there’s no way a store can compete with a manufacturer on margin. We want to build partnerships with brands that appreciate the business we give them, unlike ones that cut our legs out from beneath us.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2017 7: 3 0 A M – 9 A M
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LA ST W O RD
New Year’s Resolutions
CEO, Birkenstock Americas To take definite steps to ensure decisions are being made both from a experiential/ insight-driven point-of-view and with any analytics that may help support a position. We have a team with great industry experience, and the more we blend that with data we receive from retail results, the better we can make smart decisions that serve our consumers. Also, to watch one TED talk every week, read Simon Sinek and Michael Lewis books, meditate five minutes twice daily and crank up music each day that inspires me to actualize myself.
President, Me Too and Adam Tucker Shoes To, in the immortal words of legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”
Sherwayne Mahoney Designer, Things II Come To challenge myself and the brand to test growth possibilities internationally, to learn more about diversity marketing to open new opportunities for Things II Come, and to expand my network to strengthen key relationships that will benefit our company.
Leaders across the industr y vow to make 2017 a year of improved efficiency and increased profitability, all while striking a healthier work-life balance.
Gary Weiner President, Saxon Shoes To work with old and new vendors who have brand equity at the top of their lists, while getting rid of vendors that do not focus on long-term relationships and margins for them and us. Also, to tighten inventory and turn it faster at higher margins, with a goal of buying more goods throughout the season.
68 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2017
CEO, Kanner Corp., distributors of Gabor, Finn Comfort and Think! To take a little time out to try and achieve that delicate and seemingly elusive lifework balance. Or, as my father used to say: Run the business, but don’t let it run you. A little time off can revitalize the mind and spirit to tackle business with renewed vitality, whereas a tired mind and body can lead to detrimental decisions and results.
Gary Hauss Owner, J. Stephens To see vendors and retailers come together to make brick-and-mortar stronger and for it to truly work like a partnership.
BETH BARTHOLOMEW Senior Director of Sales Development, Earth Shoes To keep delivering a tremendous product of great style and comfort that is perfect for our independent retailers, whom I have a huge passion and commitment to helping succeed.
Mark Jubelirer President, Reyers Shoe Store To change our TV advertising strategy. My brother Steven and I have appeared as spokespersons in our commercials for the past several decades, but now we have hired a ringer to take our place. She’s a beautiful, young woman who used to sell shoes at Reyers. We’re going to make her a star!
CEO, RG Barry To accelerate growth and frictionless execution.
President, Genesco Licensed Brands To work inspired! Meaning, to work hard to inspire others and to be inspired by others. Life is too short to work uninspired. When we are driven by the same goals and have an open mind, we can accomplish most anything.
President, Tamaris USA To talk less and listen more! To plan less and do more! Meaning, if the wind will not serve you, take to the oars.
CEO, Washington Shoe Company To procrastinate less and to not overthink things.
Joshua Bingaman Designer, Helm Boots To get more face time with our customers at our new flagship in Austin, to visit more of our retailers and to have our staff eat more vegetables.
NEW VINTAGE FALL ‘17
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The Boot Issue - Ankle to Over-the-Knee: Mixed Textural Details Enrich the Season | Outdoor Preview: Heritage Hikers | Updated Classics are...
Published on Jan 5, 2017
The Boot Issue - Ankle to Over-the-Knee: Mixed Textural Details Enrich the Season | Outdoor Preview: Heritage Hikers | Updated Classics are...