Footwear Plus Magazine | September 2020

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SEPTEMBER 2020 VOL 30 • ISSUE 8 • $10

COLOR STORY Saturated Primary Shades that Brighten the Mood Why Beck’s Shoes Means Business This Just In: Booting Up in Copenhagen Veteran-Turned-Designer Gains Ground


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S E P T E M B E R 202 0 F E AT U R E S 10 Trend Spotting Spring ’21 roundup: mom sandals to dad slip-ons and wedges in between. By Ann Loynd Burton 18 Opportunity Knocks The Silicon Valley-based Beck’s Shoes is acquiring stores and bullish on growth despite historic industry headwinds. By Greg Dutter 22 Easy Does It A fusion of fashion and function deliver versatility and style in kids’ for Spring ’21. By Emily Beckman 24 Some Like it Hot Saturated colors in splashes and all-over heat up classic silhouettes next season. By Ann Loynd Burton

Caroline Diaco President/Group Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Lauren Parker Executive Editor Emily Beckman Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Kirstin Koba Contributing Editor Melodie Jeng Marcy Swingle Contributing Photographers ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Laurie Guptill Production Manager Kathy Wenzler Circulation Director Catherine Rosario Office Manager

D E PA RT M E N T S

Mike Hoff Digital Director WAINSCOT MEDIA

4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In 8 Scene & Heard 17 A Note to My Younger Self 36 Shoe Salon 38 Upclose Comfort 40 Last Shot

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On cover: Slide by Naot. This page: Secret Celebrity bejeweled sandal. Photography by Trevett McCandliss; model: Ksenia Ocheredko/Fenton Model Mgmt.; fashion editor: Ann Loynd Burton; stylist: Nancy Campbell.

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FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by Wainscot Media, One Maynard Drive, Park Ridge, NJ, 07656. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in Park Ridge, NJ, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48 in the U.S. Rates outside the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Wainscot Media will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2008 by Wainscot Media. Printed in the United States.

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E D ITOR ’S NOT E

The Big Sick

Hindsight WHY NOT CUT to the chase? Editors of publications covering topics from accessories to zoology will run year-in-review columns in their December issues, but I can sum up 2020 now: No matter what happens over the next four months, the year will still absolutely suck. There’s no need to wait to write its epitaph. Nothing short of a vaccine with zero side effects distributed free to everyone immediately, preferably in the form of M&Ms, will make it better. The damage (mass carnage) is already done. A recent news release by the FDRA (Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America) called 2020 the worst year ever for our industry. President Matt Priest described the abyss we are hurtling into as “historic” and a “perfect storm.” He cited recent data that paints a “dire picture” of evaporating profits and more job losses (on top of record losses already this year) through 2021, led by a double whammy of higher costs for production and lower retail prices. Typically, those prices rise and fall together, he says, but not in 2020. (Of course not.) President Trump’s tariffs, he notes, have caused average import costs on shoes to surge, while fallout from the coronavirus is weighing down retail prices as shell-shocked consumers demand discounts of 30 percent or more. As for a potential lifeline, Priest says the government must eliminate burdens like import tax hikes. Failure to do so means “consumers will eventually see fewer companies selling shoes and less innovative and dynamic footwear in the marketplace as a result.” The die-off is already well under way. We’ve witnessed industry job losses as high as 60 percent during the height of the store closures this spring. While some jobs have returned, thousands are likely gone for good as businesses liquidate or will downsize significantly if they emerge from bankruptcy. On a broader retail scale, it’s nearing extinction level. Of the tens of thousands of businesses that closed at the height of the pandemic, 132,580 listed on Yelp remained closed as of mid-summer and nearly 73,000 have closed for good. Worse, the rate of permanent closures is rising—more than 15,500 from mid-June to mid-July, according to one report. This isn’t something that’s likely to be revived by a rumored pent-up demand—not while millions of American remain unemployed and there’s a massive shift to ecommerce. Nor does it look like the government-issued Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) did much to stop the bleeding, not with (too many) reports about how small businesses—the ones most in

need of assistance—didn’t receive any. (There should be a special place in hell for the tech startup bros, awash in millions of venture funds, who had the audacity to apply for—and accept—millions in PPP loans. And one wonders why small business owners feel abandoned.) One might argue that the nation was over-retailed, and the pandemic only accelerated the necessary thinning out of the herd begun by the retail apocalypse. There is plenty of truth to that. Many businesses were already on life support and, in a few instances, you could say the virus amounted to a mercy killing. Sometimes it’s just time to go. Age, decay and staleness have taken their toll, and no amount of investment, blood, sweat and talent can turn it around. Millions have been sunk into trying to resuscitate Sears, for example. Is JCPenney’s prognosis for a recovery much better? Could the brick-and-mortar department store concept itself be on its last legs? Nordstrom and Dillard’s would surely beg to differ, but Stein Mart, on the low end, just threw in the towel and upscale Neiman-Marcus is now in bankruptcy. Still, investors are more willing to gamble on established brand names, no matter how tarnished they might be. Payless marks one of the latest such attempts, as its new owners plan to open 300 to 400 (newly designed) stores nationwide over the next five years. It seems ambitious in this current climate. Then again, at its height, the chain was much more unwieldly at 2,100 stores. Brooks Brothers looks to be another redemption candidate, following its recent purchase by Authentic Brands for $325 million. Time will tell whether such venerable names have life left in them after they’ve received cash infusions and undergone makeovers. (I’d bet that few people are salivating over the prospect of exact replicas.) Debt load wasn’t the only thing sinking these businesses. Which brings me to Beck’s Shoes, a relatively small chain of 17 stores (plus four trucks and an ecommerce site) based in the Silicon Valley and our retail profile (Opportunity Knocks, p. 18). Rather than succumb to the sky-is-falling sentiment, dynamic retailing duo Adam Beck and Julia Beck-Gomez, CEO and COO, respectively, are acquiring stores and doubling down on their brick-and-mortar business model. The passion behind this 101-year-old, fifth generation–run family business is uplifting. The strategy is equally sound: This is no nostalgia-driven tale. The cousins in charge have recently invested millions in upgrading stores and are committed to incorporating the latest sales training and talent retention practices. Indeed, Beck’s Shoes may be ancient in retail years, but it is proof-positive that age is merely a number.

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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THIS JUST IN

Great Danes Women put their best boots forward on the cobblestone streets of Copenhagen. Photography by Marie-Paola Bertrand-Hillion

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SCENE & HEARD

Mercer Amsterdam Uncorks ‘Wine Leather’ Collab DESIGNERS SEEKING SUSTAINABLE, plant-based alternatives to animal hides have recently introduced materials made of pineapple skins and apple waste. Now grapes, dubbed wine leather, are being added to the menu, thanks to a partnership between luxury sneaker brand, Mercer Amsterdam, and Vegea, an Italian company that developed the material made from the fruit’s stalks, skins and pips. (The two companies met at a sustainable materials fair.) “Pineapple leather looks much more like a ‘raw’ product in the sense that you see and feel the fibers of the fruit, whereas wine leather looks exactly like the real thing,” says Prim Dresen, designer and founder of Mercer Amsterdam, adding that the material is soft, smooth and stable. It’s also 100 percent sustainable and vegan (no animal products are used during the production process). Additionally, the W3RD Wine pack features mesh made from recycled PET bottles and an EVA sole made with algae. “Our mission is to show everyone that it’s possible to create cool sneakers from plant-based materials,” Dresen says. “Hopefully, the rest of the industry will follow us.” Debuting for Spring/Summer ’21, the W3RD Wine pack comes in four colorways (yellow, black, blue and white) and with a suggested retail price of around $285. As such, Mercer Amsterdam is targeting high-end boutiques and department stores, such as Selfridges in the UK, Level Shoes in Dubai, Galleries Printemps in Paris, Shoebaloo and Bijenkorf in Netherlands and Berlin’s KaDeWe. Dresen says the company is in talks with high-end department stores in the U.S. and the

Wine leather: made from grapes.

collection will also be sold on its website. “Our target customers tend to be 25 to 45 years old who don’t follow the herds—they are people who want to stand out, wear something different and aren’t afraid to do so,” he says. “There’s nothing cooler than someone who is 100-percent comfortable in their own skin and expressing their own unique and individual style, and this collection is effortlessly cool, luxurious, modern, on-trend and eco-friendly.”

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Stivali Opens NYC Flagship A boutique for the Williamsburg woman.

IT MAY NOT seem like the opportune time to open a store amid a pandemic, retail apocalypse and social unrest. The trifecta of epic challenges, however, hasn’t stopped Louis and Lina Guarin, cofounders and designers of Stivali, from doing just that—their first-ever North American flagship and showroom in Brooklyn, NY. “We are in an uncertain time and many other brick-and-mortar retailers are going in the opposite direction, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right path to follow,” says Louis. “We aim to grow, to master this challenge and are eager to embrace the adventure moving forward.” The Guarins believe a flagship is worth the risk and investment because it’s the next step toward enhancing the bond with its customers. To that end, the Guarins put their hearts and souls into the endeavor, having personally built the store over the last couple of months. “We put into it a great amount of love and dedication, just as we do for our collections,” Louis says. “We cherish the relationship with our customers and this store aims to create that emotional connection.” As for choosing the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, Louis says the area aligns with the Stivali woman. “Stivali targets a sophisticated, cultured and strong woman,” he says, noting only prime materials and finest leathers are used in the handcrafted collection. “They see fashion items often as investments and expect them to last season after season.” He believes there are a lot of women who fit that description in Williamsburg. “There’s a big market opportunity for us in the neighborhood, and having the opportunity to learn and address them in person is worth all the work we’ve put into opening a flagship here,” he says. Additionally, Louis notes that Stivali’s inspiration is derived from a blend of fine European design, a rich pre-Spanish history of the Americas (the Guarins hail from Colombia) and the sophistication of New York, where the couple has been based since 2016. A similar blend of multiculturalism thrives in the neighborhood. “Williamsburg is a glorious stream of diversity and global culture,” Louis says, adding, “Multiculturalism makes the world vivid, rich, full and fun.”


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MOM SANDALS T h e r e t r o s p o r t s i l h o u e t t e g i v e s d a d s a r u n f o r t h e i r m o n e y. 1. Bearpaw 2. Taos 3. Softinos 4. Merrell 5. Teva 6. Cougar 7. Rieker

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IN BLOOM A bouquet of flower power embellishments. 1. Flexus 2. Remonte 3. Ron White 4. L’Artiste

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WEDGE DRESSING C h o o s e f r o m a m e n u o f c h u n k y, c o r k a n d c o m f y. 1. OTBT 2. Gabor 3. Ecco 4. Andre Assous 5. Enjoiya 6. Dansko 7. Taos 8. Bos. & Co. 9. Aetrex

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EASY RIDERS Casual kicks for racing to the mailbox and the corner store. 1. Muck Boot 2. Bearpaw 3. Xtratuf 4. Ecco

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HOLY MOLY! L a s e r c u t o u t s a r e a b r e a t h o f f r e s h a i r — l i t e r a l l y. 1. Taos 2. Easy Street 3. Earth 4. Naot 5. Aetrex 6. Enjoiya

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A N OT E T O M Y Y O U N G E R S E L F

H E A RT A N D S O L E Wa y n e E l s e y, v e t e r a n r e t a i l e r, w h o l e s a l e r a n d f o u n d e r o f S o l e s 4 S o u l s , o n w h y y o u m a t t e r. DEAR WAYNE, 1981 was a tough year for you. With the thought of suicide and down to the final few hours before you were going to execute your plan, the delusion was shattered by a school teacher who said, “You matter! You can do anything you want, if you put your mind to it, and don’t let the world get you down.” To this day, those words have resonated and served as a guiding light. In fact, millions of people around the world have heard you express the very same sentiments through your writings, works and commitment to encouraging people always to rise and do the right thing. You matter, indeed. Now for a life in the shoe business that you’ll come to embrace and love…None of it is possible without Dennis Tiskiff and George Carter first believing in you and creating a fast-track career within GallenKamp Shoes. These two gentlemen (and that teacher) give you self-confidence and help you craft a trajectory to become a strong leader with a rapid growth path in the industry. It starts out on the salesfloor in 1981. You love retail—the pace, the excitement and working with customers to satisfy their needs. You rise the ranks to store manager while just a senior in high school. Life is good. But you want more. Specifically, you are looking for greater challenges. You join Stride Rite Corporation in 1985 as a District Manager. Jesse Giles, Bill Palozzi and Ralph LoVolo, to name a few of your managers, take a vested interest in you. They teach you the art of leadership. (It is impressive to see how people shine when they believe in you, isn’t it!) And you do shine. You rise the ranks again, becoming regional vice president over the span of just three years. The experience shapes and trains you for the executive positions you will soon hold. That comes first with becoming president and CEO of Footwear Specialties Intl. From there you move to be president of Kodiak – Terra, USA. But then your life is forever altered—for the good. It’s a few days after the great Indian Ocean tsunami of Dec. 26, 2004, when watching coverage on TV, you spot a child’s shoe washed up on a beach. It inspires you to literally “get up off the couch” and do something. That something is the creation of Soles4Souls (S4S), a charity that collets new and slightly worn shoes for donation to people in need around the world. S4S quickly becomes an industry go-to charity as well as a household name. Retailers, wholesalers, celebrities and people from all

walks of life set up collection drives. Shoes pour in and people who’ve lost everything following natural disasters and others living in extreme poverty are given the gift of shoes. For many, it’s their first steps to getting back on their feet. As head of S4S, you travel the world, delivering shoes and other aid firsthand. You organize trips for fellow shoe industry professionals to take part in these “vacation for good” excursions. It’s exhausting work at times, but you never tire from helping people in need. S4S continues to flourish to this day because of your ideas and vision. It’s changed the lives of millions worldwide. Great job! Getting back to those lifesaving words from your teacher…You’ve shouted those very words from the rooftops, written best-selling books on the topic and people are now even wearing #youmatter facemasks. You live by that credo—and the Golden Rule—every day. Your only hope is others walk a similar line. Like teach said, “You can do anything you want, if you put your mind to it.” Hard work, dedication and mentors are essential for your journey. Surround yourself with people that make deposits in your life versus withdrawals. Don’t let the world get you down, which can be tough at times, as people can be nasty, critical and untruthful. You’ll face much criticism by misinformed and self-interested folks who are just stroking their egos. But stick to the high road, retain your integrity and be transparent of every action in your life. Love your haters, too. Finally, as you ready for early retirement, let me be the first to say, “Great job, man!” While you’re not quite done working—you continue to impact the world with various startups, including Funds2Orgs, and have groomed influential leaders to take Wayne Elsey Enterprises to the next level, it’s nearing that time for you to be a full-time “Doopda” for your three awesome grandkids and to enjoy the beach! You deserve it! The second chapter of your life awaits. In parting, always put family first. Your daughter, Melissa, is a beacon of light, and her beautiful kids all carry forward a brightness that lend a spring to your step. Everyone says you glow whenever you talk about them. So keep being a great Doopda, as they all have your charisma and drive. Be proud. Your childhood dream of a beachfront penthouse and so much more has been fulfilled! #youmatter

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O p por tu nity K nocks B e c k ’ s S h o e s , t h e S i l i c o n Va l l e y - b a s e d c o m f o r t and work chain, is expanding amid a pandemic and ongoing retail apocalypse, seeing tremendous opportunities despite the historic headwinds. BY GREG

AT THE HEIGHT of the pandemic’s first wave this spring, Beck’s Shoes closed for about 48 hours. But then it got its lawyer involved to reopen on the grounds it’s an essential business that supplies safety footwear to first responders. That is most certainly true, as safety footwear for the 17-store chain (plus four mobile trucks and an ecommerce CEO Adam Beck and COO Julia Beck-Gomez site) amounts to a hefty 40 percent of its overall sales. But there was another reason Beck’s scrambled to get as many of its stores open ASAP—to keep paying its employees. “Everyone was freaking out and closing down and we decided to keep our doors open,” says Adam Beck, CEO, noting the store did about 25 percent of normal sales, or just enough to cover payroll. “We have lots of people who’ve been long-term team members and we wanted to keep money going into their family households.” Julia Beck-Gomez, president and COO, knew it was just the right thing to do, which her 24-year-old stepdaughter repeatedly confirmed by saying how impressed she was by the commitment. (She was immediately let go from her employer by a text.) “She was amazed at how we were trying so hard to keep our employees in a good place and that we practice what we preach,” Beck-Gomez says. “We talk a lot about being a family-owned business with an amazing culture, and that our team is a part of our family. We put our money where our mouth is, and I’m extremely proud of the decision we made during this terrible time and believe it will benefit our entire company going forward.” Beck says it already has. “With so many of their friends and family losing their jobs, the fact that this little mom-and-pop, multigenerational shoe chain kept them employed created a lot of loyalty to us,” he says. “I’ve been managing retail sales now for over two decades, and our team now is the most willing and competent one that we’ve ever had.”

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DUTTER

FAMILY VALUES Beck’s Shoes is a family-owned and operated business in the truest sense. Beck and Beck-Gomez represent the fifth-generation to sit at the helm of the business founded by their great grandfather, Ole Beck, in 1919, amid another global pandemic, coincidently. The duo grew up in the business (see sidebar, p. 20) and, since taking day-to-day charge about five years ago, have set Beck’s on a transformative course of solid growth and expansion. In fact, as many retailers nationwide downsize, or disappear, Beck’s is opening stores—two during the pandemic, in Yuba, CA (May 1) and Medford, OR (July 1). And additional store acquisitions are in the works. “We have three more on the horizon, one slated to open this spring,” Beck confirms, adding that he sees six to 10 more acquisition opportunities within its current market region. Adds the numbers-oriented An array of top brands awaits shoppers, as well as a custom leather scent.


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Beck-Gomez, “It just has to pencil out: can we get the right lease, do we have the right occupancy and the payroll percentage for that space? If we check all the boxes, it doesn’t matter if it’s located in a mall, a strip center or if its free standing.” Adding shoe stores before this pandemic was newsworthy considering the recent industry-wide cosolidation, but during it borderlines on, “Are you nuts?” But Beck assures the moves are well-thought-out and sound. For starters, the new additions are takeovers of the Johnson Shoes chain and a Don’s Shoes location. They have proven track records and the deals were already in the works well before the pandemic. “Johnson’s has been around for about 105 years, but they didn’t have a next generation and we’d been in discussions with the family since October,” he says, adding that Don’s opened in 1974 and did $1.6 million in sales last year. “We didn’t want to slow things down and we were able to renegotiate with the landlords and the families to make the transitions happen.” Beyond that, Beck is a firm believer that when opportunity knocks, answer the door. “These opportunities probably won’t exist in six months,” he says. “Once doors are closed for more than that, consumers move

on.” The potential reward in these cases, he adds, is more than worth any risks involved. “These retailers have spent decades and countless hours of blood, sweat, tears and marketing dollars building their businesses, and we believe we’ve come up with a recipe that lets us step in and keep them thriving.” What’s more, Beck’s has the infrastructure in place to absorb the businesses. “I think we can handle 25 stores without having to do anything different in terms of us our backroom capabilities,” he says. Such a progressive and positive business outlook, Beck admits, runs counter to the mindset of many of his independent retailer colleagues. “Even during good times, the mindset is generally negative,” he says. “It’s always something…the Internet, Amazon, DTC, the economy, regulations, politicians, etc. They’re focusing their energy on aspects that they have no control over and, as a result, aren’t able to be as productive when it comes to leading their businesses.” Beck-Gomez believes too many retailers also rely on price to be a point of differentiation and, in the Amazon age, it’s a losing battle. “If we were to just compete in the price game, we’d fail 100 percent of the time,” she says.

Balance of Power HOW TWO COUSINS COMPLEMENT EACH OTHER TO RUN BECK’S SHOES SEAMLESSLY. PERHAPS ADAM BECK and Julia Beck-Gomez were destined to run Beck’s Shoes one day. As fifth generation members of the shoe retailing family, they have leather for veins. Both worked regularly in the stores during their school-age years, starting from the ground up—sweeping floors and working with customers to the tune of 10-hour days at $2 an hour (Beck) and toiling long hours in the warehouse, billing, bookkeeping and truck run departments (Beck-Gomez). They learned the ins and outs of the business from their fathers and they didn’t take any shortcuts. Still, there was no guarantee that the mantle would be handed to them one day. They had to earn it. Beck knew by sophomore year in high school that he wanted to make the family business a career. By junior year, he was already working full-time, thanks to his guidance counselor who rearranged his class schedule. As the story goes, the counselor, who had brought up the subject of attending college only to be rebuffed, came into agreement with Beck’s alternate plan once he learned where he worked. He happened to be a (happy) customer whose problem feet (bunions and plantar fasciitis) had been alieved.

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“He loved the store,” Beck says. “He made it possible so I could get out of school at noon to work and he also got me into business and computer courses that set an early foundation for some of the skillsets I’d need to be successful without going to college.” Beck-Gomez did attend college, albeit for a year only to discover that her interests and heart lied with Beck’s Shoes as well. “I had this amazing opportunity to work in the family business, or I could stumble my way through college trying to figure out what the world has to offer me,” she says. “I decided to put all my eggs into this family business basket and the rest is history.” A history that’s still being written. The dynamic retailing duo is relatively young (both turned 40 this year) with decades of industry experience under their belts. You might say they are just getting started, working together effortlessly and blending each other’s skillsets to form an uber executive. Two heads really are better than one. “We fill in the blanks for one another,” Beck says. “We’ve always had a lot of respect for each other, but we also have different skillsets. We make a great team.” Adds Beck-Gomez, “We push each other in different ways. He’s very much a visionary and I’m very detail oriented.” That complement of attributes transfers to

middle management. “Seeing us collaborating well makes them more confidant in the overall process and direction,” Beck says. As for any added pressure to carry on the family legacy and take Beck’s to the next level, the answer is no. Emotions like that are taking out of business decisions, something Beck says his father taught him early on. “It’s like buying your first home, don’t fall in love with the home, fall in love with the deal,” he says. “It has to make sense in dollars and cents. It has to check the boxes. As long as we are doing that and we have the right people working for us, it takes a lot of the pressure off.” In the meantime, the cousins love their jobs as much as they love working with family. “I love the camaraderie,” Beck-Gomez says. “Even though we’re growing, I still feel the small, familial connections with our team. And being able to create opportunity around us and to see that creates opportunity for everyone makes me excited about every day.” Beck, for his part, feels he’s living the American dream. “I’m in control of my own fate, working for myself and alongside amazingly talented people,” he says. “As Ronald Reagan said, “Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority and don’t interfere as long as the policy you’ve decided upon is being carried out.’” —G.D.


“It’s just not feasible for us to go down that road. Instead, we recognize what’s missing from the shopping experience, where we have so much opportunity to engage with consumers in a unique sensory experience and in that moment.” It’s why Beck and Beck-Gomez focus on aspects that they can control— like sales training, employee morale, cash flow, inventory management and the in-store experience. They don’t sweat what Amazon is doing. “The pandemic gave the opportunity for us to slow down, hone in on a few aspects and actually get a lot better on our processes,” Beck-Gomez confirms. “We’ve only gotten stronger as far as the decisions we are making and the processes we are implementing.” BASICS TRAINING As Beck’s weathered through the pandemic-induced slowdown, it focused on backroom logistics as well as recruitment, be it assessing, attracting and developing talent. With respect to the former, Beck-Gomez says a key aspect was maintaining a healthy position from a cash flow perspective. “It was knowing that we can pivot so much more quickly when we are in a healthy position,” she says, citing its approximately 100 industrial accounts with many area municipalities and corporations (including Apple) as providing a solid base. “At any given time, we have $500,000 in that pending file—money owed to us,” she explains. “Having that in a very healthy place is more essential than ever. As they say, cash is king, and that’s definitely the truth.”

Beck says that solid financial foundation enabled the chain to dial in on its casual assortment—starting with negotiating better terms for both sides. “Because of our good cash position, we were able to help some of our vendor partners liquidate inventories as many were severely over-inventoried,” he says. “We also passed on savings to our customers while maintaining a decent margin, so it was a win-winwin.” The chain was also “very aggressive” with marketing to draw people into its stores. It helps a great deal that Beck’s business is diversified. It’s not beholden to one format, location or category. It’s a key reason why the chain is weathering this challenge as well as the others it has overcome over the past century. “When industrial is doing well, sometimes the fashion side might not be and vice-versa,” Beck explains. “It’s always been a case of push and pull, depending on the economy, consumer confidence, fashion trends…there are so many factors driving those segments, but they all kind of average out over the years.” With 40 percent of the business in work sales (led by HyTest), Beck’s then breaks down to 20 percent for insoles and socks (Aetrex, Superfeet, Wigwam, Feetures and Incrediwear lead the way), 15 percent athleisure/ running (primarily New Balance and Hoka One One with a little bit of Brooks mixed in) and 25 percent casual. Of the latter, there are about 60 brands in the mix and Beck cites SAS, Ugg, Dansko, Clarks, Birkenstock and Arcopedico as key players. In addition, several up-and-comers round out the selection. “Revere is going to be a huge partner for us, and >37

STYLE TIFFANITA

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SPRING/SUMMER 2021

Easy Does It

A fusion of fashion and function delivers versatility and value.

B Y E M I LY B E C K M A N

Florsheim

RAINBOW CONNECTION Why pick one color when you can have them all?

Jan & Jul

K-Swiss

Hoo Shoes Star Textil Kensie Girl

SOCK VALUE Merrell

22 footwearplusmagazine.com • september 2020

Light, breathable and versatile, knit sneakers offer comfort and performance.


Gola

Nanette Lepore

Josmo

HEAR THEM ROAR

Toms Vans

From cheetah to leopard, big cat prints continue to be fiercely popular.

Keds

TO DYE FOR

Modern twists on the groovy hand-spun treatment range from shibori to starburst.

Skechers

SLIP IN SLIDES A ’90s revival for the sand to the streets.

Reebok

Bearpaw Wootie

ATHLETIC BUILD Polo Ralph Lauren

Kensie Girl

Edgy color-blocking and chunky soles add muscle to classic sneakers.

2020 september • footwearplusmagazine.com 23



IN

P H OTO G R A P H Y BY T R E V E T T M C C A N D L I S S

FOR SPRING/SUMMER ’21.

HEAT UP CLASSIC SILHOUETTES

SPLASHES AND ALL-OVER

SATURATED COLORS

Suede pumps by Sarah Flint.


26


Espadrille wedge with terry cloth upper by Andre Assous. Opposite: Gola retro sneakers. 27


Ballerina flats with snake print cap toes by Italeau. Opposite: Dansko leather slip-ons. 28


29


30


Snake print leather flat by Musse & Cloud.

Enjoiya perforated sneaker with jute wrap and lug-wedge sole.

Minnetonka suede moccasins.

Keds tennies. 31


32


Earth leather thongs. Opposite: Suede sport sandals by Ron White. 33


34


Strappy sandal by Ecco.

Seychelles block heel sandal.

Opposite: Espadrille slingback by PropĂŠt. Model: Ksenia Ocheredko/Fenton Model Mgmt.; fashion editor: Ann Loynd Burton; stylist: Nancy Campbell. 35


EDITOR’S PICKS

FL OWER S H OW

Full bloom and all-over motifs are a rite of spring.

Twisted X

DESIGNER CHAT

DESIGNERS POSSESS ALL sorts of unique backgrounds, but it’s safe to assume not too many have 20 years of service in the U.S. Army that involves rising to the rank of major in charge of VIP missions, special-ops and airfield logistics. But that’s the background of Natasha Norie Standard, a former paratrooper, who jumped into the shoe business as founder, designer and CEO of her comfort luxury brand in 2017. Standard says her military experience prepared her well for the daily battles startups must overcome to gain ground in what can be an unpredictable and unforgiving industry. In fact, it was while earning a master’s degree at Savannah College of Art and Design where she discovered many similar traits required to be successful. “I was amazed at the amount of dedication, hard work, tenacity and resiliency it takes to bring my ideas to market,” says Standard, who also possesses a master’s degree in administration, a B.S. degree in marketing and studied at Arsutoria footwear design school in Milan, Italy. “Those were the same character traits I used to become a successful military officer.” Standard’s extensive travels around the world—52 countries, to be exact—also plays a defining role in her design aesthetic. “My signature bow has some Japanese influence and all my shoes (SRP: $195-$450) are named after woman warriors from around the world, be it Joan of Arc, Harriet Tubman and Game of Thrones characters,” she says, describing her collection of platform sneakers, ballerina flats and heels as “feminine, fashion-forward and noticeable, yet puts a smile on customers’ faces.” Standard adds, “I design for comfort and then style. My designs have strong lines, interesting details and my heels are mainly block and 3.75 inches high—I’ll never design a four-inch heel.” Standard believes her women’s perspective in a male-dominated field is another distinct advantage. She knows what women desire and what’s wearable from design and construction aspects. Her collaboration with Arise-S to facilitate the Italian production ensures her high standards are met. “They help acquire all the materials that I can possibly find and are instrumental in helping me bring the most beautifu and walkable shoes to market,” Standard says. —Greg Dutter Who is the Norie Shoes woman? She’s a professional—attorneys, pharma sales, etc.—and requires corporate styles, but she’s also fashion-forward. She has luxury shoes in her closet and she’s the first in her friend group to sport a new trend or style. 36 footwearplusmagazine.com • september 2020

Ron White

Dansko

What’s the overall theme of your Spring ’21 collection? Keeping specific details that are the DNA of my young brand, like a single bow on the toe or ankle and stitching details at the toe or ankle. We’re also introducing our first slip-on, platform sandal and espadrille styles. Key colors are feminine, like rose (not pink) and apple green as well as snake prints, textural suedes and leathers, ostrich feathers, and prints. I have an open palette and no limits when it comes to materials. Do you have any design muses? My muses are women who make style and appearance seem effortless. My pet peeve is a woman who’s dressed to kill but she’s wearing shoes that are killing her feet. I also take a lot of inspiration from all the countries where I’ve lived and visited, like South Korea, Japan, Italy, Germany and Iraq. Who are designers you admire? Mui Mui/ Prada, Valentino, Brian Atwood and Tamara Mellon. I would love to meet Tamara Mellon. I would absolutely ask her to be my mentor, if the opportunity ever presents itself.

Is there a perfect shoe? The absolute perfect shoe is my “Sarah,” a ballerina flat with our signature geometric bow and, the kicker, four millimeters of memory foam insole. Awesome! Where do you like to shop? I do most of my shopping in Milan, Florence and New York. What is your favorite city in the world? Nice, France. It’s sunny, the beaches are great, the food yummy. Second is Seoul, South Korea. I love the food and the cheap, one-day plastic surgery on any part of your body. Where do you envision Norie Shoes in five years? As an international luxury brand selling more than 10,000 pairs annually in select large retailers and boutiques around the world. We are working on deals right now with boutiques in Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait. What do you love most about designing shoes? I love the entire design process— research, sketching, figuring out if my sketch is wearable, seeing prototypes and finally seeing my shoes on customers’ feet.

E D I TO R ’ S P I C K S P H OTO G R A P H Y BY N A N C Y C A M P B E L L

NATA S H A S TA N DA R D : N O R I E S H O E S


continued from page 21 the newest one is Biza,” Beck says, noting that the chain now has a Director of Branding focused on the overall mix and assortment. “We’ve gotten more favorable deals, so we’ve been able to increase some of our SKU counts, adding some color pops.”

encounter,” Beck-Gomez says. “When you walk into one of our stores, you can tell that the people who work there want to blow your socks off.” Customers know right away that they are in a Beck’s store and not just any shoe store—starting with 300 to 500 visible logos. “It’s not gaudy or in your face,” Beck APPEALING TO THE SENSES assures. “But there’s very minimal vendor An enticing array of leading brands is just call-out because we’re creating and selling one ingredient to the Beck’s recipe. Beck our brand first.” and Beck-Gomez say walking into one of The emphasis on Beck’s branding is just their stores is a sensory overload of the one aspect to a complete redesign ushered good kind. It spans a vibe, look, smell in by Beck and Beck-Gomez. The duo has (aroma machines installed in the vents invested millions of dollars into upgrading all pump out a customized leather scent) its locations, which includes an array of flat and sound (a proprietary playlist plays screen TVs offering original programming hots from the 50s to today to appeal to its as one example. “Ultimately, it’s like inviting broad demographic). The execs believe the Back in the day (1955, to be exact): a horde of customers customers into our homes, where all five difference creates enormous opportunity can’t wait to shop Beck’s Shoes in Salinas, CA. sensory elements are pleasantly engaged,” amid a homogenized store landscape. “I Beck says. “We introduce ourselves by first name, we offer customers a tour feel like few are doing it, and that’s leaving a gaping hole for the ones know and a refreshment. It’s all very authentic, and to do so you have to have the how to do it well,” Beck says, adding that not every customer wants to shop right people in those positions. That’s why we hire personalities and then we for shoes online. “They want and need the service.” Beck-Gomez adds that teach them the business.” the stores feature a blend of old and new school elements, like measuring feet on a Brannock device as well as offering Aetrex’s scanning technology. GOAL-ORIENTED The final Beck’s ingredient is its courteous and knowledgeable salesforce. The way Beck and Beck-Gomez see it, Beck’s biggest competition is themselves. “They are professionals that pride in exceeding a customer’s expectations, Rather than look over their shoulder, they are focused on doing their best and that’s our mission statement: to exceed the expectations of everyone we

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U P C L O S E C O M F O RT

A Mindful Approach Third Mind launch hits on key consumer touchstones.

THE LAUNCH OF Third Mind, a brand that combines classic dress styles with the comfort and fit of a sneaker, all with little harm to the environment, has been in production phase for two years, but the idea has been stewing much longer inside the mind of its founder and CEO, Steve Hamel. The industry veteran of 30-plus years (stops have included Merrell, Keen, Native Shoes and Steve Madden) says those past experiences showed him the right—and wrong ways—to go about shoe production. In fact, the premise behind Third Mind is as much about optimizing manufacturing processes as it’s about using the latest sustainable materials. “The disconnect between product design, engineering and manufacturing is so severe in most companies” Hamel says, noting that too much energy, time and money is spent on product development. “In fact, my desire to come up with the right blend of creativity and engineering is how we came to reimagining classics as a product focus.” Those classics include wing tip, penny loafer and cap toe styles made with 100-percent recycled plastic uppers. (Each pair prevents roughly 200 water bottles from going into landfills and waterways.) The lightweight shoes also feature outsoles made of 30 percent recycled rubber. The brand goes through an extensive approval process for selecting suppliers that provide components, which include requirements for fair wages, renewable energy programs and pollution-eliminating processes. Each product must pass rigid quality control tests, including being vetted for harmful chemicals before it can be taken to market. Hamel says Third Mind’s commitment to being a sustainable brand is an ongoing quest, and the company’s goal is to create every shoe from fully recycled materials by the end of 2021. Hamel admits it’s not easy being green. “Finding suppliers with reliable documentation showing true sustainability takes discipline,” he says, adding that the sourcing staff had to be “untrained” that costs shouldn’t always trump sustainability. “Being willing to spend more on materials to be responsible is one point of differentiation from most brands,” he adds. “We’re working very 38 footwearplusmagazine.com • september 2020

hard on producing more sustainable soles, and we have a big goal to figure out water-resistant or waterproof techniques that won’t trash the environment. Fortunately, our team has rallied around the concept of being responsible.” Any breakthroughs are also there for the taking: “I’m willing to share all of our sources so that other brands can achieve a stronger position in terms of being sustainable as a benchmark for manufacturing,” he says. Hamel believes Third Mind’s commitment to doing right by the environment will appeal to anyone willing to research what the brand stands for in terms of being responsible and inclusive. “Realistically, that points to Millennials and Gen Z,” he says. “They believe climate change will negatively impact their lives, are willing to fight for brighter futures and are devoted to sustainable fashion.” Another target customer is anyone who wears sizes 15-18. As Hamel well knows, most dress shoes are only available up to size 13 or 14 before custom orders are required. “More stylish options in larger sizes is part of our core philosophy,” he says. “Now everyone gets to look dapper!” Third Mind, based in Los Angeles, is launching DTC, but Hamel says wholesale opportunities will be considered. The suggested retail price for the collection is $125. “As someone who grew up in a government housing project, I understand that’s a lot of money, especially for people who have been hit hard by Covid-19,” he says. “That’s why I’ve challenged our marketing team to identify those in need with the goal of figuring out ways to help those less fortunate to get back on their feet.” Social responsibility is a key component of Third Mind’s playbook. Efforts include hiring disabled employees, fair wage practices and support of LGBTQ causes. Having lived in several countries around the world and always welcomed, Hamel is committed to stomp out racism and reach out to those less fortunate. “We’re identifying partnerships with nonprofits across the country, looking for innovative ways to empower those in need, give back and pay it forward,” he says. “We’re just getting started, but we have big things coming on the horizon.” —Greg Dutter


Signs of the Times Dansko introduces two new programs for a pandemic-changed world. The Kane clog is for the at-home lifestyle.

EVEN IF A vaccine comes online in the next six months, most pundits say the world will be forever changed. Where we work, how we exercise, what we prioritize and how we shop will not revert to preCovid-19 times. On the footwear front, matters of value, versatility and comfort will be more important than ever. Enter two new shoe programs by Dansko that addresses the new normal. The Kane, a backless clog, is designed for the at-home lifestyle. It’s a lightweight solution for the warmer months—ideal for around the house, tending the garden and hitting the local farmer’s market. “Many of our products are appropriate for the ‘sofa to street’ trend that has emerged, and we continue to explore new opportunities to broaden our casual comfort story,” says Tiss Dahan, vice president of marketing for Dansko. The Kane’s uppers are perforated for ventilation and are easy to wipe clean, while the removable insole features Dansko Natural Arch support technology and an EVA made of 50 percent “I’m Green” carbon negative bio-based material (derived from sugarcane) that’s lightweight and cushioned. The outsole is channeled for durability and some styles are printed with a natural wood grain look. Available in yellow, blue and black versions as well as two exclusive prints—vintage tropical and gray geo—the Kane’s suggested retail is $80. Next up, the Pace, is a lightweight performance walking shoe that addresses the need to get out of the house, but not necessarily to hit the gym. Especially noteworthy is the footbed, which features Dansko’s new Natural Arch Plus technology that provides lateral and medial heel support while Propel launch pads facilitate forward walking motion to minimize fatigue and enhance propulsion and acceleration. “An independent study showed that the Pace improved acceleration through walking,” confirms Sal Agati, executive vice president of Design and Global Sourcing, adding that walking has seen a resurgence, both for fitness and from a wellness standpoint. “The Pace is for the woman who understands that walking for fitness and wellness requires technology, cushioning and support. Comfort is a priority, but she appreciates style and technology as well.” Available in navy, gray, black and yellow, the Pace (SRP: $140) features mesh uppers treated with 3M Scotchgard for stain resistance while the outsole is made of durable, lightweight rubber. —G.D.

continued from page 37 and improving on that whenever possible. “We look at our business objectively and try to do better than we did yesterday, because ultimately that’s what is going to build us and create success,” Beck-Gomez says. “We never want to just sit back and say it’s good enough.” Beck uses an Olympic athlete analogy of aiming for a PR (personal record). “Those athletes aren’t training to beat the person from France, Switzerland or wherever, they’re competing against themselves to be their best version,” he says. “And we want Beck’s Shoes to be the best version of ourselves. Even though our competition is good and fierce, as long as we focus on what we can do to get better at every day—having that Olympian mindset—will drive us forward.” But it’s not all training/striving and no play. “Fun is a huge part of our company culture—we get together for parties, poker nights and fantasy football drafts,” Beck confirms. “It’s all part of working hard and playing hard. We like to eat good food and drink nice wine, but in order to do so we have to be successful. We need to always be working on achieving our PR.” Part of that effort involves recognizing employees whenever appropriate—like giving gift certificates at their favorite restaurant in recognition of a wedding anniversary. “We’re always looking for opportunities to reward as recognition,” Becks says. “It’s one of our core values, along with growth, integrity, leadership and teamwork.” SMOOTH SAILING Despite the stormy industry seas of late, Beck and Beck-Gomez believe Beck’s will weather the storm—and any others that might arise in the days, months and years ahead. They believe they have crafted the right recipe of store design, merchandising plan, sales processes and talent. “It’s all lined up and a well-oiled machine that’s working well,” Beck confirms. Even tremendous social unrest and epic economic uncertainty, not to mention industry challenges like wholesalers ramping up DTC efforts and Amazon showing no signs of slowing down, dampens their outlook. Heck, both Beck and Beck-Gomez admit to being big-time Amazon customers, nor are they overly offended by brands who sell DTC. “I love Amazon because the more time I save buying from them, the more time I can put into my business for it to be successful. And ditto for Julia,” Beck says. “And DTC is just smart.” Why, exactly? Because the cousins believe there’s room for all formats, and it’s about finding the right partners who are on the same page as Beck’s. “There have been vendors who’ve said our business model doesn’t match up and we have the upmost respect for that,” Beck says. “Now do we make decisions based on how much DTC is part of a brand’s business model? Perhaps. Do we look for vendors that partner in a way that we need to? Absolutely. Again, it’s about aspects that are in our control and not losing sleep over the one that aren’t.” The approach has meant some brand partnerships have ended and others may be on the way out. But there are plenty of new ones that have formed in their replace. “We have tremendous new partners who’ve been absolutely amazing through this whole Beck’s Shoes evolution,” Beck says. “They’re thinking outside of the box with us and not just saying yes to our terms, rather they’re saying let’s build on this together.” He adds, “The good partners are the ones who continue to communicate even after the deals are signed.” Ultimately, Beck and Beck-Gomez are confident about the future because, well, they’ve done the math. They figure that within the cities where its stores are located they need to do business with only 1.5 to 3 percent of the populations to be successful. “If we can tap into 2.5 percent, we can be very successful,” Beck says. “And if we can sell five percent, we’re probably going to be retire in the next five years.” Beck is confident they can hit those benchmarks. What’s more, Beck-Gomez says the room for growth within its cities is astronomical. “We don’t feel like we’re ever going to run out of people needing or wanting to go into a store for a full-service experience to find footwear that’s best for them,” she says. Adds Beck, “It’s taken a long time to get here as we’ve implemented a lot of changes across all facets of our business, but it’s why we’re so bullish, because the opportunity is there.” •

“The good partners are the ones who continue to communicate even after the deals are signed.”

2020 september • footwearplusmagazine.com 39


L A S T SH O T

Beach Read

Sarah Flint

Butter

BC

Shell Game 40 footwearplusmagazine.com • september 2020

Subtle to all-over, timeless tortoiseshell patterns add warm elegance and detailed interest.

P H OTO G R A P H Y BY N A N C Y C A M P B E L L

serve ould be



Featur ing Aetr ex or thotic suppor t and me mor y foam cushioning for supe r ior comfor t

H e a l t h y C o m f o r t S t a r t s H e r e !™


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