Footwear Plus | July 2013

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JULY 2013 • $10.00


Sneakers Bloom Tropical Prints for Spring

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Fashion Inspires Us Value Drives Us

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A Division of White Mountain

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An abundance of brands and styles. More than 1,600 lines all under one roof. Everything for your spring inventory. At the show consistently ranked the industry’s best by show attendees.



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Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Fashion Editor Lyndsay McGregor Associate Editor Social Media Editor Brittany Leitner Assistant Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Melodie Jeng Contributing Photographer

12 Cloud Chasing The future of retail systems may live in the cloud. By Lyndsay McGregor



14 Good Timing Steve Libonati, head of Ralph Libonati Footwear, on why El Naturalista, Blundstone and Vivobarefoot are primed for growth. By Greg Dutter

20 Recharge and Recover The emerging recovery footwear category can do a body—and a bottom line—good. By Brittany Leitner

24 Out of This World 6 Editor’s Note 8 My Turn 10 This Just In 38 What’s Selling 68 Street 70 Comfort 72 Last Word

From a garage startup to digital powerhouse and, soon, brick-andmortar, Planet Shoes founder Philippe Meynard reveals all. By Miriam Droit

28 On the Job Occupational brands punch in with lightweight, athletic-inspired styles for Spring ’14. By Lyndsay McGregor

On the cover: Gotta Flurt hi-top, Topshop bra top, skirt by Rebecca Vallance. Above, from left: Lacoste textured sneaker, DC Shoes leopard print tennie, metallic sneaker by Miucha. Photography by Jamie Isaia. Styling by Kim Johnson; hair by Seiji, The Wall Group; makeup by Deanna Melluso, The Magnet Agency; model: Barbara Berger, IMG.

The latest work boots: loaded with performance features packaged in versatile styling. By Lyndsay McGregor

Sneakers get that added kick with juicy colors and jungle-print patterns. By Angela Velasquez

54 In & Out Our outdoor preview spans aprés yoga to trail-worthy hikers to water-friendly solutions. By Angela Velasquez

PRODUCTION Tim Jones Deputy Art Director Production Manager Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Joel Shupp Circulation Manager Mike Hoff Webmaster Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ Circulation 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300

32 Man Power

42 Tropical Punch

Judy Leand Contributing Editor

Corporate 9Threads 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300

JULY 2013

Xen Zapis Chairman Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno Chief Financial Officer Debbie Grim Controller

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 Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl., New York, NY, 10003-7118. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48.00 in the U.S. Rates oustide the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10.00. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2008 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

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editor’s note shock values

What is Kinky? RECENTLY I GOT a phone call while in the bowels of the Times Square subway station about this month’s fashion shoot while it was in progress. My creative director wanted to know whether it would be okay to use a men’s shoe on the female model. Having just seen the Broadway smash Kinky Boots a few days before, I immediately thought about the musical’s storyline. There doesn’t seem to be anything taboo in men wearing women’s knee-high red leather stiletto boots these days, if the strong ticket sales and the Tony Award for Best Musical are any indications. But try explaining on a crowded train platform—shouting over screeching subways cars—that it’s okay for a woman to wear a man’s shoe. That snippet of conversation turned a few heads. Based on the smirks I got, I guess more than one stranger construed it as kinky. I was undeterred by the glances and went on to explain—loudly— that we have artistic license to do whatever we please. I doubt we’ll be arrested by the fashion police for featuring a woman wearing a men’s sneaker. The fact that the shoe in question is a tangerine laceup with a watercolor effect bolstered my belief that it could appeal to a woman. And that pretty much goes for our entire Spring ’14 sneaker preview (p. 42). It’s heavy on tropical-themed, gender-bending prints and colors. While I wouldn’t go so far as to describe these spring kicks as kinky, they do offer a tempting twist on a traditional silhouette. My cell phone conversation got me wondering what really qualifies as kinky these days. My definition of the word covers anything that might turn a head if overheard on a subway platform. We’re not easily shocked as a society anymore, which can be good and bad. The country’s changing stance on gay rights, for example, is a sign that Americans are increasingly tolerant about what was once considered taboo. On the other hand, the fact that we are becoming accustomed to mass shootings is intolerable. When it comes to the issue of government surveillance, it appears Americans are divided. Some are shocked and outraged. Others aren’t surprised. They deem

it a necessary infringement to protect citizens from a terrorist attack. Both opinions have merit. What I find amusing amid this debate is that many of the people who fall into the shocked-and-outraged camp happily emit a daily torrent of personal information via Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and the like. Who needs Big Brother when millions of Americans are divulging every detail about their personal lives for the world to see, knowing that the kinkiest parts are likely to go viral? Being outraged about our government overstepping its bounds while embracing social media seems a tad hypocritical, no? Back in the world of retail, there are plenty of developments more surprising than gender-bending shoe styles. This month’s Special Report (p. 12) delves into the merits of cloud-based retail computing systems that, among other things, may make cash registers go the way of dinosaurs. Similarly, pop-up shops have opened of late that use interactive iPads to custom design and order goods—sans any exchange of cash. And Kate Spade’s new Saturday shop, located in New York’s SoHo district, allows shoppers to order items via a virtual storefront window and then have them delivered by courier within the hour in Manhattan. At the other end of the spectrum, our profile of Internet retailer Planet Shoes (p. 24) reveals founder Philippe Meynard’s next big move: opening his first brickand-mortar location in Massachusetts next year as part of what he says is the next step in providing the ultimate customer experience. Then there’s our feature on the state of work footwear (p. 28). It delves into the latest technologies and trends, one of which is the growing popularity of pullon farm and ranch boots, thanks primarily to Texas and Louisiana drillers who have flocked to northern states like North Dakota, Montana and Michigan to partake in the fracking for fossil fuels boom. And there it is in a nutshell: What once would have been considered kinky boots in those necks of the woods are fast becoming the new normal.

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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Death of a Salesman? An open letter about the (fill in the blank) customer that nearly broke this dedicated retailer’s spirit.

I AM SITTING at my desk at 11:45 a.m. on a Saturday when one of my managers requests that I come out to the selling floor (as I have instructed them to do when needed) to assist in her efforts to close a sale. I greet the woman who has journeyed from Beaver, Pennsylvania, located about an hour’s drive from our store in Sharon. I am informed she wears a 7 slim on one foot and a 6 slim on the other. I try to divine from this customer what she is looking for style-wise, but she is unresponsive. I am wondering if she has trouble verbalizing or is being just plain difficult. We take it upon ourselves first to show her some styles from our sales racks, starting with black flats since I know I’ll likely have the hard-to-fit size in that color in stock. We show her 10 or so flats and low-heel styles. She doesn’t like any of them. After some prodding, it is determined that, yes, black is fine but she only wants a classic low-heel pump sans frills. There is nothing on the sales rack that satisfies her. We then escort her to the front of the store to one of our sit-and-fit areas to make sure she is comfortable while we conduct a thorough search in our stockroom to find shoes that I believe would be perfect based on her stated preferences. We bring them out to her. One pair is a 7 slim and the other comes in 6 slim. I intend to sell her both pairs and discount each 25 percent off the listed price. While it’s a non-requested customer accommodation, it’s a lesson taught by my father decades ago and has been store policy ever since: If the customer wears two completely different sizes, give them a discount and you will own this customer, too. After a good while spent fitting the customer properly, we discover that her true size is a 7 super-slim on one foot and a 5 1/2 medium on the other, which also required a bit of stretching. The 6 slim didn’t fit at all—it was too long and too tight. I’m proud to say we fit her in exactly the size she required. The shoes in question were 13/8 kidskin pumps with a slight center gore insert. The price was $89.95 a pair that, with the discount, came to $65 each. She balked. I then offered to try and make the 7 super-slim mate fit her other

foot with some padding and stretching—otherwise known as performing fit miracles—and offer the one pair for $70. Before hearing a response, I made the mistake of asking her what other colors she might like in an effort to be of further service to her. She replied, “I’d like a pair in white also.” Undeterred, we looked for a pair of low pumps in her special size in white. No luck. But the truth is we didn’t expect any luck because we never planned to carry 7 superslims in closed white pumps in mid-June of this year or last year or next year. Nonetheless, we came out of our stockroom with a nice selection of more or less closed-toe white sandals in slims because one must never come out empty handed, right? Of course, this customer wanted only the pump we fitted her in but now only in white, which was never even manufactured to begin with. I urged her to buy the two pairs of black shoes, citing all of the obvious reasons a good salesperson would. Like that they fit perfectly and the price is a real bargain. I even suggested that she buy the one pair and we’d give her a good price on just those. Nothing. I then tried to expedite a decision by politely saying, “Think about what you’d like to do.” I then left her with my salesperson. Later that day I was informed that this customer left without spending a penny. Worse, she never even thanked my salesperson for her time and effort. She ran us ragged. We did everything we could finding her a pair of shoes that fit and we were more than accommodating in terms of our price. She should have paid us extra for those shoes and left my salesperson a generous tip, to boot. I’m still exasperated and I have begun to feel hopeless. I’m still angry days later as I write this missive to fellow shoe retailers across this great land of ours. I have even vowed to myself that I will never again set foot on the selling floor in what are vain efforts to please increasingly impossible customers. Never again, my conscience screams repeatedly! I’m done waiting on customers—forever! I shall no longer tilt at windmills! Until, maybe, next Saturday, that is. Mark Jubelirer President Reyers Shoe Store

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Cloud Chasing

FROM ONLINE BEHEMOTHS like Amazon to the recent influx of mobile apps that instantly help shoppers find the lowest price available, the Internet is changing how consumers shop and spend. But while some brickand-mortar retailers may begrudge the online revolution, others are using the technology to rethink the way they do business—for the better. Looking to remain competitive, increase efficiency and cut costs, many traditional retailers are jumping on the cloud computing bandwagon, switching from cash registers and point-of-sale (POS) systems to a version that can be run from a tablet or mobile device. What is cloud computing, you might ask? First off, you probably already use it. For example, Netflix streaming allows you to watch a movie without downloading a huge file to your hard drive or purchasing it on DVD. Likewise, many people use Google Drive, Google’s alternative to Microsoft Office, to create and store all sorts of files. Cloud computing applies to POS systems in much the same way: It’s the ability to use the software you need as a web-based, pay-as-you-go service rather than buying a hard copy. Cloud solutions also allow for the free flow of information on a real-time basis between multiple stores and headquarters, instead of the nightly polling of data that many retailers know all too well. With cloud computing, devices like iPads and mobile phones are simply the means to perform your daily operations, but the information itself lives in the cloud. That means shop owners can manage their store’s POS from anywhere—the best cloud-based services have smartphone apps with live sales data at your fingertips. That’s exactly what appealed to Joe Sturm, director of customer relations for New York-based Baggu, when the colorful tote bag company opened a temporary summer shop in Brooklyn last year. “I worked Monday to Friday

and the pop-up was Friday to Sunday, but I could use the iPhone app to monitor sales from wherever I was—I could run sales reports and make changes from the beach,” Sturm shares. In addition to processing basic transactions, cloud-based systems can also be used for inventory tracking, payroll, e-mail receipts and more, and manage everything from coupons and loyalty programs to secure payment processing and real-time reporting. San Francisco’s Revel Systems built a matrix inventory from the ground up, based on what its clients wanted. “Say you have one shirt in 10 different sizes and 10 color options. With us you see one shirt on the screen, you click it and a pop-up tells you how many sizes and what colors you have in stock. You don’t have a messy screen,” explains Chris Ciabarra, the company’s co-founder and CTO. Another bonus is the ability to launch targeted e-mail campaigns with minimal effort on the retailer’s end. “When you send an e-mail receipt to a customer, the system collects his information and attaches it to that sale, which can be used to generate lists to let customers know about new products specific to their purchase,” says Jason Richelson, founder of New York-based ShopKeep POS. Traditional retailers spend their whole careers attempting to bring in business, notes Howard Davidowitz, chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm headquartered in New York. But that’s only half the battle. The key is to encourage them to stay in the store long enough to actually make a purchase. That’s where a mobile POS system can come in handy. Cashiers can approach people in a queue to take orders for merchandise, improving service while making it less likely that those customers will leave. For years, sales associates in >65


Forget clunky cash registers. The future of retail may be in cloud-based retail systems. By Lyndsay McGregor

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GOOD TIMING Steve Libonati, president of Ralph Libonati Footwear and distributors of El Naturalista, Blundstone and Vivobarefoot, on why the portfolio is positioned for significant growth in the coming seasons.

NOT TOO MANY executives in this industry can trace the very beginning of their footwear careers all the way back to the tender age of 8. But Steve Libonati can. And while the career launch point involved a stipend of just 10 cents an hour to help out (sort of ) at his father’s distribution warehouse in Springfield, NJ, it quickly became a ringside seat to the ensuing athletic footwear boom (the company was the first U.S. distributor of Adidas, an arrangement that covered the Northeast

states starting in the late ’60s and lasted through the mid ’80s) and also served as the ideal training ground for running a successful footwear distribution company. Over the past four-plus decades the Ralph Libonati Company portfolio has spanned athletic brands, including Pony, Bally Golf and (still) Power to its current stable of lifestyle brands, El Naturalista, Blundstone and Vivobarefoot. Over the years, Libonati has seen trends and recessions come and go. Along the way he’s garnered the market-wide perspective to know where to place his bets on emerging categories and brands that possess the unique DNA to stand out in a sea of sameness. Libonati’s current portfolio reflects just that: led by three brands possessing style distinction, product innovation and rich heritages. And while distinct from each other, Vivobarefoot, El Naturalista and Blundstone share similarities: “There’s a common thread running between the three in terms of customer base and comfort products,” Libonati offers. “It spans Euro fashion with El Naturalista to the Australian work heritage of Blundstone to the minimalist premise of Vivobarefoot.” To be sure the three brands are hitting on several hot-button consumer trends of late: comfort, versatile styling that spans work to weekend wear and the minimalist construction that addresses the health and wellness movement. And while there is plenty of competition in all of those segments, Libonati is confident his brands stand out as authentic and have the potential to be category leaders. El Naturalista is known for its vibrant colors, distinct outsole constructions and strong cause-related brand platform. The 120-year-old Blundstone is famous for its 500 Series boot, an iconic design that’s considered to be the first-ever Chelsea boot. And Vivobarefoot, created by Galahad Clark, a member of the Clarks footwear dynasty, is considered one of the first entries into the barefoot space. Libonati adds that the timing is ideal to introduce what are still relatively young brands in this market. In a recovering economy consumers are looking for something new, unique, authentic and comfortable, he offers. “I believe my brands are more unique than others. El Naturalista is crazy unique, Vivobarefoot has obviously got its own unique gig and Blundstone, while not as unique as those two, has that iconic hook.” Libonati adds, “I believe it will be a fun couple of years for all of them.” Nevertheless, Libonati knows that in order for each to reach their full potential, they must be managed and sold separately. It’s not a onestop shopping pitch. “It certainly helps that one brand may be a poten-

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O&A tial in with a retailer, but I don’t think it’s a lay-up and that’s not the overall intent,” he confirms. The fact is Libonati believes each brand possesses more than enough potential to carve its own niche. Specific to Vivobarefoot, Libonati believes now that the initial hype of barefoot running has ebbed, the category will settle into its long-term market potential that spans sport to lifestyle. “The barefoot story is still coming on strong,” he claims. “There’s just a lot of validity to the concept, and I really like Vivobarefoot’s breadth of styling.” As for whispers that the category might suffer a shaping and toning demise, Libonati predicts it’ll be anything but. “I can reference volumes of evidence that says barefoot is no snake Who is inspiring you most oil concept,” he says. “Show me similar right now? My family. levels of evidence regarding shaping Watching my 14-yearand toning. You can’t.” Libonati is conold son and 10-year-old fident there’s nothing trumped up with daughter live life and all the respect to the attributes to a minimalenjoyment that it involves. ist construction. “Barefoot is basically breaking it down to the essence of who What famous person we are as human beings. There’s no in history do you most magical computer inside the bottom admire? How about a of these shoes that claim to make your famous person in the shoe feet do anything special. You don’t business: my father (Ralph need air and gels.” Libonati). The way he Libonati is equally high on the lived his life and what he product purity of El Naturalista and believed in… I agree with all Blundstone. He’s also excited by the of it and try my best to live recent partnership with Blundstone my life by those standards. to manage its U.S. subsidiary (a similar arrangement is in the works with What was his best piece El Naturalista) that will involve conof business advice? More siderable more resources to market than a specific piece of the brand. “Wholly-owned subsidiaradvice it was how he ies run from outside the U.S. are not conducted business. He had the easiest things in the world to do,” integrity and morals. It was Libonati notes. “I have worked with never about trying to get enough brands over the years and the better of someone in a understand there’s a perception of deal. He was always trying what people think the U.S. represents and what the reality is. That’s what I offer to the equation.” Looking at the three brands as a whole, Libonati believes the timing just seems good for them to flourish. “Sometimes we can over-think things and mess it up,” he says. “These brands all have reasons for being. Whereas I have seen countless shoe brands over the years and have asked myself, ‘Well, what’s the point?’ That’s simply not the case with El Naturalista, Blundstone and Vivobarefoot.”

a naysayer in Vivobarefoot shoes. Both men and women say, ‘These are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.’ New concepts often get hyped and then there’s the inevitable backlash. What is it about Vivobarefoot that may make it avoid a similar fate? Being one of the originals in the category is a good starting point. Vivobarefoot also addresses the concept from a lifestyle aspect as well. It’s not all about performance running. It’s part of an overall lifestyle, and I think on the fashion side is where a ton of excitement lies. While I believe the concept has legitimacy on the performance side, it has suffered from a lot of misunderstandings. You can’t just buy a pair of minimalist running shoes and go for to make it the best outcome a run. You need to educate yourself on for everybody involved. how to run barefoot properly, starting with the proper heel strike. Fortunately, What is you most guilty you don’t have to go through that learnpleasure? Give me 18 holes ing process with a nice pair of our slipat Pebble Beach. ons or desert boots. What is your favorite Who exactly is this consumer? hometown memory? We span from the 18-year-old to the Growing up in Westfield, 58-year-old man and woman, and NJ, playing baseball, that’s mainly because people of all ages basketball or football. It’s are looking to improve their overall a great town. My sister physical and mental health. bought a house two doors away from where we grew Where do customers tend to shop up. Yet I live in California, for Vivobarefoot? having moved as far away as It’s a range of stores, which includes I could. So go figure. REI, Zappos, our e-commerce site and running specialty stores. It’s my job Anything left on your now to get them to shop the brand at career bucket list? Owning all the other outlets that haven’t reala brand. It’s really the only ly been exposed to Vivobarefoot and its thing that I haven’t done yet benefits just yet. I am confident they in this business. And since will understand what we are offering I’ve got a finite time on this them. Helping in this regard is Galahad planet it’s one more thing Clark, who is putting everything he has I’d like to give a shot. got into this brand.


With the minimalist running craze having cooled, what’s your take on the category going forward? My initial answer is it’s still going. One recent study I read noted minimalist running sales totaled more than $1.7 billion last year, and plenty of brands are still addressing barefoot (or zero drop) constructions. I also think people, in general, enjoy being barefoot. Part of my Vivobarefoot pitch is if you do—because it feels good and natural—you can’t really do that walking around concrete cities. So why not cover your foot with something really good looking that also offers protection but in a design that allows your foot to move naturally? It makes a ton of sense to me. It’s amazing when you put

Looking into your personal crystal ball, what do you see regarding Vivobarefoot’s full potential? I see a boatload of potential. From the performance side, whether it’s running, hiking or amphibious, the sell-through rates are the real deal. And then you throw in the lifestyle aspect and I see unending potential. While there’s certainly that consumer that says, ‘I don’t know if I want to run in a pair,’ they certainly don’t mind wearing a pair casually. I’m one such convert. After I had met with Galahad to talk about a possible partnership I bought a pair of their golf shoes to test out. Right out of the box I walked 18 holes in them and that night, before going to bed, I told my wife that I didn’t know if I’d be able to walk tomorrow because I just played all day basically barefoot. But I woke up the next morning and didn’t feel a thing. What’s the secret, in your opinion? I just think barefoot is the way we were meant to be. I don’t care if you have been wearing heeled shoes for 40 years; your body has a memory of the way it was meant to be. Wearing this construction will bring you right

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back to that. I would also add women have been wearing ballet flats forever, which is about as minimal as you can get. Flip-flops are similar. And there are plenty of men’s dress shoes, where the only separation is a thin leather sole, that is basically the same concept. As long as we continue to offer more options, I think there’s room for much further growth. This is not a one-trick pony concept. Vivobarefoot can take you from an actual thong running sandal to a water shoe to a road running shoe all the way up to a hiking boot to a style that gets you out at night in New York City.


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What’s new for Spring ’14? We have a new thong sandal (Ulysses) that I’m stoked about as we continue to push lifestyle, which includes more women’s options. They include canvas and leather uppers in lace-ups and slip-ons with a more casual vibe. On the performance side, we are actually not moving so fast from one style to the next. You’ll see styles like the Stealth and Evo Pure that have been in the line but are now made with even better materials and features. We also are expanding our hand-sewn collection. And the icing on the cake is kids’. The barefoot concept plays perfectly with what many doctors have advised regarding footwear for young children. Basically, kids feet are little potatoes and when they are wearing shoes the foot shouldn’t be restricted. Vivobarefoot is ideal because it still protects the foot but doesn’t force it to do anything it was not designed to do. Could Vivobarefoot be your biggest brand in terms of overall sales potential? It could, although all of my brands have great potential. There are just not enough retailers in the states carrying the brand to get more people exposed to its benefits. Initially, the company focused on running and outdoor specialty stores and while that’s well and good, no one was really going after that lifestyle customer. Now I am. What’s your assessment of El Naturalista? We had a great initial growth spurt starting in 2005, as consumers loved the colors, the unique outsoles and the brand’s charitable initiatives. But then the dollar went nuts in comparison to the Euro and sales sort of hit a plateau. The good news is our pricing has gotten better where we bump around in the $130 range—for a while we were in the $150s—and that ownership is now especially focused on growing sales in the U.S., which makes sense. As my investment banker friends tell me, the safer best is investing in this country for the foreseeable future. What is El Naturalista’s biggest challenge then? It’s not pricing. Like with many other Euro comfort brands, at some point the brand needs to address the American consumer directly as opposed to just making shoes with a worldview and expecting them to sell in the United States as well. That’s going to be our M.O. going forward: paying attention more to the United States in terms of styling. For example, we started with a great clog but we never followed it up well. I’ve talked with the owners about the importance of clogs to the American consumer. People loved our original clog and we quickly garnered a big following, but they are asking what’s new? So that’s step one. I also think that there’s some other women’s styling, like sandals, that need to be a little more feminine whereas the European aesthetic is more the built-up version. Overall, I think just addressing more current trends in the U.S. will get us places. Basically what you just described has pretty much been a critique of just about every Euro comfort brand that ever existed. Why is that? Do you want to turn off the tape machine? (Laughs.) It’s an interesting point, but who really knows exactly why. Sometimes when a brand becomes successful quickly you might ignore some aspects and then, all of a sudden, it’s, ‘Hey, we’ve got to start addressing these things.’ I said that really nicely, didn’t I?

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The criticism heard repeatedly is that Americans don’t know fashion and should accept the Euro comfort aesthetic. As history has proven time and again, you probably won’t succeed. You’re absolutely right and it’s an age-old discussion I have had with many brands over the years. There’s always this misconception about America that if you just make this shoe you’ll sell a million pairs because there are 300 million-plus Americans, so that’s just one percent and you go from there. But it ain’t gonna happen. Come live in America for a while and talk to customers and you’ll see it just doesn’t work that way. You just can’t impose your will. Americans don’t care. We have our own ways, too.


Is El Naturalista addressing this issue for Spring ’14? We’re already seeing it for holiday, clog-wise. And I’m seeing items for spring that are addressing those concerns. And I may add El Naturalista is still a totally unique brand. I just want to give customers more so they can latch further onto the brand. I’m not asking for an “American” brand. I’m asking for all the great qualities of El Naturalista with some more American styling. The owners agree in principle and that’s the direction we are heading in now. Where do the brand’s charitable efforts stand? I ask because, thanks largely to the success of Toms, everyone seems like they are working that angle, which may water it down. El Naturalista does that in a really honest way. Their efforts are well thought out and I don’t think it’s ever weighted too much in any one area. It’s a natural fit to what the brand is about. But it’s not the lead in or the lead out and it’s not taking over the brand. It fits perfectly within it. Are cause-related marketing tie-ins becoming a consumer expectation at this point? I’m not sure about that, but it matters. If it didn’t I don’t believe Toms would be where they are now. To give back is important, which might have become more important post recession. This past year El Naturalista let consumers vote on where it would contribute to its charities, which is good in terms of transparency. Rather than shoving it down consumer’s throats, we let them decide where they want the money to go.

Comfort Core 5 Footbed - Provides cushioning, stability and ergonomic support 24/7 Comfort System - Unparalleled comfort and flexibility through a proprietary blend that is 25% lighter than polyurethane Thermo-polyurethane Skin - Extremely durable but softer and lighter than rubber

Which brings us to Blundstone: What’s your take on its potential? Like El Naturalista, Blundstone also sees what the American market offers in terms of potential right now and is investing more in its efforts to capitalize on it. Back when we signed on as the distributor in 2007 the company was mostly focused on sourcing issues and now that it has addressed them (production has largely moved from Tasmania to China) they are switching their emphasis to product. What is the brand’s potential beyond its iconic 500 Series boot? In Australia, Blundstone is a work and safety brand, whereas here it’s considered a casual lifestyle brand. It presents a much better opportunity to introduce a broader range of new styles. Over the last few years, for example, we introduced non-injected outsoles on the 500 Series as well as some stitched down looks that have sold well. My belief is there is a Blundstone customer out there that’s looking for more from the brand, and there are a lot of those people. We have already opened up a ton of doors and gotten the brand in places it needs to be but now we have to get people to see the new styles we will be offering. Only a handful of shoes reach iconic status. What makes that boot so special? Blundstone is just a rare bird in the market. How many brands have a story like theirs? How many brands are from Australia—Tasmania to be specific? I can think of a three-letter one from Australia, but go on. Yes, you’re right. But how many brands have this iconic rugged comfortable boot that lasts a really long time? There’s just something about >66

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6/24/13 5:55 PM


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N THE DAY of a big race, runners have a sort of ritual they abide to. They wake up early, probably have a carefully crafted protein shake to get their motor running, put on their best running shoes and begin to stretch. But what about when it’s all over? The sneakers are kicked off and the athlete finally begins to feel the strain of the day. Then recovery mode sets in, and now, there’s a shoe for that, too. Recovery footwear is an emerging category and retailers are starting to take note of its sales potential, taking into account the growing number of consumers participating in running and walking events. Not to mention the legions of hikers, bikers and just about anyone who has been on their feet all day that could benefit from the soothing effects that recovery brands claim their products provide. Standard features and benefits include some level of shock-absorbing material at the base of the shoe such as EVA or foam; wider, roomier footbeds allowing the foot to relax and expand; toe grips for improved circulation; a deep heel cup encouraging proper body alignment; and, perhaps most important, arch support helping prevent pronation or supination. Basically, there should be complete heel-to-toe contact throughout the shoe that enables feet to have the room and support nature intended, which is surely not cramped inside tight shoes pounding pavement for miles or pinched inside high heels for hours. Initially targeted toward athletes who needed an actual period of recovery to get moving again, brands are extending their customer base to reach out to anyone seeking foot, back and joint health. And when one takes into account the 70 millionplus baby boomers that are entering their retirement years—where pretty much everything hurts at least a little bit—one can see the enormous potential the category presents. For Matt Hundley, marketing communications manager for Birki’s by Birkenstock, it means someone with “an active mindset.” Other brands like GoLite and Salomon put the emphasis on the needs of hikers, trail runners and climbers. While brands like New Balance, K•Swiss, Oofos, Saucony and Skechers—to name a few—are zeroing in on runners and walkers. Then there are insole companiesturned-recovery shoemakers like Spenco and Sole that view the category as an added extension of the types of products they have been making all along to soothe and protect battered feet.

Hundley says consumers increasingly want their footwear to provide benefits for them—in addition to being stylish. “The recovery category is developing on both sides,” he says. “Consumers are understanding the value of quality products—rich with features and benefits—and manufacturers are paying attention by addressing both performance and fashion demands.” For Birki’s that includes updating its Active Recovery collection for Spring ’14 with black designs topped off by bright color piping on the uppers and a lighter nude strap design with teal and bright pink soles. As for the recovery benefits, Birki’s footbeds are designed to let feet exercise and recover naturally. Specifically, the arch support secures proper alignment, helping prevent foot pronation and supination. The deep heel cup stabilizes the foot and protects the heel pad, while the toe grip exercises the foot as well as improves blood circulation to muscles throughout the body. Balanced use of all muscles decreases cramps and inflammation, according to Birki’s. For Oofos, it’s all about its proprietary Oofoam, a closed-cell material that is formulated to absorb shock and reduce fatigue while allowing the foot to naturally articulate to the ground while walking. Oofos worked with a foam chemist in Korea for four years developing the material, which is proven to absorb 37 percent more impact than any competing substance, says Duncan Finigan, head of marketing. The result, which the company has dubbed, “Oofeel” offers a rejuvenating effect. Oofos is also flexible, lightweight, durable and machine washable. Because the foam is soft, Finigan says it can accommodate any arch type. An added bonus: The material doesn’t absorb water, which makes the product ideal for the surf and outdoor markets. In fact, Finigan reports, with such broad product applications the brand now refrains from even using the word “recovery” when it comes to descriptions for its slip-on, clog and thong designs. “We found our consumers, unless they were hardcore athletes, didn’t know what recovery meant,” she says. The company prefers to use the term rejuvenate, or “rejoovenate” to describe its shoes’ purpose. Sole, which first began by making insoles 12 years ago, works closely with the University of Calgary to research the benefits of its footbeds. It found, among other benefits, that its design reduces plantar fascia strain by 34 percent. It’s these numbers that get customers’ attention, according to Jonathan Koops, vice president of sales. “It’s along the same lines of what companies like Gatorade and other sports nutrition products have been doing,” he says. “For so long, we’ve been focusing only on the benefits of a product for activity,” whereas Sole footwear is

Top to bottom: Birki’s by Birkenstock, GoLite, Sole, New Balance and Oofos.

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“WE AREN’T TAKING SALES AWAY FROM A RUNNING SHOE. WE ARE GETTING RETAILERS AN INCREMENTAL SALE.” provided to make customers “most likely to continue the activity.” Koops says its target demographic is 40 to 50-year-old men and women, and so far so good. He reports Sole’s recovery footwear sales are up 39 percent as of May 2013 from the previous year. In response to the demand and customer requests, the company will debut a sandal with a full strap upper and no toe post for Spring ’14. The sandal will incorporate the original Sole recovery DNA, which features an anatomically shaped platform in the footbed with a classic metatarsal pad. Carey Langely, director of product at New Balance, agrees the average recovery wear customer is over 40 years old, but its Revitalign collection of recovery sandals is suitable for runners and walkers of all ages. Developed and engineered by orthopedic and biomechanics expert Dr. Geoffrey Gray, the collection is designed to be gender-specific based on the footbed. The shoes work as a custom orthotic and promote proper foot alignment and full anatomical arch support with a 360-degree heel cup, says Langely, adding that the shoes can also reduce symptoms of plantar fasciitis. GoLite claims its Varios Recover Series of slip-on styles that surround the foot in memory foam, provide a balance of comfort and compression to promote blood flow and revive tired feet. Additional features include a rock-absorber midsole for stability, a recovery gecko outsole for pressure distribution and GoLite’s PreciseFit insole technology consisting of three different insert bars for a customized footbed that wearers can switch out depending on comfort preferences. The designs work in cold or hot weather conditions and are suitable post a hike or a trail run, but also

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ideal as multi-purpose travel shoe. Based on strong sales—Recover series sales have grown more than 75 percent from this spring compared to last fall—GoLite is expanding the collection from one style to five for Spring ’14, says Joe Campisi, director of marketing. He attributes some of the early sales success to working closely with outdoor and comfort specialty stores as well as Zappos to promote the concept. “[Retailers] who work with us on joint marketing programs help create awareness,” he says, adding e-commerce retailers, in particular, are a great way to get the word out on its recovery shoes thanks to comment and consumer review sections. The customer reviews are almost always positive, he notes. To that end, GoLite is boosting its presence on Facebook and Twitter and is working on a new website to coincide with its launch of new styles for Spring ’14. Seeing the category’s broad potential, Spenco dismisses age as a demographic factor all together when it comes to its recovery collection. “I don’t think age is relevant to us,” confirms Jeff Antonioli, global sales director. Spenco’s target consumer is someone with foot pain or someone who wants to avoid foot pain, he states simply. Enter Spenco’s Yumi total support sandal (approved by the American Podiatric Medical Association), which features a built-in anatomical footbed offering exceptional arch support and heel stablization—features that can help reduce over-pronation and discomfort from plantar fasciitis and other foot pains normally associated with misaligned joints. For Spring ’14, Spenco is expanding its color palette, and is also coming out with a boat shoe, a Mary Jane and slipper versions featuring the benefits of its recovery technologies. “As people realize they can have a supportive piece of footwear and at the end of the day their feet, knees, hips and back feel better, recovery footwear sales will continue to grow,” Antonioli predicts. The need for recovery footwear may seem obvious, but alerting consumers that a solution to their aches and pains exists is the hard part. The Oofos marketing strategy is to frequent gyms, spas and health clubs to spread the news about the benefits of its technology. When customers have the opportunity to try on the shoes and feel the material, they quickly recognize its health benefits, Finigan claims. So much so that she reports a 90 percent buying rate from customers who have tried on the shoe. She notes business is picking up particularly within the yoga community. Perhaps one of the best aspects of the recovery footwear category is it doesn’t cannibalize sales in existing categories. This presents a true add-on sales opportunity, which is music to any retailer’s ears. “We aren’t taking sales away from a running shoe,” Finigan says. “We are getting [retailers] an incremental sale.” She also argues that recovery shoes in fact help athletic shoe sales because the shoes help athletes remain injury free, therefore the need to repurchase athletic shoes remains. Training floor associates to convey the benefits of recovery footwear is key. It’s not snake oil if what you are trying to sell truly helps keep that customer healthy and partaking in the activities they love. Campisi believes that if retailers train their sales associates to sell recovery footwear in conjunction with another shoe, they can double their sales while introducing new customers to the category. He recommends a compelling point-of-sale program that brings attention to the product that clearly conveys the benefits to customers who walk in without knowing anything about the category. Along those lines, Koops advises retailers to take customers all the way through the activity cycle: pre, during and post activity to best complete a recovery footwear sale. It should be the same detailed approach they take with fitting a customer with a shoe for a proper activity. That way it becomes “a complete service package for specialty retailers,” he says. •

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T U Of




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LIFE HAS A funny way of working out. A car aficionado growing up, Philippe Meynard envisioned himself owning an auto dealership one day instead of following in the path of his father, Michel’s, footwear career. Yet that’s exactly what he ended up doing when, back in the early ’90s, he made the leap into the family business, living for several years in China while overseeing quality control and development of his family’s private label shoe business. Toward the end of that decade, Meynard felt it was time to return to the United States and start something of his own. “I really wanted to put my stamp on something that was mine and I felt that the whole online platform was the way to go,” he says. Meynard believed the Internet, coupled with his growing knowledge of the footwear industry, could be the makings of something big. Planet Shoes was your typical entrepreneurial web-based venture when Meynard launched it in 2001. The site launched selling just one brand, Earth, which Meynard happened to have direct access to since his family bought the rights to it a few years prior—thanks to a fortuitous billboard he spotted while driving with his father through Italy. The billboard was an old Levi’s jeans ad dating back to the ’70s featuring a model wearing Earth shoes. He instantly believed the brand had the potential to be reborn. Earth was in step with an overall retro fashion revival, the comfort category showed no signs of contracting and the brand had a cult-like following for its unique negative heel construction. Little did Meynard know then the brand would serves as the launching point for Planet Shoes as well as Meynard’s father’s design career working on his own brands, (which now includes two successful offshoots in Kalso by Earth and Earthies), instead of focusing solely on making shoes for other companies.

joiners included El Naturalista, Cushe, Jambu and Rieker. Meynard believes what helped make a difference—and still does to this day—is the fact that Planet Shoes offers a unique environment for each brand. Individual landing pages allow each brand to feel that its DNA is well represented. Today Planet Shoes carries 195 brands and expects to hit the 200 plateau by the end of this year. Meynard attributes the success also to the fact that Planet Shoes acts as a true partner with its wholesalers, something that anyone in this industry knows is not always the case. “We are extremely respectful of each brand’s image and communicate their message accurately in order to help them grow their business,” he says. “We are on their side and act as a true partner.”


THE SALAD DAYS Planet Shoes was a one-man show for the first year. Meynard handled everything from incoming orders, to packing and shipping. It wasn’t until a year or so later that he was able to hire his first employee to take phone calls. Since there was no outside investment, the company grew slowly and organically. But the initial demand was there and was further boosted when Meynard started to target college students, advertising in university publications across the country. And die-hard customers conducting frequent Google searches for Earth shoes would be directed to the Planet Shoes site. Meynard notes it was fairly easy to capture those customers because, in those days, there were very few online footwear retailers. He adds that oftentimes customers called in their orders. It may seem as if everything fell into place, but Meynard says the early days weren’t all a breeze. For starters, it was extremely difficult back then to get additional brands to come aboard. Meynard says it took a lot of negotiating and in-person meetings to convince execs, but Planet Shoes’ strong Earth sales eventually swayed more established brands to sign on. Early


Another key point of differentiation for Planet Shoes—as well as considered a major factor in its sales growth—is its eco-friendly platform. Executed not as a gimmicky sales hook, Planet Shoes has walked the walk from its very beginning and still does today by offering ecofriendly brands and supporting enviromental organizations. In fact, Meynard purposefully chose the name Planet Shoes to fit with the company’s M.O. and the fact that Earth was its first brand. On the site’s “about” link the message is straightforward: “We’re big fans of Mother Earth. But we also like to look good, which is why we endeavor to bring you the best shoes, bags and other accessories in the most eco-conscious way possible.” That commitment includes partnerships with 1% for the Planet, where member companies pledge to donate at least one percent of their annual sales to environmental causes. Launched in 2002, the charity has more than 1,200 members in 38 countries. In addition, Planet Shoes supports the Conservation Alliance, an organization of outdoor industry companies that disburses its collective annual membership dues to grassroots environmental groups. Grants to date have helped protect more than 50 million acres of land, stop or remove 28 dams and preserve access to thousands of miles of rivers and hiking areas. Planet Shoes also supports the World Wildlife Fund, Sierra Club, Green America and the industry charity Soles4Souls. Taking its green initiative even further, six years ago Planet Shoes implemented a carbon free shipping option, partnering with to allow customers an opportunity to offset the carbon emissions resulting from their order. When a customer places an order during checkout he or she is offered several shipping options, one of which is the carbon-free version. If clicked on, it informs the customer exactly how much will be donated depending on their location. Overall, Meynard says it only adds a few dollars to an individual’s order but the customer has the understanding that their contribution will go to an organization that is dedicated to the fight against global warming via education, carbon offsets and reductions, and public outreach. Meynard reports the effort has received amazing feedback since its debut. 2013 july • 25

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In an effort to let consumers choose which charities they may want to contribute to and how much, Planet Shoes has tied in its frequent buyer program, Planet Rewards, for those who sign up. Every dollar spent earns a point. Customers have the option to use the points to shop or to donate to one of these charities. Another key aspect of Planet Shoes’ green mission statement is reflected in the brands it carries. Many are involved in eco-friendly initiatives. Meynard says his intention has always been to create a site that would foster a community where like-minded consumers would come to shop from likeminded brands. Think Merrell, Ecco, Patagonia Keen, Teva, Timberland and Dansko in terms of company principles and the types of consumer followings they possess. Soon after, health and wellness brands joined the fold, understanding that consumers who care about the environment’s health are likely to care about their own wellbeing. Brands like Birkenstock, Alegria, Dr. Scholl’s, Aravon, Dr. Weil Integrative Footwear and New Balance have become important players in this segment, Meynard reports. Coinciding with that growth was the emergence of a strong Euro comfort segment, including Wolky, Finn Comfort and Fly London. The fact that many of the aforementioned brands hold premium market positions enabled Planet Shoes to add niche brands like Arcopedico and Loints of Holland. Taken as a whole, Meynard describes the Planet Shoes merchandise mix as one big happy family that its customers enjoy visiting and shopping from frequently. “We are not experiencing any resistance to the higher price point,” Meynard notes, adding it’s the selection and not price that primarily drives traffic to Planet Shoes. “Our customers are looking for quality product that is comfortable and fits well.” Meynard prefers not to look at the Planet Shoes customer demographic in terms of a specific age, but rather in terms of a certain lifestyle. While customers are generally environmentally minded and health conscious, he notes that they are also loyal and affluent. If you needed an actual APB, think a college gradu-

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ate-turned-professional who shops organic at Whole Foods or the local farmer’s market, drives a Prius (even better, rides a bike to work), enjoys the outdoors and probably does yoga regularly. Meynard, an avid hiker, skier and runner (he ran the Boston marathon for the first time this year and plans to do it again next year despite the terrorist attack), is one of those customers. Such synergy cannot be overlooked when analyzing Planet Shoes’ long-running success. What must also not be overlooked in the Planet Shoes recipe is its commitment to top-notch customer service. “Keeping our customers satisfied is our number-one priority,” Meynard says. “We really strive to never leave a customer unhappy—if need be I speak to them directly.” Along those lines, all orders placed by 4 p.m. on any given day are shipped that same day. Meynard says it all boils down to keeping things simple. “We focus on our customers: who they are and what they want. We are not interested in offering thousands of brands, but on growing our family of brands according to our customer needs and to our company philosophy.” A unique brand selection topped off with excellent customer service has enabled Planet Shoes to remain competitive in a retail tier that is increasingly driven by lower price. In fact, Meynard says the site has actually been able to increase its starting price point to above $100 on many styles. This is remarkable in today’s retail environment—online and brick-and-mortar—and Meynard admits that it’s been no easy feat. “What has allowed us to keep growing despite the fact that our price point has gone up is that we keep our operating costs to a minimum,” he says. “Planet Shoes does not rely on venture capital money so we are very careful in the way we manage the business.”

FROM CLICKS TO BRICKS Planet Shoes has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings in Meynard’s garage. Today, the website attracts 30,000 unique visitors per day with peaks of activity during lunchtime and evenings. >71

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Clockwise from top left: Caterpillar, Nautilus, Rocky and Keen.

AS THE SAYING goes, past performance is no guarantee of future results. Just because an industry might have been growing strong for 12 months doesn’t mean it will continue. Likewise, if an industry has been floundering, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t get a second wind. Luckily for occupational brands, things are picking up steam in the key industries it services, like housing, construction, oil and gas and manufacturing. Spending on nonresidential projects rose 2.2 percent in April, reflecting strength in construction of hotels and motels, the Commerce Department reported in June. Further, North American construction spending is projecting nine to 12 percent annual growth in the U.S. between now and 2015. To that end the economy will likely add 100,000 jobs in homebuilding and other construction work this year and that pace is projected to pick up dramatically in 2014, with 300,000 more jobs expected to be added to payrolls. This ongoing economic recovery is also supporting businesses related to the construction industry, including foundation and exterior construction and specialty contractors—and, of course, work boot makers. It’s been an ugly past few years for these brands and now that the market is swinging back into their favor, they are positioning themselves to tap into that growth. “The more people who are working, the higher the demand will be for work footwear,” says Charlie Claggett, vice president of marketing at Warson Brands, the occupational footwear company that holds the license for Rockport Works. “Workers see the value in spending extra money on footwear because it is so important to their ability to perform on the job.” This means engineering product with innovative cushioning technologies, providing extra arch support and reinforcing heels to protect the foot and absorb the pounding of a full day’s work. But to grab the hard-earned dollars of a younger generation, comfort and durability alone are not enough. “A lot of the people that are entering the work force are not used to wearing traditional leather work boots,” notes Karry Johnson, director of sales at Wolverine. “They grew up in sneakers or hikers, so we need to adapt those cues to make sure that we have shelf appeal. We want that younger consumer to pull the product off the shelf because it looks familiar.” As such, work boots are becoming lighter and more seamless than ever before. Not to mention infused with vibrant colors à la many a sneaker. As Rob Mills, president of Black Diamond Group, Carhartt’s licensing partner, says, “What the younger generation looks for in its work footwear is lightweight performance. The materials that are being used today in the midsole and inserts are much more similar to athletic footwear than they’ve ever been.”

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Some new technologies are downloaded. Others laced up. Low Density EVA Foam Cushions from heel to toe.

High Density Base Layer Distributes weight evenly.

Ribbed Spine

Flexes through the step.

Honeycomb Heel

Expands to absorb impact.

Tapping into your energy potential is as simple as lacing up a pair of Cabor work boots. By bringing comfort closer to the foot, new EPX technology conserves and returns energy to fight fatigue. It provides unrivaled support step after step. Job after job. Day after day.

See how it works at Š2013 Wolverine Worldwide

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ADAPT AND THRIVE “In focus groups we listened to people talk about when they showed up on the construction site in their first pair of work boots and how painful they were at the end of an eight-hour day, and how they were never going to go back to that,” Claggett shares. Message received. For next spring Rockport Works is updating its More Energy and Nice Ride series to include new styles, all featuring Adiprene technology that both absorbs shock in the heel and helps provide energy rebound in the forefoot. “It’s sports performance technology developed by Adidas that we are now putting into 6-inch work boots as well as oxfords and slip-ons—all with protective toes,” Claggett says, adding, “For people who are on their feet all day it provides comfort and conserves energy because the added rebound uses less energy with every step.” Comfort is also top of mind at Wolverine and the spring launch of its lightweight EPX system aims to bring it closer to the foot. Flex grooves throughout the forefoot of the insole allow for flexibility while absorption areas in the heel spread out the impact. The new series is available as a moc toe, comp toe and plain toe, as well as 6-inch, 8-inch and pull-on styles. “We’ve definitely shifted our mindset to think about consumers in the emerging markets,” Johnson says, using the automobile manufacturing industry as an example. “That market requires its workers to wear footwear with non-metallic hardware and it can’t be protruding. A hiker, while it would be destroyed on a construction site, is perfect for that environment.” He adds, “We have to look at product a little differently and take those cues that we see happening in the marketplace and adapt them to make sure

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we have product that’s right for the consumer.” Along those lines, Johnson notes a decrease in demand for 8-inch boots. “A younger person is going to be geared more towards 6-inch boots, hikers and pull-ons,” he offers, pointing out that the latter silhouette’s popularity is especially catching on throughout the U.S., regardless of industry. “People in the south are moving up to North Dakota because of the oil boom and they’re used to the easyon, easy-off of a pull-on boot, and they are also influencing people from northern areas.” Caterpillar, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, is adding to its SRX technology story next spring with Brode. Aesthetically similar to a trail running shoe and geared towards services industries and light industrial, it’s lightweight and slip-resistant with a canvas and mesh combination upper, a composite toe and Ergo technology for enhanced cushioning, support and all-day comfort. “We’re going after that younger consumer who’s not a boot wearer,” confirms Neal Silverman, head of the brand’s industrial task force. At Georgia Boot, footwear is put through its paces during extensive field tests to ensure all linings, waterproof membranes and outsoles deliver. While purpose-driven product like Diamond Trax (a slip-resistant outsole that gets better with age) and Comfort Core (an energy return heel plug) continues to pull people in, Zero Drag is the brand’s big push for next spring. “In the past we’ve used a lot of polyurethane and direct-attach constructions but for this collection we’ve created a new proprietary material that’s shot or directly attached by an injection machine,” explains Designer Jordan Anderson, noting that it’s about 22 percent lighter than traditional polyurethane. “We’re pushing the limits of the materials we’re using >69

6/21/13 2:56 PM

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Georgia Boot

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Clockwise from left: Carhartt, Wolverine, Rockport Works. Opposite; Muck Boot Company.


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Clockwise from top: Skechers, Tony Lama, Ariat. Opposite: Iron Age. Model: Nikita Ruben, Q Model Management 37

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w h a t ’ s s e l l i n g s n e a k e r b out i que



Los Angeles, CA

erving up a wide selection of swaggy kicks since 1985, Sportie LA is a Melrose Avenue mainstay and a must-stop for sneakerheads. Behind its graffiti exterior, the knowledgeable staff assists a consumer base that spans skaters to celebrities in search of hard-to-find styles and limited-edition looks. The 2,000-square-foot space stocks everything from Reebok and Nike to Superga and Converse, not to mention its own collaborations with the likes of New Balance and Fila, and co-founder Isack Fadlon says business is booming. “Everybody knows that due to the economy our industry was hit just as hard as anybody else and it wasn’t as energetic as it was 10 or 18 years ago. This year we’re finally coming out of it,” he says. “Not only is consumer confidence up but I think the sneaker craze and the emotion that somebody has with a sneaker is elevated once again.” Fadlon adds, “Sneakers were fashionable and then became more of a utilitarian item that was a necessity. Today it’s more fashion. It’s about what looks good.” —Lyndsay McGregor What are your top-selling brands? Nike, Adidas, Converse, Vans, Ugg and New Balance continue to do well. One of the newer brands that surprised us—in a good way—this year is Palladium. And we’re starting to see some movement with Keds. How would you describe your typical customer? It’s so broad and that’s why when you see us our hair is all wacky because we’re pulling it out [laughs]. We’re buying for men’s, women’s and kids’, from the 20-something hipster to the kid who’s on social media and really wants to stay fresh. Our customer base is an extension of our personality.


What does it take to be a true sneakerhead? It’s changed. Maybe 10 years ago it was the guy or gal who wanted to collect for the sake of collecting. Today it encompasses not only collecting but also wearing the shoes. How crazy are the queues for must-have kicks? When a specific Nike or Jordan or even some of the new Reebok product comes out we do have long lines and people camping out for a few days. Sometimes we bring them coffee or hot chocolate. I feel for them! Do you ever allow your regulars to skip the line? No. From the Justin Biebers of the world to the high school kid from across the street to the grandmother coming in with her grandson, everybody that comes in here is treated equally. What’s the coolest promotion your store has run? One in particular that stands out was the 25th anniversary of the Reebok Freestyle a few years back. That was true to our heart because that was the first shoe we ever sold in 1985. We had a tent party in our parking lot with a complete ’80s theme. It was one of those magical nights where you felt it was palpable. How important are these in-store events? Our customers really feel an intense bond with us because of these events and they feel that Sportie LA is not just a retail store—it’s a place where we can hang and experience more than just buying sneakers.

Where does the retro sneaker stand right now? I think it behooves every brand who has in their arsenal the ability to bring back retro to do so now. Because what’s ironic and interesting about the retro trend is it’s very nostalgic for those of us who used to wear those shoes but it’s also nostalgic for the young kids that, through social media, have gotten to know it so well and feel like they were part of it also. What might be the next hot sneaker silhouette? For women, we’re seeing a comeback in the platform. It’s in the initial stages. What’s on your radar for Spring ’14? We talk about footwear a lot but socks are really hot right now. It’s an added bonus for us. We carry Stance, Happy Socks and Nike and I’m always on the lookout for more. What is the greatest sneaker of all time? I can’t really give just one answer. Each of the iconic brands has its iconic style: Converse and the Chuck Taylor; Reebok and the Freestyle; Nike and the Air Jordan and the Air Force; Puma and the Clyde; Adidas and the Superstar.

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COME SEE US OutdOOr retailer PlatfOrm atlanta


IS BELIEVING the most proprioceptive soles in the world find out more GOBI

ralph libonati Co., 625 Pierce Street, Somerset, nJ 08873


Phone: 800.437.2526

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w h a t ’ s s e l l i n g run n i n g s pe c i a lt y



e’re a small store but pack a lot of punch.” That’s how Shaun Marlovits describes Fleet Feet, the specialty running shop he owns in Hoboken, NJ. The 10-year-old, 1,000-square-foot space is packed to the gills with shoes, apparel and accessories for runners and walkers, and prides itself on its expert fitting process. “We make sure customers get the right shoe for the particular foot type they have and the type of activity they want to do in the shoe,” he says. To that end, staffers spend a long time doing gait analysis and discussing arch support, pronation and other specifics with each customer, which includes analyzing current running shoes for signs of wear. “As a small specialty store we sell service more than we sell shoes,” Marlovits says. “We understand that people have many buying options so when they come to us we need to ensure that they have a very good experience and we do that by being up to date on all the products that are out there.” Marlovits adds, “We are very informative on matters regarding injury prevention and nutrition—people come to us because they have questions.” And this Fleet Feet has the answers. —Lyndsay McGregor

though they need shoes that are functionally correct, they don’t need the hottest technology out there. Is the minimalism trend dead and buried? When the barefoot trend started it was very hot. I think what a lot of people did was they went from their traditional running shoe to barefoot and now they’re realizing it was too dramatic of a jump and they’re searching for a happy compromise. You can still get a lightweight shoe but it doesn’t need to be barefoot. What’s your opinion on the emerging recovery footwear category? We haven’t jumped in yet. But it might be a good category because it increases our cross selling opportunities. When a customer comes in for a shoe fitting, we now have an opportunity to sell them shoes, socks and inserts, and recovery footwear could be a logical add-on sale. What’s new with regards to your social media efforts? We recently hired a new marketing person to make our website more interactive and nicer aesthetically. Our Facebook page traffic has picked up a bit and we’re always posting. It’s sometimes tough to measure how effective it is but I think it’s a great way to communicate with people. What’s your take on the issue of showrooming? We have a fairly loyal customer base but it can be frustrating. There are lots of places to buy running shoes today. That’s one reason why we offer other services so that people realize we’re more than just a shoe store.

New Balance

What are your top-selling brands? We tend to do better with specialty brands such as Brooks, Asics, Mizuno, New Balance and Saucony. Describe your fitting process. We measure our customers seated and standing using a Brannock device. We measure the length and width of each foot and the length of each arch. We’re trying to gauge how the foot changes when it’s weight bearing. If the foot has a pretty flexible arch then it needs a little bit more support under that arch. Next is a gait analysis. We get them out of their shoes either walking or jogging and to see if they’re pigeon-toed or splayfooted. We also spend a lot of time asking questions, because someone who’s training for a marathon will have different needs than someone who’s walking. What’s your big push this year? Our No. 1 goal has been to create different events for the store to keep people connected. For example, we just started No Boundaries, a 5K training program sponsored by New Balance. For a participant that’s never run or jogged a 5K before, this training program prepares them. We have a few coaches that will put them through a workout and we e-mail them a schedule to follow. They can go from being fairly inactive to participating in a 5K. We do yoga classes for runners in store, too. How’s business? Like a lot of retailers, we’re very much tied to the weather. This January started off great and then February and March weren’t so nice and things slowed a little. But all that pent-up demand made April and May even busier. What’s your fastest growing customer segment? It’s runners that don’t identify themselves as real runners. That segment is realizing that even

Fleet Feet hosts yoga classes for runners.

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AUGUST 5–7 MONDAY–WEDNESDAY New York Hilton Midtown & Member Showrooms Special hotel rates at FFANY.ORG SAVE THE DATE December 4–6 (Wednesday–Friday)

Download FFANY’s iPad App to view the show directory


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Clae tie-dye sneaker, Osklen shorts. Wardrobe by Topshop unless noted.


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This page, from left: Lacoste woven sneaker, DC Shoes leopard print-accented tennie, metallic sneaker by Miucha. Opposite: Osklen bathing suit top.

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Tretorn floral print sneaker, stylist's rings and bracelets.


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This page, from top: Puma leopard sneaker, Volcom hi-top. Opposite: Desigual tropical print sneaker, jacket and necklace by Mango.


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This page, from left: Cushe skimmer, Dirty Laundry slip-on. Fashion editor: Angela Velasquez; stylist: Kim Johnson; hair: Seiji, The Wall Group; makeup: Deanna Melluso, The Magnet Agency; model: Barbara Berger, IMG.


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Cocktail Party & Casino Night Wednesday, August 14, 2013 | 6-9:30 pm

COBB ENERGY PERFORMING ARTS CENTRE Round-trip shuttle service (two-minute ride) is available to and from the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Pick up and drop off at the East Parking Lot of the Cobb Galleria Centre. Featuring “Simply Irresistible” Complimentary to all attendees Elaborate buffet & one complimentary drink per person

Featuring Simply Irresistible

Thursday, August 15, 2013 Breakfast 7:30 am Seminar from 8:00 - 9:00 am Renaissance Waverly Hotel Chancellor Room Presented by Ellen Campuzano $10 per person and the $10 will be refunded the day of the seminar. Space is limited, so please register early. Make checks payable to: Southeastern Shoe Travelers. Registration Deadline: July 22, 2013.

HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS Renaissance Waverly Hotel – $134 Please refer to The Atlanta Shoe Market. 888.391.8724 Embassy Suites Galleria – $109 single, $129 double. 678.460.2567 Atlanta Marriott Hotel NW – $109 single/double. 800.228.9290 Sheraton Suites – $104 single, $109 double. 770.995.3900

AIRFARE SPECIAL RATE Delta Airlines is offering 10% off Full/Non Restricted Flights and 5% off Discounted/Restricted Flights. Use Meeting Event Code: NMESM Reservations may also be made by calling 1-800-328-1111. Mon. - Fri. 7a.m. - 7p.m.

CAR RENTAL To reserve a vehicle, contact Hertz at 800.654.2240 and refer to code CV #022Q5892

AIRPORT SHUTTLE SERVICE MT TRANSPORTATION For reservations: By phone: 770-880-1757 or 770-951-1449 By e-mail: or Private car or SUV - $65 one way Round Trip - $120 A & M LIMO & GALLERIA DIRECT For Reservations: By phone: 770-955-4565 (Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.) By email: Online: *Prices subject to change Service to airport every hour from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. $30* one way (advance reservations only); $50* round trip (advance reservations only).


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For nearly 75 years, Two Ten Footwear Foundation has been making a big difference in your community and the footwear industry. Through compassion and unity, the positive impact is undeniable and far-reaching. Two Ten is committed to strengthening the footwear community with financial, social and educational support and services while nurturing community building and volunteerism. To learn more about YOUR foundation visit

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---------------------------------------------------------+¦+ SPRING ‘14 OUTDOOR PREVIEW +¦+ ---------------------------------------------------------1


YOGA TREAT Not too long ago only bohemians and svelte Hollywood actresses would have been in a tizzy about Lululemon’s recent yoga pant fiasco—that is if they weren’t so darn Zen— but as the activity gains popularity throughout the country, crosses categories (paddle board yoga, anyone?) and holds steady as one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., the demand for yoga footwear for to and from the studio should be a move retailers are willing to make. On foot: Columbia 1. Helly Hansen 2. Merrell 3. Keen 4. Ryka

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3 2013 july • 55

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---------------------------------------------------------+¦+ SPRING ‘14 OUTDOOR PREVIEW +¦+ ----------------------------------------------------------





HAUTE HIKE When soaring trees and bird watching just aren’t enough, the increasingly popular hiking-wine tasting excursions are proving to be a tempting alternative. In Colorado, for example, outdoor types can get their nature on via inn-to-inn hiking weekends. Lace up these lightweight hikers to take in the Rocky Mountain air by day and reside in a plush bed at night with a continental breakfast awaiting to get revved up for the next day’s adventures. On foot: Rocky 1. Merrell 2. Chaco 3. Hi-Tec 4. Teva

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FRESH AIR From capturing a picturesque sunset on Instagram or movie night in a park, to collecting dinner ingredients at the local farmer’s market (and carrying it home in an eco-friendly tote), the lifestyle and fashion sense of the great outdoors continues its influence on the fashion aesthetic of urban dwellers. On foot: Dansko 1. Vivobarefoot 2. Alegria 3. Birkenstock 4. Lamo 5. Hush Puppies






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---------------------------------------------------------+¦+ SPRING ‘14 OUTDOOR PREVIEW +¦+ ---------------------------------------------------------1





COOL WATERS With roots that trace back to the tropical waters of Hawaii, stand-up paddle boarding (also known as paddle surfing) is hitting the mainland like a tidal wave. It ranks as one of the fastest-growing water-based activities in the U.S., spurring the creation of paddleboard workshops, rental shops and social meet-ups for the balance-inclined pursuit. Not surprisingly, the popularity of water sports is generating an armada of shoes especially designed to perform in, atop and out of the water. On foot: Ryka 1. Chaco 2. Keen 3. Vivobarefoot 4. Helly Hansen 5. Teva

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HOT TRAIL According to Running USA, the number of trail running participants is up by 7.8 percent—a hefty bump that is undoubtedly helped by trails inching closer to densely populated metropolitan areas and new races springing up across the country, including the 38-mile Telluride Mountain Run and grueling Cayuga Trails 50—not to mention the natural appeal of wide open spaces. On foot: Patagonia 1. Montrail 2. Columbia 3. Rocky 4. Teva





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Fashion meets function in this easy-to-walk-in wedge sole and From stand-up paddle boarding to adventure racing, the lightweight and waterproof suede bootie with durable StreamRunner Hybrid rules them all. It is developed with Vibram leather detailing, soft faux fur MegaGrip (an incomparable combination of grip and durability) and collar and inside zipper that infused with a unique augmented water flow system (by allowing water to screams city-chic. Visit Cougar drain from the uppers, midsole and outsole). Rocky S2V is a climate mitiat FFANY and Platform. gating footwear and apparel company that fuses cutting-edge design with essentials that prepare outdoor enthusiasts for the unforeseen. Join the adventure at OR Summer Market!

The Original Muck Boot Company introduces the Women’s Reign Tall boot for Spring ’14. The stylish equestrian boot is created on a new women’s last to offer a sleeker, more feminine look. The Reign features XpressCool technology, a unique evaporative, cooling liner that keeps feet cool and dry in all warm weather conditions. Muck will be exhibiting at OR, FFANY, FN Platform and Project.

Blossom Footwear’s “De Blossom Collection” is high-fashion women’s footwear, consisting of dress shoes, platforms, wedges, sandals, boots Vivobarefoot launched the first barefoot shoe in 2003 with a patented, ultra-thin puncture-resistant sole offering maximum proprioception with protection. Vivobarefoot features a collection of multi-terrain barefoot

and much more. What inspires us is the glamour and sensuality of today’s fashion trends. Check us out at FN Platform.

performance shoes and the largest minimalist lifestyle shoe range on the market. The Freud (pictured) is a classic tennis heritage shoe for everyday barefoot style and comfort with its natural wax canvas upper and our signature proprioceptive sole. Check us out at OR and FN Platform.

The Cat Footwear women’s collection fuses heritage and authenticity with beautiful designs to create ruggedly feminine silhouettes. The Megs Canvas is a rugged bootie with a dose of urban camouflage. The aggressive rubber heel adds attitude while the scallop details and poppy color gore makes it decidedly feminine. Cat Footwear will be exhibiting at: Project NYC, OR, Project, FN Platform and The Atlanta Shoe Market.

Skechers GoBionic Trail features a durable Resagrip outsole for multidirectional traction and a lightweight rock diffusion plate to protect against rough terrain. Watershed mesh drains moisture quickly in wet conditions. This innovative trail shoe also converts from 4-mm drop to zero drop with a removable insole. To learn more, visit the Skechers Performance Division booth at OR and FN Platform.

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the world with elastic goring boots. This season, the classic round toe boot is updated with bright side elastic detail. It will be For Spring 2014, Børn presents a collection of

available in Brown/Olive, Brown/Orange or

artfully handcrafted shoes and sandals in

Black/Grey and retails for $150.

understated burnished hues, candy-colored

• Weatherproof 2.5-mm oiled leather

brights and intriguing woven textiles and prints. Børn continues to deliver attractively styled footwear partnered with unparalleled comfort. Check out Børn at OR,

• New TPU outsole/PU midsole for longer wear and comfort • SPS shock protection

FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe

• Poron in the heel strike zone

Market and FN Platform.

• Removable foot bed

• Steel shank


Since 1870 Blundstone has been providing

Rockport offers a fresh approach for someone who wants to trade in their athletic shoes for an updated look. Rockport provides athletic minimalist comfort with everything you want in a shoe and nothing you don’t by using Adiprene by Adidas sport technology. Visit us at OR, The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.

The perfect spring silhouette is back with Chooka’s Top Solid Mid Height Collection in on trend, bold new colors. This top-selling height carries the quality standards customers have come to expect from Chooka, but with a fresh twist! Matte finish is replaced by a striking glossy finish, seen here in Poppy. Check us out at OR, FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.

The Rialto Sunnyside is the perfect shoe for all spring and summer occasions. Rialto features fun and flavorful footwear. Visit us at FFANY Aug. 5-7, The Atlanta Shoe Market Aug. 14-16 and FN Platform Aug. 19-21.

Swissies footwear is introducing a casual line for women and men for spring featuring Soft Technology, which contains 50 percent air in the midsole and features a soft rounded heel for correct walking. The casual collection ranges from lace-up oxfords, slip-ons to Mary Janes in leather, nubuck and textile combinations, all produced in Europe. Suggested retail price is $140 and up. Check out Swissies at The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.



The Bearpaw Spring 2014 summer collection truly brings spring and summer to life. This collection has it all: bold colors, sparkles, animal prints and metallics. They make a fashion statement without saying a word. For Durango Boot, founded in

anyone from fashionistas to sunbathing beauties, we’ve got it all. Come see

1966, manufactures and

us at OR, FN Platform and The Atlanta Shoe Market.

markets quality-crafted fash-

ion and western footwear for men, women and children. It is a division of Rocky Brands, a publicly traded company on NASDAQ under the symbol: RCKY. Visit us at OR, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, Magic and The Footwear Event.

Dandy, one of the most intricate and beautiful sandals of the L’Artiste Collection, is lovingly hand-painted on soft, high-quality leather. A vine of brightly colored flowers, gems and leaves adorn the three bands that form the upper of this 2.5-inch fanciful slip-on wedge. Luxurious padding and flexibility complete this unique, comfortable “dandy” sandal. See us at The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no it’s Western Chief Kids Superman set! Prominent Superman logos are found on every piece of this rainwear set, and the little superheroes can show off their Man of Steel muscles all the way down to their feet. The Jacket has a removable cape, and the boots are manufactured with kid-friendly pull loops. Check us out at OR, FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.

“Alegria” means happiness, and at Alegria by PG Lite, it’s our belief that shoes

Get a dose of Southern California style with new BOBS from

should make people happy. Launched with one clog, Alegria now boasts an

Skechers sneakers! For every pair sold, Skechers donates new shoes

array of styles from casual to professional wear. While styles may be ever

to children in need. More than four million pairs have been distrib-

expanding, we remain the same inside our “sole.” Inside every pair is our

uted across the U.S. and worldwide. Learn more at our Skechers

patented footbed engineered to conform to the natural contours of the foot

booth at the FN Platform trade show.

for a perfect fit and lasting support. Explore the many facets of happiness

here. Alegria: This Is What Happy Looks Like.

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Introducing the newest addition to Aetrex’s Essence Fashion Comfort

by two basic principles: We offer solutions and we promise trust. Our

Collection: Aetrex Ballet Flats. Unlike any other flats on the market today,

superbly crafted products demonstrate our response to the compelling

Aetrex’s Ballet Flats incorporate sophisticated style and unrivaled comfort

need for healthy, comfortable and fashionable footwear. At the same

technologies. All styles feature Aetrex’s “Healthy 3”: a removable Lynco

time, our unfailing commitment to integrity makes quality customer

orthotic footbed for support, balance and alignment, memory foam cushion-

service our very highest priority. Learn more at The Atlanta Shoe Market,

ing and aegis anti-microbial technology. The result is an extraordinary line

OR and The Footwear Event.

of footwear designed to help you feel

great on your feet and promote a healthy and active lifestyle. Visit us at OR, The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.


Since its creation, Yaleet (distributor of Naot Footwear) has been guided

The Tango is designed with laser cutouts for warm weather comfort. The shoe features beautiful full-grain leathers, crafted medallions and decorative laser treatments for a memorable look. Hook and loop instep strap, leather linings, rubber outsole and Curves & Pods removable footbeds make it both cute and comfortable. See Taos at OR, FN Platform, The Atlanta Shoe Market and Northeast Shoe Expo.

El Naturalista’s Colibri N474 features mineral tanned leather and a natural rubber outsole. Elegant design lines combined with artisan craftsmanship and El Naturalista’s signature comfort is sure to make Colibri N474 this season’s must-have shoe. It retails for $170.

Easy Street is recognized as an innovator of comfort constructions and as a creator of fashionable

T u s ceasy a street ny by



women’s footwear for more

Tuscany by Easy Street is a brand new

than 50 years. The “Gidget” is an

collection of stylish and colorful

elegant new sandal that belongs in every

footwear, handmade and

woman’s wardrobe. Available in exciting new

designed with love in

colors like Black Snake Crocco (pictured) and is

Tuscany, Italy. It’s available

available in 43 sizes and 4 widths (N, M, W

in a large range of sizes and

& WW; 5-12). Visit us at: The New York

widths, (N, M, W & WW;

Shoe Show, FN Platform and The

5-12). The “Sorano” (pictured)

Atlanta Shoe Market.

is a new lightweight, handmade

Italian wedge sandal for Spring ‘14. This collection is extremely versatile; customers can dress styles up for dinner out, or down for a visit to the beach. Visit us at: The New York Shoe Show, FN Platform and The Atlanta Shoe Market. 63

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Spring/Summer ’14 offers the most impressive assortment of Earth Brands footwear to date. From the introduction of the new Kalso Earth Shoes 0 collection and Earthies dress and casual styles to the Earth collection of contemporary casual footwear, Earth designs “delight the feet” and let women look and feel their very best. The Earth team invites you to see the new Spring/Summer ’14 Collections at FFANY, OR, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, TRU and regional shoe shows. Call us at (877) 746-3364 to make your appointment.

Bella~Vita is an elegant line of designer footwear for women, capturing the essence of nature’s textures and colors. Each pair of Bella~Vita shoes offers exceptional styling and details —always with comfort and wearability in mind. Available in a large range of sizes and widths, (N, M, W & WW; 5-12). The “Padma” sandal (pictured) in camel wax-washed leather with a woven gold leather t-strap is new for Spring 2014. Visit us at: The New York Shoe Show, FN Platform and The Atlanta Shoe Market.

Insolito Terra is a new men’s footwear line that provides style, confidence, comfort and 2.6 inches in invisible height. The collection features two lines

of beautifully handcrafted styles designed in Milan and made of the finest Italian leather. The first line offers a boost in height without the platform by subtly adding 1.2 inch in the insole and 1.4 inch in the heel. The second provides comfort by utilizing a specialized Acupressure Insole Technology that reduces pain in the body. Come see us at FN Platform, Metro Fashion Mart (Vancouver), Vancouver WCSA and Toronto Shoe Show.

Gotta Flurt is a unique, fun, flirty, trend-driven collection of footwear that ranges from toddlers to juniors. Gotta Flurt combines fashion, comfort and quality at a great value. Go way beyond ordinary, and step into the world of extraordinary with the brand that puts pizazz on your feet. Gotta Flurt: Style with attitude! Check us out at OR, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, Magic and FFANY. 64

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continued from page 12 Apple’s retail stores have carried iPod Touch devices outfitted with credit card readers. Similarly, cash registers are being phased out in favor of iPads on a swivel at Urban Outfitters, and Nordstrom’s salespeople can do everything on their handheld devices that they can at a register. “Think of how much space the checkout at any store takes up,” offers Poonam Goyal, senior retail analyst at Bloomberg Industries. “When you remove physical cash registers, you open up space to display more products and, in turn, you’re more productive, which will be helpful to sales.” But whether your store is running on a traditional electronic cash register or an elaborate computerized system, adding mobile checkout isn’t as easy as adding a card reader to an iPad. As retailers know all too well, updating existing on-premises infrastructure can be timely and expensive: hardware has to be ordered, paid for, installed and configured. Replacements and upgrades require time and money and many retailers choose to stick with older legacy systems and software, which usually aren’t compatible with these newer mobile systems. One IBM study estimates that 70 percent of IT budgets are spent maintaining current systems. On top of that, the average retail chain is paying for about 450 specialty software programs designed for various niches and needs, many of which are only used at certain times (like Black Friday). Because of this, experts say cloud computing might be a better bet in the long run, especially for those retailers starting from scratch. According to a four-year study conducted by Hurwitz & Associates, cloud POS systems can deliver a reduction in total cost of ownership as great as 55 percent compared to closed legacy systems, which typically charge a software license fee per register and then a yearly maintenance fee of 18 to 20 percent for upgrades and yet another fee for support and training. “The way POS systems used to be—and in a lot of cases still are—is that a guy presents you a package that costs at least $10,000. There and then you have to make a decision and write a big check,” says Richelson of ShopKeep, a cloud-based system that charges $49 per month for businesses with one register and sells a complete hardware package (iPad, stand, cash drawer, credit card reader and receipt printer) for $1,155. “It’s a difficult decision to make quickly because you might get the wrong system and then you’re down a lot of money,” he adds. Ciabarra of Revel Systems says its prices start at $799 and believes it is more than worth the investment. “Legacy systems haven’t changed in 20 years,” he says. “They don’t look good, they’re hard to use and they crash all the time and take 20 minutes to re-boot.” In contrast he says, “It’s very limited what can go wrong on an iPad. It simplifies everything for you.” But just because cloud computing can be less expensive to set up than traditional systems doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed to be the best deal. Jen Lewis, owner and operator of Purse & Clutch, which sells handmade handbags online and at trunk shows, recently cut ties with Austin, TXbased SalesVu. “It seemed like a great thing at the time—I liked the inventory management—but the credit card processer was charging me crazy fees and I had to cancel my subscription. It ended up being a little bit of a mess,” she reveals. While SalesVu doesn’t charge for its software, it partners with Mercury, a credit card processor that charges 2.7 percent per swiped or keyed transaction and has a $560 minimum monthly processing requirement with a $15 monthly minimum processing fee. Merchants who don’t use the service during any given month will still be charged $15 for that month. It also means that processing fees that do not total at least $15 in a month will be rounded up to $15. As Richelson of ShopKeep warns, every POS system doesn’t have all the features that work for every store. That’s why the former retailer (he once co-owned Brooklyn’s Greene Grape wine shop) has a try-beforeyou-buy offer of 30 days. “Small retailers need to put together a bundle of things that work for them,” he says. For example, some cloud systems allow retailers to stick with their current credit card processor, while others require retailers to work with specific companies. Richelson notes that ShopKeep doesn’t require retailers to switch companies. “If you’ve always been with Wells Fargo, you can continue to work with them,” he says. >71

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continued from page 19 it. It’s so authentic and it’s got a level of cache and coolness to it. That’s why as we go on this journey of product expansion we cannot be something we’re not. We have got to stay authentic to what the brand is about. Along those lines, we’re launching a canvas collection of boots for Spring ’14 that have the same upper pattern as the 500 Series but with more of an EVA bottom. I previewed it with key customers in Los Angeles and they think it is brilliant. Down the road, we could throw laces on it, possibly. And I can envision rugged sandals by Blundstone. The more opportunities I can give consumers to buy additional authentic styles the better. And as singular as Blundstone is style-wise right now, I believe it has as much potential as any of the brands we distribute. We haven’t even scratched the surface of the amount of consumers who should be buying this brand. What’s your take on the market overall right now—good, bad, ugly? It’s not ugly, but it was. I think it’s fine, but I won’t say it’s good. It seems like department stores are hot on shoes, in particular. True and everybody wants to be on the wall of that retailer based in Seattle. But I also believe there’s still a lot of non-department store business out there to be had. There’s still a ton of good independent retailers in this country that know their customers, know their stuff, are good people to do business and make it all fun. That’s another part of our M.O.: I tell my team all the time that potential exists. I’m not looking to overcomplicate matters. In fact, I tend to oversimplify things, but we all want to go to bed at night and sleep soundly because we are all enjoying what we are doing. That’s important to me. You are one of the few industry executives that I have spoken with of late that is optimistic about the independent tier. There doesn’t seem

to be much hope for their long-term survival in the face of online dealers and chains. The good ones can survive. And I think there are enough good ones out there that know what they are doing and offer enough to customers that will enable then to do so. I’m not giving up on them. I take a little solace in that my office is located on the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade and when I look out my window I see Foot Locker, Hummus Bar Express, Apple and Crocs, to name a few, where plenty of people are shopping. Maybe I should put the phone down and ask them what the hell are they doing not shopping online? My point being that if the store is truly unique, is fun to shop in and is selling what people want and need, then I suspect they’ll do just fine. And having run an El Naturalista concept store for a few years, I understand how difficult that is to do successfully. It was fun while it lasted and it was a great learning experience. I get it now. When I walk into someone else’s shop I understand what they are going through from a day-to-day standpoint. And crossing through that front door can be like walking into that person’s life. Sometimes you can just feel what kind of day they are having by the air in that store. It could be a good or bad day. It’s a window to their soul. That’s pretty deep. What do you love most about your job? As I get older in life, I love that family thread that runs through my job. It keeps me connected to what my roots are and reminds me of how I grew up. All the wonderful stuff that I did with my dad—the meetings and dinners he often took me on. I was allowed to just sit there and absorb it all. It was just an amazing experience. It’s a happy place for me. And I do love shoes. I particularly enjoy the innovation involved, for example, with Vivobarefoot. I appreciate how important our feet are to us. How much we live our lives through our feet, and finding ways to keep them healthy and keep ourselves happy is another part of my job that I love. •


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Bee Keeper Julie Bee’s makes American-made eco-friendly footwear work. WHEN JULIE BROWN discovered a limited and “uninspiring” selection of eco-friendly, American-made footwear in the market—that also happened to be on trend— she tackled the problem with the same gusto and determination that laid the groundwork to her successful and accomplished career in Washington, D.C., working for The Department of Homeland Security. “I was looking for fashionable shoes for work and going out with friends that were also vintage or eco-friendly,” Brown recalls. “But I wasn’t having much luck finding shoes that matched that message.” What she did uncover were plenty of “crunchy, granola sandals,” hiking boots and tennis shoes that didn’t lend themselves to all-day functionality. And those vegan styles she came across acted better as foot ovens thanks to their inability to breathe properly, she claims. In April 2012, Brown started to take matters into her own hands. She placed her politico life, which included consulting, working alongside governors and setting natural disaster relief efforts into motion, on hold and founded Julie Bee’s, a line of vegetable-dyed, Italian-sourced leather footwear made in the United States. The line also features reclaimed materials that, while not an easy task to source, have become an unexpected design asset. Brown says those materials naturally make the line more unique for retailers seeking limited-edition product. The debut Fall ’13 collection of jewel-tone Mary Janes, the New Yorker pump with a uniquely curved heel and an array of flats with an unexpected high back captured Brown’s practical sensibility. “I want the line to be fun and playful, but still easy to wear,” she says. “The shoes slip into everyday wardrobes.” Brown reports that the flats and the pump are especially popular and will likely carry over into future seasons. Spring ’14 rings in another versatile, yet more colorful season of wedges and heels with elastic, nubuck and some “in your face” accents of pink and blue. Wholesale prices range from $87 to $154. Social media hits and the bloggersphere have helped tell Julie Bee’s eco story, while recent placement on design flash sale site,, generated a nice shot of brand awareness. With job creation for Americans an issue close to her heart, Brown believes it’s important for her to keep production in the U.S. (the line is currently made in a factory in Los Angeles) even if it might be cheaper to do so elsewhere. “I want to help keep the American dream alive for others,” she states. And while the founder confesses “a girl can dream” about expanding Julie Bee’s into other fashion categories, footwear remains top of mind for now. “We’re really focused on building the brand in the next year and a half,” Brown says. “Based on initial response, I’m really excited about the overall potential.” —Angela Velasquez

Retro Lounge Hush Puppies raises the style bar with its 1958 collection. IN THE WORLD of fashion today, buzzwords like vintage, heritage and authentic are at the front of the class. Consumers are searching for the real deal—even if it’s a reincarnation of an original. Enter Hush Puppies with its robust history that harkens back to 1958 and its decision to capitalize on that authenticity with a capsule collection dubbed, appropriately enough, 1958. Having first debuted in 2010, Hush Puppies Vice President of Global Product Development Cory Haberman says the collection presents the opportunity to revisit tried-and-true styles with a fresh, modern spin on design and construction. Specifically for Spring ’14, that means vivid color combinations and a new range of higher-end athletic-inspired casuals. “Fashion is moving away from the idea of vintage as only old and worn-in styles,” Haberman offers. “Vintage can feel more crisp and modern.” In particular, the brand honed in on its EVA roots for the new Halo collection. The men’s Halo oxford,

double monk and kiltie-adorned lace-up sit on a tire-tread outsole with a slight wedge and sport a pop of color. Leather uppers are given dimension with red, blue or brown brush-off treatments. EVA outsoles are further exaggerated in women’s platform wedge T-straps and slides with an architectural cutout, sporty loafers, chunky oxfords and a monk strap flatform. Graphic combinations of white and black and red, navy and white add to the retro vibe, while piping and tassel accents come straight from Hush Puppies’ playbook. “It’s a bolder statement and not something that we are known for,” Haberman says, noting the Portuguese-made collection takes a modern look at the best bits of Hush Puppies collections circa the late ’50s and early ’60s. “It’s not trendy, but it is an unexpected style that we can rally around and base on our heritage,” he adds. Jen Reeves, vice president of global marketing, concurs: “We wanted to create a new face for the brand, but include designs that relate back to our midcentury modern heritage. These aren’t literal cues from the original product. They share the same aesthetic in a modern sense.” Reeves expects the new product to resonate with a more fashionsavvy crowd that first need to be reintroduced (or introduced) to the label. With that, the brand is marketing the collection with a stylish and crisp ad campaign (with a tinge of nostalgia) that is distinct from the “Let’s Get Together” theme the brand is using to highlight its comfort end of the product spectrum. “[The 1958 customer] is more youthful and fashion-focused—an urban professional that values comfort but wants a fashion statement,” she says. Haberman adds, “This consumer has an appreciation for this era and shows it through his or her accessories.” The 1958 collection, which reaches up to $250 suggested retail in select styles, is primarily targeting online distribution—where the brand believes the target customer frequently shops. “They are more digital oriented so we are focused on dotcoms and online influencer boutiques,” Reeves says. —A.V.

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WHAT’S COOKING continued from page 30 to make them lighter, stronger and to be what we need them to be,” he adds. “We call it the Zero Drag because a lot of guys will say, ‘Stop dragging ass!’ so we want this shoe to emphasize that this is going to help you along throughout the day so your foot’s not going to get tired.” Carhartt is also trying something different with the launch of Stomp Lite, a waterproof work package that features several layers of urethane as opposed to rubber on top of a stabilizing platform. “You’ve got the shock continuation from the floor surface up and the cushioning which really just makes for a great work boot for anybody to wear working on the job all day,” Mills says. Meanwhile Muck Boot Company, known for its rugged waterproof boots, is seeking to capitalize on last year’s 21 percent sales growth in the U.S. in the cattle ranching and farming industry by launching Cool Chore, a collection of mid- and high-rubber and Neoprene boots, lined in the brand’s moisture-wicking Xpress Cool material. “It pulls moisture away from your foot and allows it to evaporate out the top of the boot,” states Global Director Sean O’Brien. “All the way up to 90 degrees, your foot is not going to sweat. That’s been one of the problems with a rubber and Neoprene boot in the past.” SHOW AND SELL New technologies laced with promises mean squat to consumers without competent sales pitches to back them up. Mills notes that brands need to spend time educating floor staff to ensure they can convey their message to the consumer. “Otherwise, the customer sees a good looking brown boot but doesn’t know what it’s made of or how it’s constructed or if it suits him and the job that he’s going to be on,” he says. Silverman agrees: “A customer coming in for the first time buying a pair of work boots isn’t going to be spending $200-plus.” That’s why Caterpillar offers its retail partners a product matrix that provides the right footwear with varying features and benefits at a range of prices. “We start the worker off with a $115 boot and build him up as the years progress,” he explains. “A good-better-best story is important as well as the folks at retail understanding what they’re selling.” Because occupational footwear is so packed with bells and whistles, shoppers often want to know, in the quickest and easiest way possible, just what it all means. And they are increasingly turning to the Internet for assistance. “People are becoming more savvy and not going to just one store, finding a shoe and saying this looks comfortable so I’ll buy it,” Anderson says. “They’re also getting on their smartphones to check reviews and warranties on the spot.” Rather than fight such technologies, he says brands and retailers need to work together to make the in-store experience helpful, pleasant and rewarding. “Make it so consumers don’t want to look on their phone and so that they trust the salesperson,” he suggests. Adds Johnson, “For a lot of retailers, especially if they have sales associates working on the floor to explain the technologies, the features and the benefits guide the consumer in the right direction. That will increase the loyalty factor and keep the register ringing as he progresses through his career.” •

A frenzied interest in the culinary arts and celebrity chefs presents a new opportunity for retailers.


IT’S WRITTEN IN the stats: According to the National Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry is projected to employ 13.1 million people in 2013. That’s 10 percent of the U.S. workforce—and a lot of feet in need of protective footwear. “In a market where shoes were once seen as disposable, there has been a definite shift towards product excellence,” says Dankso Creative Director Ann Dittrich. “Value is no longer being measured solely on price, but is instead seen as a combination of factors, including performance in the kitchen.” She adds, “Good quality footwear is no longer viewed as a privilege for head chefs but as a priority for all.” For Spring ’14, Dansko is expanding its Pro XP collection, originally offered only to women, to include styles for men. Similar to the brand’s traditional stapled clog, the Pro XP features a softer footbed and slip-resistant outsole on a lightweight construction. Also in the cards is the Sedona, a casual, lifestyle-inspired collection that fits and wears more like a sneaker. As Dittrich says, offering a lace-up option with a slip-resistant outsole is paramount in the culinary market. Jeff Bua, president of Mozo Shoes, a division of Deckers Outdoor, agrees. “It’s been very interesting to see how much notoriety the Converse brand receives in the food service world,” he notes. “It seems the people in this business have always had to adapt footwear in their industry.” As such, Bua says Mozo addresses those concerns in a design to appeal to their specific needs and tastes. “We said, ‘What if we can give you that look and feel but made it for you?’ Across the board we received an absolute yes,” he says. Mozo has collaborated with celebrity chefs Cat Cora and Marcus Samuelsson to design shoes that take kitchen and wait staff from work to play without missing a step. Cora’s

Caviar Collection includes lightweight leather wedges and flats with molded foot beds, quilted, padded lining and slip-resistant outsoles. Meanwhile Samuelsson’s 125th Street collection redefines the traditional chef shoe with waxed canvas and patent sneakers featuring diamond-plate toecaps. “We feel we have a really nice opportunity to build some quality product that’s durable, lightweight and comfortable and rooted in the actual food service industry itself,” Bua adds. Thanks to Mario Batali and his infamous orange clogs, Crocs is no stranger to celebrity endorsement and this spring will see the brand add the Bistro Pro to its Bistro franchise. “What distinguishes this one is a dualdensity footbed that offers all-day comfort and a slip-resistant outsole with a toe bumper and a heel bumper that gives you added protection when you’re moving things around or sliding things with your feet,” says Steve Wenande, senior product line manager. “Another technology card we have added is a TPU vamp covering which provides added protection from things that may fall off the counter. It’s also an interesting way for us to do fun things with graphics and colors on the vamp.” The newfound cultural interest in foods is also set to inspire wannabe chefs to look the part as well. “Spawned by legions of cooking shows and culinary competitions, as well as lifestyle experts and bloggers— and of course Pinterest—these serious hobbyists are looking to recreate the restaurant experience at home—right down to the shoes,”Dittrich notes. “With Cat Cora’s line we wanted to make sure we captured the modern mom and the active lifestyle of the mom preparing food for her family,” Bua adds. “All the shoes are userfriendly, easy-care products that can be used professionally and in and around the home.” —L.M.


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Walk This Way

Happy Camper

Dansko responds to consumers with its first athletic walking shoe.

The Spanish lifestyle brand expands its footprint.

WHEN THIRD-GENERATION shoemaker Lorenzo Fluxá created Camper in 1975 out of his grandfather’s footwear factory on the island of Majorca, it was a response to the social and cultural changes taking place in Spain after the death of brutal dictator Francisco Franco. The brand’s ethos was to reflect the country’s new freethinking way of life through colorful, casual shoes. That approach translated into commercial success and after becoming ubiquitous on the Spanish high street, the brand spent the ’90s expanding overseas. Fast-forward to today and Camper is available in more than 50 countries, spanning comfort and boutique independents to major chains. In addition, the brand has 13 flagships in the United States with two more set to open this year in Philadelphia and Chicago. For Spring ’14 Camper will continue its designer collaboration efforts by teaming with Rachel Comey on a sandal as part of its Together collection, the brand’s first ever partnership with a U.S. designer. “I think Comey’s designs reflect ours a little. She has a handcraft feel that’s never too blatant but very aesthetic at the same time,” comments Eef Vicca, spokesperson for Camper, adding that the sandal will mix industrialized materials with handcraft techniques. The wholesale price has yet to be determined but Vicca estimates it to be between $100 and $150. It’s all part of the brand’s push for stateside domination, where sales of its shoes have doubled over the past four

years. “Many people think of us as more unisex style with flat shoes but you can clearly see an evolution over the past year that we do have heels with more feminine styling and a wide collection in which many customers can find their preference, but all the while staying true to our heritage,” Vicca maintains. To whit Camper is collaborating with a host of international designers to bow updates on some of its iconic designs for men and women for fall. “Because we have such a strong, directional aesthetic we decided we might reinforce it with the creativity of another designer,” Vicca says. Danish textile manufacturer Kvadrat is using its Hallingdal 65 fabric to reinvent two classic Pelotas models and Japanese duo Mintdesigns will reinterpret the Wabi slipper with printed wool uppers and Gore-Tex lining. Meanwhile the brand’s ongoing sneaker collaboration with German designer Bernard Willhelm gets an eye-catching outsole (see above), which Vicca says may not be a commercial hit but will grab lots of attention in the press. Further additions to the Camper line include handbags and socks. First up, a collection of messenger bags, backpacks, totes and wallets designed by Dai Fujiwara, former creative director at Issey Miyake, and made using finely woven threads of paper. A collection of leather bags is also in the works for next spring. “Bags and shoes are both accessories but essential basics,” Vicca says. “The bags include high-quality leather, while the paper bags transmit Camper’s creativity and uniqueness.” —Lyndsay McGregor

DANSKO TAKES ITS first steps into the athletic category with the Spring ’14 launch of the Santa Fe, the brand’s first walking shoe for women. With the growing trend of activewear merging into everyday wear, Mandy Cabot, CEO, says it’s the perfect time for Dansko to get in on the action. “We realize the walking category is very competitive and we knew from the beginning that if we wanted to play here we needed to have something new to say,” she explains. The brand, best known for its comfortable clogs, adds the same high performance technology to the sneaker for all-day wear and comfort. The Santa Fe features a slip-resistant outsole, a poron insole for energy return and shock absorption, and comes in a variety of pastel color combinations, which was a popular trend at the June FFANY show. Cabot reveals retailers shopping the New York market week had a very positive reaction to the walking shoe, adding that Dansko designers worked with retailer input for the line from the outset. “To have our retailers’ support is very encouraging,” Cabot says, adding, “An understandable technically valid walking shoe has been missing from the market for several years.” The shoe, which retails for a suggested $130, is geared toward women looking for new ways to be active. The Dansko target consumer is active and social and walking is a great way to bring both of those qualities of life together, Cabot notes. The lightweight design also features breathable mesh and sorona fiber linings with Cleansport NXT technology for odor control. Cabot says the walking shoe is just the beginning for more athletic designs to come from Dansko. “This is a collection we know will be successful,” she says. —Brittany Leitner

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continued from page 65 “We don’t bundle credit card processing.” But what if the Internet connection is slow or goes down altogether? Most cloud-based POS systems rely on a strong Internet connection to process transactions. “Any issues we had, like the receipts not printing or not e-mailing to the customers, were due to an occasionally weak wireless connection,” Sturm reveals. “If there a was a weekend with a freak accident where the Internet was out there wasn’t really a backup.” Lewis had similar problems. “Every once in a while I had an issue where if I was in a building that had some weird metal I couldn’t connect to WiFi,” she says. ShopKeep has since found a way around this issue, allowing businesses to ring up sales on in-store iPads and sync that data when the system goes back online. Revel Systems has on offline mode, too, so that the POS can continue seamlessly during an Internet outage. It also means that new retailers can have a working POS setup from day one, even if the provider hasn’t come to install the Internet connection. Ciabarra claims that 95 percent of his customers set up the systems by themselves by exporting their entire inventory and customer information to a spreadsheet and uploading it to the cloud provider. (The not-so tech-savvy are advised to call Best Buy’s Geek Squad to perform that service.) What about security breaches? Thanks to cloud computing, retailers can log on anywhere and get a real-time view of the day’s business. Unfortunately, this level of access may also be convenient for credit card thieves. But Richelson argues that many of the biggest security issues stem from Windows machines in retail stores—and many mom-and-pops use Windows XP. He also points out that in two years time it’s anticipated that Visa, Mastercard and American Express will take responsibility for the cost of goods bought with stolen cards, but only for merchants that use the newest technology for card acceptance. “Windows XP is a huge problem and by eliminating the use of that in a retail store we’re cutting that threat,” he says. As any retailer knows, the security of credit card information is a paramount concern for shoppers. Richelson assures that it’s not a problem with ShopKeep, noting, “As soon as you swipe a credit card it’s encrypted in the hardware.” It’s the same for SalesVu, says Pascal Nicolas, founder and CEO. “On the credit card side the app never sees the actual credit card number because as soon as they swipe the card the card reader encrypts the number and we just send that encrypted packet to the processor,” he explains, adding, “Every customer has their own database so there’s no way for different customers to have mingled data.” Revel Systems has gone a step further to provide an added level of comfort for users and merchants: a new identity theft protection system shows an image of the card holder on the merchant’s screen whenever they use their credit card. Many merchants already request photo ID when conducting credit card transactions, but having no photo on file to compare it to means the possibility for identity theft and fraud still exists. “When the salesperson swipes a credit card, the customer’s picture will pop up on the POS to prove that it actually is him. It safeguards both sides,” Ciabarra says Cloud-based POS systems offer a potential low-cost solution to brickand-mortar retailers, giving them the freedom to innovate and get closer to their customers without shouldering the IT burden. But before making the jump into the cloud, so to speak, make sure the solution is best suited to your store’s specific needs. Goyal believes it’s not a matter of if, but when. “It’s not about wanting to do it; it’s how complex it is to do based on the system you currently have in place,” he says. “Retailers large and small need to keep in mind that it really depends on how fast they can integrate it—how good of a system are you working on right now and how easy is it to bring in cloud POS.” As always, the devil is in the details. “Read the fine print, look for cancellation fees and yearly contract fees,” warns Lewis of Purse & Clutch, who recently signed up with mobile payment startup Square. “Make sure to really do your homework before you make a decision.” •

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continued from page 26 Orders come in from all over the country with a heavy concentration in Southern California and the Northeast states. But Meynard says there’s room for improvement, noting the site will be completely revamped within the next six months. “Time is such a rare commodity for people today and we all spend too much time clicking around online. We want to simplify the shopping experience further,” he says. The plan is to use what Meynard refers to as behavioral merchandising, which keeps track of what customers like, purchase and their geographic location. The site will then guide them throughout their shopping experience, making it more enjoyable and efficient. “Ultimately, it comes back to customer service and keeping our down-to-earth approach to business,” Meynard says, adding that reinvention is key to remaining relevant in the online space. From a sales standpoint, 2013 has been very good to date for Planet Shoes. “We are extremely excited,” Meynard reports. “Our first quarter is up 30 percent and we are looking to continue at that rate through the year. We think that our fall business is going to be outstanding.” As far as the future of Planet Shoes and online footwear retailing in general is concerned, Meynard offers a surprising perspective: “I see online retailers slowly [transitioning] into brick-and-mortar.” To that end, he says Planet Shoes plans to open its first retail space in Massachusetts sometime in 2014. For Meynard, this is a logical next step—one he sees as an extension of his current business model and a step up in customer service. Also, having worked in retail management when he was younger, Meynard confesses that he misses the in-person interaction with customers and products. “That whole aspect of selling shoes: going back into the stockroom, pulling out actual shoes and making recommendations to the customer… I truly miss it,” he says. Meynard believes some online companies will use brick-and-mortar outlets as showrooms where they can feature their bestsellers and enhance the customer experience by allowing them to interact directly with the product. “It’s not so much of an ROI proposition but more of a brand success to bring our digital piece into an area that can be touched,” Meynard offers. He believes that seamlessly blending a physical retail space with an online business will be a powerful combination. He cites the success of the We Got Soccer store located in Foxboro, MA, where customers can play with the merchandise via an Adidas digital wall. Bringing the virtual and physical world together makes perfect sense to Meynard because it essentially goes back to the backbone of his business philosophy: keeping customers happy in an exciting shopping experience. In addition to the physical retail world, Meynard believes Planet Shoes still has a long way to go in fulfilling its online potential. The company is embarking on a big international push. There is a Chinese Planet Shoes website up and running where visitors can shop Kalso, Earth and Earthies along with select brands such as Naturalizer and Vivobarefoot. Future plans also include opening an office in China. To be sure Planet Shoes’ future appears as promising as it did when Meynard started dreaming big in his garage. And while he says seeing that vision become a reality is extremely rewarding, there are additional perks to being the head of a leading Internet shoe retailer—like the opportunity to wear test hundreds of products on a regular basis. Meynard, who confesses to now owning way too many pairs of shoes, credits his father’s advice to always stay focused and never give up as founding principles to his company’s success. He is as excited as ever to go work, relishing the fact that each day presents new challenges and, thanks to the speed technology moves today, new chances to learn something new every day. •

6/24/13 2:17 PM



A Helping Paw Bearpaw raises brand awareness while giving budding artists a voice. Siren Williams C.A.N.V.A.S.

Side Project

Home Grown Project

RANDY MCKINLEY, VICE president of global marketing for Bearpaw, was trying to find a way to keep the quarterthree and four strong brand at the forefront of customers’ minds during the warm weather months. Besides introducing a spring/summer collection this year, McKinley knew the brand had to go the extra mile. “We have to do something more than just sell shoes,” he says. “We want to keep our name out there and people talking about us.” Enter Bearpaw’s Creative Expressions, a three-pronged initiative designed to help customers “understand the lifestyle behind our brand and communicate this message.” The first program, Creating a New Vision at Schools (C.A.N.V.A.S.), launched last August at Spring-Ford High School in Royersford, PA. Bearpaw donated approximately 40 pairs of boots to the school’s art students to use as a canvas. “Some pretty amazing artwork came out of it,” McKinley says. “Everything from the [Philadelphia Phillies mascot] Philly Phanatic to Monet and Leonardo da Vinci. We took those with us on the trade show circuit and people couldn’t get over them.” In fact, many retailers were disappointed that the boots were not for wholesale, but McKinley says that’s not the purpose of the program. “We gave the shoes back and the students auctioned them off and all the proceeds went back to the art department to buy materials and supplies for next year,” he says. C.A.N.V.A.S. lead to Bearpaw delving further into the art world to

help unknown artists with its Home Grown Project. Bearpaw enlisted the talent of Sacramento, CA, artist Dianna Wood, who launched a line of “wearable art” a little more than a year ago. “Project Home Grown is not only providing an opportunity for relatively unknown artists to share their work worldwide, but it’s also sparking a renewed interest in custom, handillustrated, one-of-a-kind footwear,” Woods says. She now sells her customdesigned Bearpaw boots on Facebook and Etsy. The third branch of the initiative is the Side Project. “We wanted to partner with people that have a passion for art but their career path has taken them somewhere else,” McKinley explains. This year, the brand teamed with Siren Williams, a surfer and musician in Cocoa Beach, FL. She used the boots as a platform to raise awareness for The Surfrider Foundation and Save the Manatee Club, using such imagery as flamingos, octopi and manatees in her designs. Williams’ boots will be auctioned online with the proceeds benefiting the two organizations. And besides giving closet artists a voice, McKinley says the Side Project also put Williams’ career on the radar of surf and music magazines. “And that was the whole idea of the project—let people use our boots to express themselves, and if we can help elevate their status, it’s even better,” he says. Up next, C.A.N.V.A.S. is journeying to McKinley’s alma mater at Pace High School in Pace, FL. Meanwhile, Home Grown is taking on another Sacramento artist, Alex Jimenez, and the Side Project is partnering with actress Beau Dunn. So far, in McKinley’s eyes, the initiative has been all-good for Bearpaw. “It’s done exactly what we’ve wanted it to do,” he says. “It’s showed another side of Bearpaw and strengthened our connection with the community.” —Maria Bouselli

72 • july 2013

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