Footwear Plus | The Source for Retailers | 2012 • April-May

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A P R I L / M AY 2 01 2 10 Q&A: Crocs John McCarvel, CEO of Crocs, reveals how the brand got back on its feet and on track to becoming a multi-billion-dollar business. By Greg Dutter

16 Born in the U.S.A. For patriotic and logistical reasons, an increasing number of manufacturers are turning to the United States for sourcing. By Lyndsay McGregor

20 The European Report

Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Fashion Editor Mary Avant Lyndsay McGregor Associate Editors

A potpourri of leading fall trends were on display at Germany’s GDS Show. By Angela Velasquez

Maria Bouselli Assistant Editor

24 One of a Kind

Laurie Guptill Production Manager

Celebrating the life, passion and career excellence of one of the industry’s best, Joe Salzano. By Greg Dutter

Michel Onofrio Style Director

Kathy Passero Editor at Large Tim Jones Senior Designer

34 Puddle Jumpers Whimsical designs are forecast for kids’ rain boots this fall. By Angela Velasquez

38 Sugar Rush Rain makers usher in a flood of colordrenched silos to brighten up gloomy days. By Angela Velasquez

4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In 8 Scene & Heard 9 Trend Spotting 36 What’s Selling 48 Shoe Salon PA G E


49 Street 50 Kids 52 Last Word On the cover: Ugg Australia rain boot. This page: Mel by Melissa ankle boot. Photography by Jason Hindley.

ADMINISTRATION Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Melanie Prescott 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 21 Highland Circle Needham, MA 02494 Tel: (800) 964-5150 Fax: (781) 453-9389 Corporate 9Threads 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Xen Zapis Chairman Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno CFO

FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) Vol. 23 issue #4 The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by 9Threads, 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl., New York, NY, 100037118. 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. ©2012 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

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editor’s note star power 7

The People You Meet LIFE IS A journey where the people you

thousands of retailers that sell Clarks become steadily better and,

meet are collected along the way, forming

ultimately, best-in-class.

a long reel of characters that increases as

Like a lightning rod, Salzano gives in-store presentations that

the years go by. Some play starring roles

spike sales in his immediate wake. No one gives a better pre-selling

for decades; others are those select few

floor pep talk than Salzano. He can motivate a sales floor slacker to

whom you meet once but never forget.

become an all-star seller. His enthusiasm for helping customers is as

There are far more who come in and

genuine as it is contagious. After watching Salzano work a customer,

out of your life like cameos and eventually fade into a cast of

you can’t help but want to tackle the next one who comes in the

thousands of faceless extras.

door. But his teachings are about killing the customer with service,

A star could be a teacher, a childhood friend, a parent, a mentor, a big brother or sister, a boss, a spouse or a co-worker— someone who makes a lasting impact and changes your life for the better. Often, it’s a person who sets an example or brings out the best in you—qualities you never thought you possessed. They inspire you. They challenge you. And they push you to be better. There are even those rare few—superstars, if you will—who have the ability to bring out the best in people repeatedly. No matter whom they meet, they zero in on the person’s talents and know just which buttons to push to make him or her shine. When it comes to our industry, I can think of no one more deserving of this description than Joe Salzano, vice president of sales at

not with overt drives for personal gain. If

“They built the Titanic to be one-of-a-kind, but many ships have ruled the seas. They built the Eiffel Tower to stand alone, but they could build another, if they please. The Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt are unique, I suppose, but when they built you, brother, they broke the mold.” —Bruce Springsteen

you focus on the needs of the customer, Salzano instructs, an improved financial standing will eventually be a byproduct of those efforts. And while Salzano might come across as overly intense at times, he always has the best interests of the people he is trying to help at heart. His first focus is the people, not the profits, and he starts with improving the morale and motivation of employees. As Salzano often says, “Happy salespeople equal happy customers.” You’ll find plenty more Salzanoisms in our special section (beginning on p. 24), saluting the industry icon as he nears his 75th birthday in July. The story of what makes Salzano tick is an inspiring one, and it was a joy to write. Salzano is one person who has made a lasting impression on me.

The Clarks Companies, N.A. He has made

His zest for life serves as a vivid reminder

a career out of inspiring thousands of

to appreciate and embrace each day. That is

retailers and sales reps to become the best at what they do—professionally and personally.

the true essence of Joe Salzano. Put another way: If Bruce Springsteen transferred his energy, drive and talents

Salzano’s immense knowledge of the art of shoe retailing leaves

into being a shoe salesman, then he would be the equivalent of

a lasting impression and, time and again, delivers memorable

Joe Salzano. For those who know me personally, there is no higher

results. His passion and tireless commitment to helping retailers

compliment I can bestow.

make him even more memorable. It’s not simply a job for him. Salzano is hardwired to help his independent sales rep force and the

Greg Dutter Editorial Director

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The Hills

The tony Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills serves as a style walk of fame for fashion A-listers. By Gary Moss

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¡+¢ scene and heard Teva’s Penguin Tale Lucky, a penguin, sports a custom-made Teva shoe.

CUTE ANIMAL ALERT! Last May, outdoor adventure brand Teva took a walk on the wild side—or, more appropriately, helped the wild take a walk—when it designed a custom shoe for one Santa Barbara Zoo penguin (“Lucky”), whose defected foot made even everyday activities like walking and swimming a struggle. What started as one shoe made with Teva-specific technologies like a Spider Rubber outsole and Ion-Mask water-repellent upper material quickly evolved into a range of seasonal styles, including one for holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Now, Teva is telling Lucky’s inspiring tale by partnering with author and illustrator Sarah Aspinall to create a children’s book, One Lucky Penguin, that’s available as a gift with purchase this spring at more than 115 Nordstrom locations nationwide. “Lucky’s story is one of passion, camaraderie and overcoming challenging obstacles in life to do what you love most of all,” says Jaime Eschette, spokesperson for the division of Deckers Outdoor. “Having the opportunity to craft that into a children’s book was a rewarding experience and a tribute to everyone who made this possible.” —Mary Avant

To Bare or to Wear

Georgia Shaw, marketing manager at Vibram FiveFingers, doesn’t think the study brings anything positive or negative to the minimalist movement, WHEN A STUDY last month put barefoot running in a citing that it was conducted with very specific and questionable light, there was speculation if the minimalist controlled circumstances. “I think it’s a step in idea of a running shoe that mimics barefoot jogging is a the right direction that people are thinking about fad, much like sneakers that claim to tone your body by [minimalist running],” she says. —Maria Bouselli merely putting them on your feet. Supporters of the minimalist movement were quick to contradict that idea. In fact, biomechanics expert at VivoBarefoot, Lee Saxby, thinks the research helps to raise awareness for minimalist running shoe brands. “I think the study shows there are biomechanical benefits to being shod, so if the benefits of being shod can be combined with the sensory benefits of being barefoot, [that equals] the perfect shoe,” he says. At the University of Colorado, researchers tested 12 male participants, each with a great amount of barefoot running experience, to compare running with shoes to running barefoot. While testing barefoot running, the participants wore yoga socks. Researchers found runners used 4 percent more energy when bare feet weighed as VivoBarefoot much as a running shoe and concluded that eight of the 12 participants were more efficient runners while wearing the Nike Mayfly sneaker. Saxby isn’t surprised by these results. “You’re going to use more muscles [in barefoot running], so of course you’re going to use more energy,” he says. “It prevents injury and doesn’t have to do with efficiency.”

Ultra-runner Jesper Olsen wearing Ecco Biom shoes.

Running Man YOU KNOW THE term “runner’s high?” Well, imagine having that feeling every day. Jesper Olsen, a Danish political scientist-turnedrunner, has been trekking his way along the East Coast—in Ecco’s Biom natural motion shoes—since early January. He began his run in Key West, FL, with a goal of reaching Newfoundland this summer, averaging a marathon a day. Why, a sane person might ask? Because it’s what Olsen has always done. In the past four years alone, he’s run across Europe, Africa and South America. He’s also credited with running a lap around the world in 2004-05. “I completed my first marathon when I was 15,” Olsen says, noting he also competed on Denmark’s national team and in six-day races. “After that, I was just curious about what the upper limit was.” Olsen says the cushioning, support, comfort and space found in Ecco’s Biom trail running shoes are must-haves for long-distance running. “When you run about a marathon a day, your feet swell a little bit, so it’s nice to have more room in these shoes,” the 38-yearold says. Olsen adds that the Bioms are durable, lasting anywhere from 500 to 800 miles, depending on the terrain. “Actually, they last longer than that, but I need fresh cushioning, as it’s very important when running this kind of heavy mileage year after year,” he explains. Olsen notes that shoes he’s worn during previous ultra-runs have been bulkier and less flexible. “The Eccos are a step up in comfort,” he declares. —M.A.


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FAUX FINISH Designers trick the eye with trompe l’oeil motifs. Clockwise from top left: Dansko clog; Kate Spade short rain boot; oxford by Reed Evins; The Sak rain boot.


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John McCarvel, CEO of Crocs, reveals how the brand has bounced back—bigger than ever at $1 billion in annual sales in 2011—and why the projection to double that hefty sales volume is in reach within five years. By Greg Dutter

FEW BRANDS TRIGGER a stronger reaction than Crocs. A mere mention of the purveyor of those foam-like clogs in garish colors sends fashion bullies into a tizzy. They’re loud. They’re puffy. They’re goofy. And, many are convinced, they’re downright fugly. While those Cayman clogs—ground zero of the brand’s assault on fashion—are extremely lightweight and comfortable, not to mention they’re easy-on and easy-off and can be worn with or without socks and in and out of water, it’s still a brand millions of people love to loathe. But it’s also a brand millions of Americans, and millions more around the globe, love to wear. And now that Crocs has evolved beyond a one-silhouette phenomenon into a more complete brand that infuses its lightweight and comfortable DNA into a broad range of styles, the feeling inside the company’s Boulder, CO, HQ is night and day from a few years back, when the sky appeared to be falling as Crocs suffered a fashion backlash, its sell-in strategy blew up and the recession kicked in. It was, as CEO John McCarvel says, the perfect storm. The brand that rocketed to $850 million in sales in just three years had nearly run out of cash only two years later, teetering on being buried in fashion’s graveyard alongside leisure suits and fanny packs. The rise, fall and subsequent resurrection of Crocs mirrors the trajectory of so many of those VH1 “Behind the Music” episodes. The meteoric rise to fame, fortune and excess, followed by the crash and burn that over-indulgence so commonly brings, and then the inevitable redemption and reunion tour. The ideal narrator of “Behind the Brand: The Crocs Saga” would be someone who has had a backstage pass to it all. That person is McCarvel. Back in 1994, Ron Snyder, McCarvel’s former boss at Flextronics (a high-tech manufacturing firm), called asking for help in a new shoe venture he had gotten involved with during his semi-retirement. Snyder saw potential, but he also saw his investment going down the drain as the company lacked the experienced personnel necessary to turn a unique item into a global business. “Not a lot of other executives could reach out and put together that kind of team,” says McCarvel, who was managing a manufacturing plant in Singapore at the time. During that summer, he checked out a few Chinese factories for Snyder, who was looking to ramp up production for Crocs. When McCarvel returned to the States for a family visit wearing a pair of butter-colored Caymans, his wife was the first—but surely not the last—to remark on the fashion faux pas he was making. “She took one look and said, ‘What the heck are those? That’s the ugliest pair of shoes that I have 10

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O&A ever seen. Did you wear those on the plane?’” McCarvel confessed he did and, he noted, they were really comfortable. It didn’t matter, as she immediately advised him to never wear them outside of the house. But McCarvel did—and increasingly more often. The comfort and versatility, especially when he returned to Singapore, made the choice too easy. “It’s hot in Singapore with 90 percent humidity, so you gravitate toward anything comfortable and casual,” he explains. The shoes were ideal whenever McCarvel would watch his sons’ sporting events or after playing golf—they were easy to pack, easy to wear and easy to rinse off. “They were just so soft and comfortable that, after a while, I didn’t care about the ugly factor,” he confesses. McCarvel was sold on Crocs and officially joined the company in November 2004 to manage its Asia region. It wasn’t long after when sales exploded. He cites Dillard’s picking up the brand as the flash point. Specifically, he says Alex Dillard saw them on a whitewater rafting trip on the Colorado River and was sold. “That really propelled Crocs from the independent boating stores into mainstream U.S. retailers,” McCarvel recalls. “And once it was a success at Dillard’s, Nordstrom and Macy’s wanted to have it and so on.” McCarvel describes the brand’s ensuing salad days as wild. In the span of three years, production spiked up to 60 million pairs a year. The company could do no wrong during that period, making clogs as fast as it could sell them— and Crocs was willing to sell to anyone, anywhere. Along the way, Crocs became flush with cash and began acquiring companies. Some were fits and some, in hindsight, made little sense at all. Its at-once replenishment business model— one that broke the traditional rules of pre-booking footwear orders—became a risk-free buying rage for retailers that fed the ferocious appetite of consumers (but it would also plant the seeds of the brand’s ensuing crash in 2007). Another factor that would eventually work against Crocs had to do with its management team. The very hightech, global business backgrounds that enabled the brand to grow so rapidly weren’t prepared for some of the unique challenges that would arise in the fashion business. But let’s face it: When the party is raging, few people—especially rock stars and a good number of high-flying execs—look for warning signs

that the good times might abruptly end. Making gobs of money hand over fist tends to blind mere mortal souls of such killjoy scenarios. “In the summer of 2007, there was no indication that there was going to be a falloff,” McCarvel confirms. “We were still seeing massive demand from department stores, sporting goods channels and mid-tier independents.” Then, as fast as Crocs rose to prominence, it all began to unravel. Let’s call it Act II of the Crocs saga. In the ensuing interview, McCarvel candidly

How did it all go wrong? For starters, our at-once model went against the grain of all other major footwear brands that required orders to be put months in advance. Meanwhile, we were building products based on our trajectory of U.S. sales, which accounted for 70 percent of our volume at the time (today it’s 35 percent) and thinking the growth curve would continue. But our sales people didn’t do a good job in managing where product was being sold—like gas stations in Hawaii, where the Macy’s buyers were on vacation and didn’t enjoy seeing that. And the Nordstrom buyers didn’t like seeing it being discounted in Dick’s at the end of a season. All of a sudden, we had a huge channel conflict and, even though [President] Bush said we didn’t have a recession, it What are you reading What is your motto? I became very clear in 2008 that we were right now? Great by don’t have a particular in one. Retailers started canceling orders Choice by Jim Collins. one, but a lot of times I and even returning product. Throw in say, “Do it right the first the fact that gas went to $4 a gallon and What one word best time.” Another one is, people were getting laid off by the thoudescribes you? I would “No politics.” sands, and it was clear that the country probably say passive, but had a big financial problem. And there my staff advised me to What was your first we were with approximately 27 million say driven. job? I was an accountant pairs of shoes in inventory and no place at Westinghouse. to sell them. We nearly ran out of cash in Who or what is inspirthe early part of 2009 because we were ing you most right now? What is your favorite placing these bets ahead of the curve. It I’m inspired by the huge hometown memory? was a real mess. opportunity we have I grew up in San Jose, with Crocs in the lifestyle CA, during the ’60s and There were no warning signs that the space. We don’t have a ’70s when it was pretty crash was imminent? Nike, Adidas or Under much all orchards. My Oh yeah, there were signs. We knew Armour to compete with. friends and I would that we had to go from this clog and have massive rotten evolve into a brand. In fact, one of our If you could hire anyfruit fights. You should board members would often warn that one, who would it be see the mess a rotten the clog would become 20 to 30 percent and why? A designer/ apricot makes if you hit of our revenue at some point. We just marketer like Ralph somebody with it. It’s all didn’t know the trajectory of the curve Lauren would be an outhouses now and the kids at that time. And, to our defense, we standing hire. play paintball. were fighting a slew of knockoffs, which was costing us tens of millions of dollars. But Walmart didn’t care. To them, this was a fad—although we never said the “F” word at Crocs—and until our explains where Crocs screwed up, what needed patents were upheld in court, they were going to be fixed and how it has since gotten its mojo to make as much money as they could. It also back to the point where he firmly believes it will didn’t help that there was nothing we thought see solid growth. “We have a good future ahead we couldn’t do at the time. For example, we of us. We just have to continue to build on our thought the brand strength was so great that we product story,” he says. “Our biggest opportucould do apparel. Well, we soon had warehouses nity going forward is new consumers. There’s full of apparel that we had to liquidate. We also so much more to Crocs now: It’s still fun and acquired four companies during that growth comfortable but there are so many more styles span. There are only two left (Jibbitz and Ocean to choose from.” Minded). Bite has since been folded into our new


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Crocs golf collection, and You by Crocs is gone. We also acquired Fury, an ice hockey company, to put our material in the padding. That’s gone as well. Was there ever a point where you thought of jumping ship? Even in the worst days, when we almost ran out of cash, I never really felt that was the destiny for this brand. In fact, I remember plans being put together by our CFO at the time that predicted our sales would fall to $500 million and I told [interim CEO] John Duerden that it was just not where the brand was at. I think he was surprised when we didn’t fall as much as these doomsday people were projecting. It was like a scene from Chicken Little, where our finance people were running around projecting that the sky was falling according to the model. I suggested they get out of the office and talk to consumers to see if any of it verified. You still believed. In early 2008, I could have taken the money and walked. But I loved the brand and the people here. We have a unique culture and one with very little politics. It’s a lot of people who just want to have fun, build a brand and work together. And not many companies get to do what we do globally—and to do it in three channels (retail, ecommerce and wholesale). The other part was that I felt guilty of the mess that we had created. You look back on things—it’s always 20/20—and realize that we should have changed our at-once model, we shouldn’t have over-built this product, etc. But when you are in the midst of going from $0 to $850 million, you don’t have the time to address all of those things. What needed to be done to turn Crocs around? It required fixing the product line and having patience to go out and sell it. Along those lines, we began opening our own stores because no one else wanted to carry the brand. In fact, outlet stores became our saving

grace. We were selling the old inventory at $10 to $12 a pair (making 20 to 30 percent return), and we were getting consumers to see all of the new products we offered. We began converting that inventory rapidly, from late 2008 through 2010, into cash. By that time, we had approximately 200 styles of shoes and more than 200 stores of our own globally, and our partners built another 200 to 300 stores in China, Southeast Asia and Europe. We started to see that the brand had a loyal following that was interested in far more than our clogs. We took styles into f lats and wedges, as well as added new materials like canvas and leather. Those were big steps for us. Introducing sneakers was another big step— product that weighs 7 ounces and is super-comfortable. Just as with our new golf line, people never felt a golf shoe that lightweight and comfortable. And that’s what we want people to think about Crocs in general. We also needed to make course corrections people-wise. To that end, we hired a second-generation management team and now have great people in the respective regions running our business. Crocs is back and bigger than ever, yet it’s a brand so many people still love to hate. Does that matter? So what? One of the aspects that has always been true about Crocs is that it’s fun, innovative, colorful, a bit edgy and a bit different. Wouldn’t you rather be there? I think of great brands like New Balance, Saucony and Asics and then say to myself, “God, would I want to compete with Nike and Adidas all day?” Who does Crocs fight with? Who is our competitor today? Who is it? Is it Skechers? But they don’t even do Cali Gear anymore. So we get to offer great product at a great price, we get to build all sorts of innovative styles and we get to have a lot of fun in the process. Today, 65 percent of our revenue is from outside of the U.S. and we have a true global following. And



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we still have opportunities to grow in the U.S. via direct and wholesale. What was the hardest aspect when things weren’t going well? The hardest thing to do in business is lay people off. What makes it even worse is when you go through major restructuring and lay off people that you really respect. We closed a factory in Brazil that had great people and thought would be our foundation for building product in that market. We shut down our Canada factory, which is where the brand began building product. We laid off about 1,000 people in Mexico. We had Taiwanese partners that went from full tilt to 20 percent capacity. You feel like you let those people down. And there was the internal cultural damage—people didn’t trust each other. I’m not sure people even liked each other by that point. We needed to get the right people on the bus and it was not about what we were going to do first as much as who we would have do it. Once you have the right people, you can do great things. We had to rebuild that. When did you start seeing what became a stellar year in 2011? By 2009, we could start to feel internally that the tide had turned. Famous Footwear, who once made us sit in their lobby for hours in St. Louis to make the point that we had treated them badly, were giving us a look once again. And then DSW, Kohl’s and Shoe Carnival were giving us a chance. All of sudden, that mid-tier channel, where our target consumer shops, saw that there was a new management team in place that had gotten its act together and was offering good products. By the time we had our pre-book in late Q4 of that year, we knew that ’10 was going to be a great year. We bounced back and went from $645 million to $790 million in 2010. We knew that we would build off that success and ’11 would be great, and we think ’12 is going to be another solid year. So retailers are indeed a forgiving bunch? You break that trust with them and it takes time to repair those wounds. I think that most have since forgiven us. We have said that we are truly sorry and that it’s not the same group of people that they necessarily have worked with in the past. All we asked is that they give us a chance. Of course, when they see that we are successful with other retailers, they are more inclined to forgive. But we have had to earn back the trust of the buyers, and we’ve got to continue to work really hard at making them be successful. Because if you can’t do that, then you have a real problem. Has there been pushback on the amount of company-owned stores? David Campisi, former president of The Sports Authority, told me nine months ago that for us to have 200 stores across the country didn’t really create a big competitive issue. In fact, when he went into our Santa Monica store, that’s when he realized Crocs was back. The store was packed and people were walking out with bags full of shoes. It’s all about trying to create the right balance. For example, we create SMUs for Kohl’s, and we don’t sell the same product that we sell at competing retailers or in our own stores. Plus, we are creating brand halo—people walk into our stores and see 90 different styles of our shoes. What is it about Crocs that has the ability to appeal to so many different cultures? I give a lot of credit to Ron Snyder. In those formative days, we would talk a lot about the type of culture we wanted to create. One of the tenets was no politics. Along those lines, our regions have 70 percent of the decision-making power. They have say on how to merchandise and market the brand. The result is that we are a Japanese brand to the Japanese, the same for Australians and so on. Somebody in Boulder telling someone in China how to visually merchandise a store for its Golden Week celebration should never happen. Is there a region that has more potential than others? Last year, the U.S. region accounted for $350 million in sales and >51

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When Mark Bollman opened his specialty menswear shop Ball and Buck in 2010, the Boston-based retailer had to dig for Americanmade stock. Just two short years later, an increasing amount of homegrown brands are knocking on his door in an effort to gain precious shelf space amid his store’s exclusive made-in-the-U.S.A. merchandise mix that includes footwear (from the likes of Wolverine 1000 Mile, Danner, Elkins Outside, Quoddy and Red Wing, among others), apparel, luggage, timepieces and hunting-inspired accessories. Coinciding with the increase of wholesalers to choose from, Bollman reports sales at his shop and its accompanying online store were up 17.9 percent last year—a statistic that’s expected to grow in 2012. Bollman says his store’s success mirrors the organic farm movement sweeping the country. This locavore philosophy is similar to buying footwear made in the United States. For starters, it involves less shipping and is therefore more environmentally friendly. In addition, consumers have a higher level of trust in American production practices with regards to materials used and workers’ rights. “Like you’re seeing with the farm-to-table movement, the same thing is happening with clothing and shoes,” Bollman confirms. “People have gone from not knowing anything about their food to knowing what farm, what season and what farmer.” Another factor fueling the made-in-America revival has risen out of the recession. The outsourcing of American jobs is front and center in the minds of millions, especially those who are unemployed.

Thus, purchasing products made by fellow Americans has become increasingly attractive. As Bollman puts it, “The whole lifestyle around our store is based on knowing you have bettered someone else’s life and created an American job.” Even if domestic production is costlier, it’s an investment U.S. manufacturers are willing to make on an emotional level. “I’m really proud that I have 45 employees and, altogether, I feed about 120 mouths,” reveals Calleen Cordero, designer behind the eponymous line made in Los Angeles. It’s a sentiment shared by Red Wing CEO David Murphy: “We are the largest employer in Red Wing, MN. We employ one in 10 residents, and we care about that. When I sit in a [local] diner, I might be sitting next to my fellow employees,” he notes. Alice Chen, designer of New York-based comfort brand Alice

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Alan, thinks it’s also a reasonable cost increase consumers are willing to absorb—so long as the quality is there. “Retailers are telling me customers are saying, ‘I want a shoe that’s not made in China,’” she says. “[They] don’t want mass-marketed stuff.” Ironically, one of the biggest factors contributing to the rebirth of American-made shoes has to do with China’s sourcing issues that are forcing manufacturers to look elsewhere for production, be it Vietnam, Italy, Brazil, Ethiopia or the U.S., among other countries. The shift is backed by the Annual Footwear Sourcing Forecast, released last month by the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), which found that U.S. footwear imports from China accounted for 85.3 percent of all imports in 2011—the lowest percentage in seven years. China’s increasing internal demand for footwear, coupled with factories switching to other industries, is forcing wholesalers to find alternative sourcing partners. “There’s value in having a more diversified sourcing platform,” notes FDRA President Matt Priest. “Jobs in the 21st century in this industry rely on the ability to move product in the global economy.” So an industry that was once pretty much left for dead in the U.S. is showing a pulse. And, according to some manufacturers, it’s an easier endeavor than making product overseas. “I didn’t want to deal with language barriers and, doing it locally, I have smaller minimums and access to quality control, and changes can be made very quickly,” Chen says. “Working with people overseas, you’re looking at a 12- to 15-month lead time, whereas I can have a shoe out now that I sketched four weeks ago.” Along those lines, Nike is causing a stir with its soon-to-belaunched Flyknit minimalist running shoes. According to an article in Businessweek, the innovative weaving technology knits the entire upper in a single piece that’s then attached to the sole, cutting labor costs and production time. As a result, Charlie Denson, president of the Nike brand, is quoted as saying the process cuts costs so much “that eventually we could make these shoes anywhere in the world,” including the U.S. The production process would also be more environmentally friendly, as it uses fewer materials, and shipping distances could be greatly reduced. In bringing potential production to the States, Nike could hit on four key consumer touchstones related to Flyknit: minimalist running, sustainability, customization and American-made. New Balance is a step ahead on the U.S.-made sneaker front, as it is currently the only athletic shoe company that manufactures such shoes in the country. With two plants in Massachusetts and three in Maine, its U.S. workforce produces 25 percent of its shoes sold in North America and is focusing its domestic production on making what the customer wants—and quickly. New Balance is also celebrating its homegrown capabilities with an extensive “Craftmanship Redefined” marketing campaign backing the 30th anniversary of its iconic 990 running shoe. The effort involves TV, social media, print and in-store POP. In addition, as a supplier to the U.S. military, New Balance also ran a promotion during the month of April with the United Service Organization that, after a buyer of any New Balance shoe donated $10, the company sent a pair manufactured in the U.S. to an active-duty service member. Patrick Tomasiewicz, a marketing associate, was quoted as saying that depicting New Balance employees making the 990 was the ideal way to showcase the American-made angle and its quality craftmanship.

New Balance


Wolverine 1000 Mile


Alice Alan

Allen Edmonds


Quality Control It may be fashionable to buy American right now, but the movement is more than just a patriotic phase. According to many American-made suppliers, the premium quality offered is more of a selling point. A really well-made shoe—one that is truly built to last—is deemed a worthy

Calleen Cordero

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Nike Flyknit

investment among consumers who demand more bang for their buck. “Our shoes can last 15 to 20 years. People are starting to appreciate that more,” says Paul Grangaard, CEO of Allen Edmonds. Handcrafted in Port Washington, WI, using a 212-step production process, Allen Edmonds has been favored by quality-minded Americans since 1922. And with sales up more than 20 percent this year, Grangaard says all signs point to continued growth. “We’ve learned to keep our core customer’s favorite styles in the line and expand certain styles both to broaden that customer’s closet and also to attract new consumers to the line,” reveals Grangaard, adding that authenticity matters. “It’s always interesting to see a great American fashion statement and then look at the label and see that it’s actually made here,” he notes. An added bonus, he says, is that Allen Edmonds produces goods made-to-order, so there’s no need to carry stock or pressure to predict the perfect order minimum. “We don’t sell shoes only in-season twice a year. We sell shoes all year long, and if you run out we can get more to you in a couple of days,” Grangaard says. George Vlagos, founder and designer of Maine-crafted Oak Street Bootmakers, credits the growing consumer demand for American-made products to lessons learned from the turbulent economy. “There has been a strong resurgence in people looking for a shoe that’s going to last for a really long time,” he says. “When you look at these menswear blogs and forums, that’s what guys are looking for and what they usually circle back to—made in America.” Especially with respect to Oak Street Bootmakers’ customers, Vlagos reports that a good portion of the sales growth is attributable to men who normally don’t spend $300 on a pair of shoes, but they’ve come to realize that “if they want a shoe that’s going to last a long time, they have to.” John Andreliunas, CEO of Quoddy, agrees, noting the investment in quality merchandise adds a whole new level of options to the consumer. “Do you want something that’s just for fun or something that you can invest in and have for years to come?” he proposes. Known for its handmade moccasins and boat shoes, the Maine-based company has seen its business grow

by leaps and bounds in the past three years, riding the Americana fashion trend in specialty stores both here and abroad. “You have to make a commitment to this product and story, and our retailers are the type that get behind an investment purchase as opposed to a fashion one,” he says. “It harkens back to the old days when people actually invested in their footwear and took it to a cobbler to get resoled.” Beyond that, Andreliunas believes the logistics of production are changing. “Gone are the days where large companies chased low costs and cheap labor,” he says. “It’s a much more complicated equation right now, and the equation is about what value you’re delivering to the consumer.” Roger Huard, vice president of product development at Wolverine, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, echoes this sentiment: “People are looking for craftsmanship and quality versus disposable footwear,” he says. And with record unemployment still lingering, consumers are particularly concerned with where their dollar goes. “With the loss of manufacturing jobs and the lack of job creation, there’s obviously a big plus if you can put a product out there that’s made in the U.S.,” Huard maintains. That’s just what the work boot brand did when it launched its Americanmade Wolverine 1000 Mile label, which tripled its sales in 2011. Drawing on 125 years of history, the premium heritage styles feature Horween leathers, stacked leather outsoles, Vibram soles and a Goodyear welt construction—all of which come from U.S. manufacturers. Portland, OR-based Keen took a similar approach to quality control and logistics when it decided to build its men’s work boot, the Portland PR. As Utility Division Director Mark Reilly says, “Because we’re closer to the production, we’re much better able to manage quality in our process than if the boots were being produced overseas.” Similarly, Randy Watson, CEO and chairman of Justin Brands, believes the production of its Justin, Nocona, Chippewa and Tony Lama boots in the company’s native state of Texas is a huge advantage. “We get to see the raw materials when they come in all the way through to putting the boots in the box,” he says, adding that it’s also easier for his product development team to stay on top of trends. “Time is money, so when you manufacture domestically, you can move product more quickly and improve return.” But with that level of quality control


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comes increased expenses: “It costs a lot of money to make footwear here versus in Asia,” admits Red Wing’s Murphy. There’s no denying that labor costs and employee benefits in the U.S. make domestic production an expensive endeavor, but a desire for faster turnaround and more control of the supply chain balances out labor costs and overhead expenses enough to make U.S. manufacturing a viable option again, even if Murphy says it’s unlikely production will ever return to its heyday.

The Road Ahead One of the challenges facing some domestic manufacturing companies is how to manage growth. As John Wilson, vice president of domestic manufacturing at New Balance, points out, shoemaking has been in decline for almost 40 years. “There’s a significant uphill challenge. The skill sets aren’t here,” he says. “It’s not that it can’t be done, but it’s a big challenge.” In 2005, the company brought lean manufacturing into its factories to improve productivity. “We were able to go from making one pair of shoes in eight days to three hours today by shifting the culture to embrace waste reduction and continuous improvement and by empowering problem-solving with our manufacturing associates,” Wilson notes. The result: Consumers can order a custom pair of New Balance 993s and receive them in as little as four days. Of course, those sneakers—any shoes, for that matter—have to fit and be priced right. “It doesn’t matter if there are three American brands or 300; if it fills the niche we need, we like the product and we like to work with the brand, then we will add it to our inventory,” says Steven Taffel, owner of Leffot, a men’s boutique in New York that stocks a tight edit of highquality loafers, work boots, brogues and moccasins from brands like Quoddy, Danner and Alden. And while Americanmade brands are selling well, Taffel confirms that his customers are more interested in the quality and fit of a brand as opposed to where it came from. “At the end of the day, there are some consumers who are very passionate about buying from the U.S., but for those looking for the best value, the best quality and brands they believe in, it doesn’t matter whether they’re from [here] or somewhere else,” agrees FDRA’s Priest. “If you’re struggling financially as a family, you’re not going to be buying expensive products just because they’re made in America.” Maybe so, but a resurgence in American-made shoes could help ensure the industry returns in a viable way in the U.S., where the talent pool of qualified shoemakers deepens. Helping matters is the fact that it’s not just U.S. consumers who seek to buy American-made shoes. “We had people show up on our doorstep from Japan looking for shoes,” reveals Andreliunas, who adds that Asia is one of Quoddy’s major markets. “They appreciate made-in-the-U.S.A. products more than a lot of people who live in the U.S.A.,” he adds. Likewise, before Red Wing’s American-made heritage line was stocked at upscale stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s, it was available only in Japan. “Authentic American is very much prized in the Japanese culture and our whole brand story reinforces this perception,” Murphy says. “Our boots are made the way they always were: in the same small factory in the same town with the same name in middle America on the banks of the Mississippi River. Same as they were 105 years ago.” •

IN CLOGS WE TRUST DANSKO HAS ALWAYS manufactured footwear overseas—not to mention the fact that the brand’s origins are in Denmark—but now the 22-year-old clog company is looking into American-made production as a part of its mission to “do the right thing” in regards to corporate, social and environmental responsibilities. “We believe that for certain products, the U.S. might provide a viable, and perhaps even the best, option for us,” says CEO Amanda Cabot. Dansko currently assembles 80 percent of its staple clogs in China and 20 percent in Italy. If all goes well, the comfort shoe company will manufacture a new style stateside as early as next year. Here, Cabot explains the company’s reasons for possible homegrown production.

Is the decision to source shoes in the States for environmental reasons or job-creation ones? As with most things we do, environmental impact is definitely part of the equation. We are a U.S.based company, so being made in the U.S. has long been a goal. While job creation wouldn’t likely affect Dansko directly, if it were a side effect of this decision, of course that would be a great thing. In what ways does this fit with Dansko’s overall corporate philosophy? For Dansko to be around for the long haul, we need to take the long view. Diversification of the supply chain and transporting goods to market quickly and reliably, while minimizing our carbon footprint, are all part of that long-term vision. How much product do you envision making in the U.S. next year? Our goal is to have at least one style within our Avalon [molded footwear] collection manufactured in the U.S. next year. As we add collections, we will continue to look at the best place to produce them based on materials, labor, infrastructure, etc. Production of Dansko footwear in America is a goal, and all the pieces need to be in place for this to happen. What is your long-term plan for U.S.-based manufacturing? The ultimate goal is to avail ourselves of any manufacturing opportunities in the U.S. that will allow us to make shoes with the quality and styling that we need. In addition, it would be our hope that such manufacturing would also allow us to incorporate greener materials and have an “end-of-life” process in place. Do you think more companies will follow your lead? We hope this will be the start of a new conversation for U.S.-based brands. But for stateside manufacturing to grow significantly, there needs to be an improvement in our domestic infrastructure, both in terms of components and resources, as well as skilled labor. If you had that, I think America could certainly be competitive in manufacturing. Is America ready for this potential shift? I think both the consumer and the industry would welcome the “Made in America” label. Now it’s more a question of whether or not the manufacturing community is ready to support such a shift. Training will be a big part of that. —L.M.

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The continent’s streak of warm weather at the start of winter, followed by a blast of Arctic temperatures, may have left attendees at the GDS show in Düsseldorf, Germany, more confused than ever about which styles to order for next fall. Thankfully, a range of easy-towear trends—spiced up with a few outrageous looks for fashion mavericks—presented buyers with a promising assortment. BY ANGELA VELASQUEZ





Full-bodied, luscious red is an alluring alternative to traditional neutrals, but paired with velvet, animal prints and extreme silhouettes, the hue takes on other-worldly fervor.

Paco Gil

Stuart Weitzman

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Paco Gil



The retro print was spotted across the show floor, keying into the season’s kitschy fashion movement that includes a spree of bow, heart and glitter embellishments.

BF Colección Europa


Sock-like constructions, colorcontrasting heels and dip-dye effects stretch oxford shoeties’ fashion legs and cement the silhouette’s place as a modern fall classic.

BF Colección Europa

Dr. Martens


A touch of rockabilly, a hint of Goth and a dash of fashion in the form of slick patents, classic two-tones and intense shark tooth soles creates a wickedly bold and stylish statement for men.

Atelier do Sapato


Arche Chie Mihara

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Out is in, according to men’s and women’s fashion brands melding the outdoor category’s signature rugged ware with supple leathers and unexpected colors like navy and plum.


Voltan Marc


Josef Seibel Arche

Designers grapple with the task of winterizing sneakers by throwing sporty kicks inspired by wrestling boots into the ring.


Paco Gil

Fred de la Bretoniere


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Maki Uehara Tokyo

Acting as a blank canvas for fall’s color and material stories, boot makers find a compromise between booties and tall styles with versions that meet in the middle.

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Mexx Fury


Warm and rich shades of golden caramel present an ideal transition color for spring.




WINE PAIRING Color blocking the season’s two hottest hues—deep red and caramel—delivers a stylish one-two punch.

Hoegl Wolverine 1000 Mile by Samantha Pleet


Striking a formidable profile, banana heels soar to new extremes with amplifying platforms, bold colors, animalistic textures and the razzle-dazzle of chunky glitter.

Via Uno

Ted Baker


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ONE OF A KIND If you haven’t by now actually heard Joe Salzano speak, it’s a good bet you have heard of his passionate message about the art of shoe retailing. A career that now spans more than five decades, the vice president of sales for The Clarks Companies, N.A. continues to crisscross the country delivering his inspirational wisdom and leaving an indelible imprint on the footwear industry.

SK MOST ANYONE who knows Joe Salzano personally—or even those who sat through just one of his retailing seminars—“What’s the word that best describes Joe?” It’s almost guaranteed that “passionate” will rank as the most popular adjective regarding the man who exhibits more energy than the Energizer Bunny and more hustle than the legendary “Charlie Hustle” himself, Pete Rose. Salzano doesn’t just lecture on ways to improve your store’s comp sales or motivate your sales team; he gives you the religion on how to achieve those goals and why such devotion to that mission—to be the best shoe retailer one can be—will reap rewards far greater than a healthy sales jump. Salzano’s teachings are as much about the finer points of shoe retailing as they are about valuable lessons in life. Sure, all the critical how-to and blocking and tackling strategies delivered in his seminars and frequent in-store visits are there for the taking, but Salzano also offers intangibles that are equally valuable. He gives listeners the heartfelt message that a life lived with purpose, passion and gratitude can garner rewards beyond providing for materialistic wants and needs. Salzano wants every retailer to become better, and that’s for the benefit of their business, their personal lives and the company he has loyally worked for over the past 19 years (and the company his son, Jim, now runs in the U.S.). You’ll often hear people say that Salzano is a real throwback. That they don’t make them like that anymore. That he’s the Vince Lombardi of shoe retailing. That he never sleeps. That he’s a mentor, a coach, a catcher, a competitor, a motivational speaker, a gifted musician, a good husband, an incredible father, a doting grandfather and great-grandfather (four times over!), and, lest anyone forget, a diehard New York Yankees fan. Regarding the latter attribute, Salzano is a fan passionate—or crazy—enough to

sit in Boston’s Fenway Park wearing full Yankees regalia and root for his team. Yet he survives because, as Bob Infantino, Salzano’s former boss at Rockport and Clarks, describes, “They can see his enthusiasm is genuine and he’s not offensive. He’s contagious,” adding, “There’s not another one like him anywhere.” Infantino, now the president of Drydock Footwear, describes Salzano’s approach to life as 24/7 enthusiasm. “He’s passionate about the business, but Joe’s passion is in the way he wakes up every morning,” he offers. “If it’s the Yankees, music or the shoe business, he only knows one way to look at things, and that’s with full-on excitement.” Jim Salzano, president of The Clarks Companies, N.A., agrees: “My dad is a very passionate person and is extremely committed to people he is working with,” he says. “He gets involved with our customers and he loves to see their business grow.” Salzano notes, however, that his father’s enthusiasm isn’t always met with equal gusto or understanding. As his son describes, “He’s one of the only people I know who can meet someone who has been running a business for 20 years and immediately start telling that

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person how to run their business.” As you can imagine—and many reading this article may well confess to having done so themselves—Salzano has been told to take a hike on occasion. But the truth is that while his criticisms might initially sting, they’re usually spot-on. What also eventually comes across is Salzano’s genuine commitment to helping improve the business and not just criticizing it. Being a critic is easy, but being a devoted teacher to the level of commitment that actually brings about change for the better is what makes Salzano special. “Pretty soon, people realize that my dad is very sincere and relentless in wanting to help out,” Salzano says. “He just wants so badly for the people that we do business with to really do well.” Salzano’s drive to be the best carries into his lifelong coaching of baseball that span many championship Little League teams to his 55-and-older men’s softball team that has won numerous tournaments nationwide. “Winning is everything to him,” his son confirms. “He’s just passionate about all aspects of his life.”


Joe Salzano is a numbers guy. Like a machine gun, he’ll fire off exact dates of memorable events from long ago, sales figures, projected growth estimates, lists, line-ups, win-loss records, SKUs, size runs, current batting averages, pitching ERAs and anything else that can be quantified. Infantino says it’s all a part of his keen musician mind: Salzano can keep the beat and do the math like nobody’s business. Here’s a brief sampling: 1955 (the year Salzano joined the U.S. Army);

July 28th, 1958 (the date he left the Army); 20 (the age he had his second son); $1.50 (the hourly wage at his first retail job working at Kinney Shoes in his hometown of Rochester, NY); 1962 (the year he was named manager of his first store, part of the Altier Shoes chain); $300,000 (the store’s annual sales within two years’ time of his management and up from $90,000 upon his arrival); 30 (his age when his first wife passed away, forcing him to raise five boys on his own); 3 (the number of characteristics he looks for in a new hire, with enthusiasm being one of them); 2 (his morning rituals that involve reading the newspaper’s obituary page to make sure his name isn’t there and looking at the American League East standings to confirm that the Yankees are in first place). Two more statistics: 5 a.m. (the time he awakens each morning to hit the gym at least four days a week; on the other three, he goes for a walk, weather permitting) and 1 (the number of days he has called in sick in 54 years of working). Not bad for a guy who will turn 75 on July 6th. The near-total recall and what these numbers represent are impressive. Specifically, his age when his wife passed away from cancer stands out. A lot of people might have crumbled under the enormous responsibility that Salzano faced: raising five sons, ranging in age from 2 to 13 at the time, on a retail manager’s salary. What made him persevere? “I wasn’t going to let them down,” he says, noting the date of his wife’s passing was Sept. 19th, 1971. “That day, I put each of my sons on my lap and told them, ‘We are going to work together as a team and we are going to make it.’” And make it they did. Of course, it wasn’t easy and involved juggling acts that, in some instances, forced the boys into adult roles (Jim prepared dinners for the family most nights) and, in a strange twist of fate, resulted in Infantino becoming a part-time babysitter. Salzano hired Infantino as part of a college credit program at Altier, and the young Infantino also stepped in to watch the children when needed. “I trained and brought Bob onto the selling floor,” Salzano says. “I got to know him very well and we became close.” Salzano adds, “Who would have thought back then that I would have two future presidents of Clarks in my midst?” Infantino and others weren’t always able to fill in during a parenting pinch. On one such occasion, Salzano had to visit a store in Syracuse, NY, with two sons in tow. He plied both boys with popcorn, coloring books and blankets, left them with implicit instructions to stay in the locked car, and told them he would be back within the hour. “Well, I’m selling a pair of shoes to a woman and I look up to see my two sons walk in holding their blankets and saying they’ve got to pee,” Salzano recalls. “I said to the lady, ‘Are these your children?’”—the point being sometimes you have to laugh and do what you can in order to survive. “Life is not about straight. It’s about peaks and valleys, bumps in the road and walls you run into,” he says. “It’s what you do to rise above those obstacles that matters most.”


Salzano had no intention of ever entering the shoe business. Instead, he dreamed of becoming a professional musician. He’s an

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Thank you for being a driving force behind our sales team’s success. We’ve learned from you, been inspired by you and caught your passion for the business—and life. Your family at

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accomplished saxophone and clarinet player. He even joined the Army in large part based on a recruiter’s promise that he would remain stateside and play with some of the Army’s best musicians stationed in New Jersey. But before he could whistle Dixie, Salzano was shipped off to Georgia for infantry training, and deployment to Korea awaited. Luckily, during a training layover at North Carolina’s Fort Bragg, Salzano took a last-shot audition with its jazz band and delivered the goods. Instead of becoming potential cannon fodder on the Korean peninsula, Salzano sat in with the band over the next few years, playing for a general’s retirement party and other military functions. Upon being discharged, Salzano had dreams of pursuing his music career and looked into attending Boston’s acclaimed Berklee College of Music while playing gigs at night. But parenthood got in the way. With one son to care for and another on the way, Salzano answered a Kinney Shoe store help-wanted ad. “I went down to interview at 11 a.m. and by 11:10, they hired me. At 11:15, they promoted me to assistant manager,” Salzano says with a laugh. He was thrown right into the fire, since there was no one else to learn from or hide behind. “I pretty much worked the floor alone,” he says. “I learned how to manage stock, trim windows, sell to customers, etc. And I grew to love it—fulfilling customers’ needs became a great thrill for me.” Salzano worked at Kinney for three months—six days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Then a career-changing break came when Richard Altier, president of Altier Shoes, a respected four-store chain, hired Salzano, for which he is grateful to this day. “The Altier brothers (Ted was the chairman) looked at me in a different light than anybody else had up to that point in my life,” he says. “They saw something special, which I never thought I had because I was a flunky in high school and only wanted to play my horn.” Exactly what the brothers saw, Salzano believes, was his being ready and willing to always go beyond expectations. It became a case of “don’t bother

asking Salzano the question because he already knows the answer.” The Altiers sent him to night school for accounting and communications—both courses that would pay future dividends in Salzano’s career. “I worked my butt off and I always did more than I was asked to do,” he says, noting his first day at Altier Shoes was Oct. 3rd, 1958. He started in the stockroom, where he would spend the next six weeks, until one Saturday when they needed someone on the sales floor. “I sold my first pair of shoes and it felt like I’d just hit a grand slam,” he says, adding that Altier Shoes was a great learning experience. “I worked with a lot of older people at the time—people in their late 30s and early 40s, which was old to me at 21.” Salzano quickly became the highest seller in the store and was soon bumped up to assistant manager. Then, in 1962, he was named manager of his first store. “I took pride in ownership,” he says. Sales soon skyrocketed, and the Altiers moved Salzano to a bigger store and then, soon after, asked him to manage the biggest store in the chain. Salzano, a bit overwhelmed, declined the offer and instead took the job of sales supervisor of the chain’s eight stores, which quickly grew to 16 stores. He was later promoted to vice president of sales, which is basically what Salzano claims to be doing now from a wholesale perspective. “I’ve been a career manager for 50 years,” he says, noting that he still plays a few music gigs a year. In fact, Salzano’s musical talents are the main reason he often hired fellow musicians to work the sales floor at Altier Shoes. He deemed them great entertainers with magnetic personalities that drove people into the stores. “They were half crazy, but good crazy,” he says. Salzano adds that he learned quickly how to grow sales and, as supervisor, his job involved recruiting, hiring, training and firing shoe salesmen—putting the best team on the sales floor as possible, as he puts it. “I loved all of it—working the floor on Saturdays, opening new stores and closing down old ones,” he says. “I learned how to sell children’s, women’s, men’s shoes and even clothing. They even let me run the warehouse for three months because they couldn’t find anybody to do it at the time.” Salzano says the Altier brothers were true mentors, noting the chain received industry awards nearly every year and was considered one of the most highly esteemed shoe retailers in the country. “I learned it from the best,” he says.


While Salzano introduced Bob Infantino to the shoe business during the Altier phase of his career, he’s quick to credit his former hire with advancing his footwear career beyond his wildest dreams. As the story goes, Infantino left the Rochester area, after running his own shoe retail business, to eventually run marketing at The Rockport Company. Years went by and Infantino had lost touch with Salzano, but he decided to give him a call because he was opening the first-ever Rockport store and wanted his friend to lead a seminar on how to run a store for his new employees. Fortunately, Salzano was just at the end of a gig (he had been teaching retail courses part time at a local business college). “He was phenomenal. Basically, it’s the retail seminar that he’s been doing ever since,” Infantino says. Soon after, Salzano came in a few days a week at Rockport. “I had to make him a VP of something because I couldn’t let him get away,” Infantino says. “I also told him he had to get out of his comfort zone and give it a try.” When Infantino moved on to head up Clarks, it wasn’t long until >32

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FN PLATFORM thanks Joe Salzano for his inspired leadership and countless contributions to the footwear industry.

Happy 75th Birthday, Joe.

AUGUST 21, 22, 23 2012

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Your energy never tires Your spirit inspires You Educate You Motivate You Revitalize You Energize You’re a phenomenon A true ICON


eature: Joe Salzano dvantage: Unbridled passion enefit: A lifelong friend

On behalf of USRA Members, May Event Attendees and the entire shoe industry, we thank you for your tireless efforts, your passion for our industry and, mostly, for your friendship. You are a true LEGEND and we are honored to know you. Linda Hauss, USRA Executive Director & THE USRA BOARD OF DIRECTORS Rosco Rolnick, Andrew Monarch, Blaine Beck, Max Hanberg, Gary Hauss, Joe Gradia, David Cohen, Dave Astobiza, Marcia Arranaga, Shara McIntyre, John Traverso

You continue to be an inspiration to all of us in the shoe industry! Thanks from the Shoes On A Shoestring crew in Albuquerque! Sincerely, Dave Riddle SOAS Inc.

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In the dictionary, under “shoe business,” there’s Joe Salzano. Where would independent shoe retailers be without him? Joe has taught me how to be a good listener! —Gary Weiner, Saxon Shoes

4/12/12 4:03 PM

The National Shoe Retailers Association salutes Joe Salzano’s 75 years of accumulated wisdom, and his passion, integrity and professionalism.

Joe, thank you for your... R5 # .#' 5) 5- ,0# 5.)5)/,5#( /-.,3 R5 ( ,-. ( #(!5." 5#'*),. ( 5) 5 555." 5#( * ( (.5 #-.,# /.#)(5 " (( & R5 )''#.' (.5.)5#( * ( (.5 555, . #&#(! R5 # .#)(5.)5*,)0# #(!5, . #&5 55 / .#)(

Special thanks to you and Jim. Your support for the retail community is special. Your advice and mentorship for this “competitor� is an inspiration. Sincerely, Danny Muskat Deer Stags Concepts

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You are a true inspiration. I am so thankful to be a part of the Clarks family. While I THANK YOU for everything you’ve done for The May Event, The USRA and J.Stephens‌. I mostly THANK YOU for what you’ve done for me. I look forward to celebrating your 100th!


You inspire us to be the best at what we do. Thank you for all you do. Sincerely, The Takken’s team

4/12/12 4:03 PM

Salzano Says Renowned for his motivational one-liners and selling mantras, here’s Joe Salzano’s top 10.










continued from page 28 Salzano followed his friend. It was 1993. Infantino pegged Salzano as the ideal candidate to run the company’s independent sales force. While it was Salzano’s initial foray into wholesale sales, he took to it splendidly. “Joe has a real genius mind for numbers and tremendous organization,” Infantino offers. “And he’s constantly on the phone talking to all of his salespeople.” Specifically, Infantino says he earned the loyalty of his employees. “The people that work for him become fans,” Infantino says. “They know that he will work harder than any other salesperson and that he walks the walk. So his salespeople never want to disappoint him. It becomes a family affair.” Beyond that, it makes smart financial sense to follow Salzano’s lead. “They can wind up with a great career if they listen to him,” Infantino confirms. Gary Champion, Salzano’s immediate superior at Clarks for 15 years, describes his ability to win people over with a unique combination of traits as a key to his success. “It’s his compassion, tenacity, honesty and work ethic,” says Champion, now the president of Earth Brands. “His goal is to make you better at what you do. Whether you are a friend, a peer, a customer, a consumer or an employee, his goal is to inspire you to grow and succeed.” Champion adds that what makes Salzano well suited for management is his decision to put people first. “This is a people business where you must maintain integrity and consistency,” he says. “Joe has been exceptional in doing so over his long career.” While Salzano admits he thought his shift into wholesale would never happen, he’s thankful for the opportunity both Infantino and Champion provided. “Luckily, I found something that I could do well and it was something that I loved,” he says. “I owe a ton to them both for making me better at what I do. And as long as I’m able to educate, inspire and motivate, then that’s what I want to do.” Salzano continues to do just that: travelling the country conducting numerous seminars and in-store training sessions that almost always pay immediate dividends. Store sales spike—for Clarks, as well as for brands storewide. “I love getting in front of an audience, particularly young people, and helping them,” he says. “It’s about creating a positive environment in order to unlock the potential of people. When morale is up, productivity goes up. When you have happy salespeople, you have happy customers,” he says. And, he advises, personnel must never be overlooked in the business equation. “So often, companies turn to other avenues of the business, not realizing that people make the difference,” Salzano says. “Give employees a challenging job, a chance to participate and the potential for upward mobility and it will pay huge dividends.” Namely, creating employ-

ees who are willing to go beyond expectations, which brings customers—and their friends— back into the store.


Salzano is the consummate salesman who lives and dies by the creed that the customer comes first—no matter what. “If you had to take one thing away from Joe’s retailing gospel, it’s that if you get that chance to be in front of a consumer, then you have got to make the best of it,” Infantino offers. “Nothing ever gets by him in that regard.” Salzano has no plans to stop spreading his message. Approaching the age of 75, he admits to possibly cutting back in the coming years, but never to letting his mind become fallow. “I’d like to write a book maybe or go back to teaching,” he says. “But I will never ‘retire,’ whether it comes to educating retailers, coaching Little Leaguers or playing my horn. I’m so energized by doing things that I love.” Salzano adds, “I enjoy coming to work each day and coming home. I have a lovely wife, I take care of grandkids, I still play gigs—I love doing it all.” In the meantime, Salzano continues to expand upon what is already a lasting legacy in the footwear industry. “His legacy is going to be the impact he has had on all of these individuals,” his son says. “You can line up hundreds of people who would say, ‘Joe gave me a chance. Joe motivated me to do this.’” They include former Little Leaguers who are now running companies, as well as those who started out in Clarks’ credit department and have become the company’s top salespeople. “My dad is the person that, when somebody is telling their story of how they got to where they are in business, they will say, ‘There was this crazy guy, Joe Salzano, who just pushed the buttons in me to do what I could do, as opposed to just getting along.’” Infantino heartily agrees that Salzano has had a halo effect on many lives. “He’s really helped a lot of young kids working in retail become store managers, as well as helped reps become regional managers and up,” he says. “It’s a countless number of young people that he has taken under his wing and made a difference in their lives.” He adds, “Now many are running stores and, more importantly, raising families.” The legendary Ted Williams wanted his legacy to include passersby saying, “There goes the greatest hitter that ever lived.” When asked what he wants his career legacy to be, Salzano says, “I want people to say, ‘He inspired, influenced and mentored me. He taught me something that I didn’t know the day before I met him. He took the time, patience and concern to help me be the best that I could be.’” It’s a mission that Salzano continues to accomplish day in and day out. •

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Billy Gilman

Country Song Benefits Soles4Souls Your tireless efforts to educate, motivate and inspire our industry to be the best it can possibly be echoes our efforts for 22 years and running. You are preaching to the choir. And for that, we are forever grateful.

Thank you for all you do, Your friends and colleagues at Footwear Plus


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TAKING A CUE from Bob Geldof’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” collaborative single that featured a who’s who of ’80sera rock stars in support of African famine relief, multi-platinum-selling country artist Billy Gilman gathered 18 fellow musicians to release “The Choice,” a charity single to benefit Soles4Souls with a goal of raising at least $500,000, which will equal an in-kind number of shoes donated to people in need around the world. The singers include Alan Jackson, Reba McEntire, Josh Turner and Keith Urban. “This could potentially be Soles4Souls’ biggest single fundraising effort to date,” says David Graben, executive vice president of Soles4Souls. “It could raise $3 million.” Graben is highly optimistic on several fronts, starting with the star power of the musicians featured on the record. In addition, the song will be promoted through partnerships with the Country Music Television network (airing the song and video on its main channel, as well as the network’s mobile, radio and social media outlets); Regal Entertainment Group (running a 30-second clip of “The Choice” for a two-week period this month on its 6,775 movie theater screens nationwide that urges people to download the song exclusively from iTunes for $1.29); Halogen Network (running the 30-second spot in all of its markets on April 15 and reaching more than 200 million households); and Gander Mountain (donating $1 to Soles4Souls for every pair of shoes it sells for a limited time, as well as offering customers a gift-withpurchase download card of the song). Graben adds that the fact the song is available on iTunes enables the fundraising effort to reach a worldwide audience and generate donations 24/7. “In the first few days of the promotion, we had people downloading the song from China, Austria,

Japan and Great Britain,” he says. Gilman, who has sold more than six million albums worldwide, was in the process of writing material for his upcoming record with two co-writers when the idea for “The Choice” was born. The group had watched a YouTube video in which Soles4Souls challenged people from all across the country to start their own shoe drives and do something to benefit those living in poverty and in need of footwear. Instead of setting up a collection bin, Gilman and his writing team decided to do what they do best: write a song. They also agreed that every penny generated, including the songwriters’ and publishers’ shares, would go to Soles4Souls. “We were blown away by their willingness to want to help our cause,” Graben says, noting the whole deal was put together over a lunch in their mutual hometown of Nashville, TN. Gilman had the beginnings of “The Choice” at that point, and the song was completed following his trip to Haiti to see the charity’s efforts in action. “Like everyone else who goes on one of our outreach trips, Gilman was incredibly moved by what he saw,” Graben says. “Until you smell the air, see the fires, and set foot on the broken roads and see the broken people, you don’t know what it’s really like.” Gilman was so moved by what he saw that what was initially going to be a few artists turned into getting many others involved. Graben believes the country-themed effort will strike a chord with millions of people, just like the fundraising programs done in conjunction with more mainstream sensations like Jessica Simpson and Kim Kardashian. “One of the cool aspects about Soles4Souls is we have such crossover appeal,” he says. “You might even say we are an ‘equalopportunity charity.’” —Greg Dutter

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From left: Keen checkered boot, pullon boot by Camper, Dansko Chelsea boot, monster boot by Western Chief, Aigle animal boot.

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Clockwise from left: iridescent boot by Crocs, polka dot boot by Kidorable, Chooze daisy boot, Josmo floral-embellished boot, Polo pink and green boot.

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w h at ’s s e l l i n g

rainy cities

the likes of Luxury Rebel and Nicole, the shop sells a small selection of edgy clothing and accessories. How is the rain good for your business? In Seattle, it’s not so much the precipitation that affects us; it’s the gray, gloomy skies that seem to persist for months. But the weather is always a great topic of conversation, which allows easy entry into a conversation about the customer’s wants and needs. Are you, like the song by Garbage says, “only happy when it rains”? It’s more like a joke my dad told me: “Why did the man keep hammering his thumb over and over again? Because it felt so good when he stopped.” Yes, Seattleites are just fine when it rains, but we are downright giddy with joy when the sun comes out. What are your top-selling brands? Luxury Rebel, Nicole, Bos. & Co. and Kenneth Cole.


Two rain-drenched cities cash in on wet-weather styles. By Lyndsay McGregor

What are your best-selling rainy weather brands and styles? This was our first season carrying waterproof leather boots by Bos. & Co. We started with a test order of five sixpair runs and then found ourselves on the phone begging for reorders as fast as they could ship them. Is it wellies with wild prints or more about solid colors this spring? Definitely wild prints! I am especially excited about a rain boot line by Henry Ferrera that we picked up this season featuring graphics by East Coast graffiti artists, along with grunge-inspired plaid. What is the best new brand added to your store’s mix within the past year? Luxury Rebel has been outstanding. The fits are

Kick It Boots & Stompwear Seattle, WA For six years, Kick It Boots & Stompwear has made a splash in Seattle with a colorful spectrum of smartly priced stock. Store owner Angela Rae uses the city’s rainy reputation to her advantage, with raindrop-themed decorations and bubble graphics scattered throughout the city’s Ballard neighborhood boutique. “One year, we put a birdbath water fountain in our front window with a pair of wedge wellies sitting in the running water— that was a huge sidewalk stopper,” she says. In addition to fashion-forward leather boots by

reliable, the leathers are good and the company is so wonderful to work with. What has been the biggest surprise—good or bad—related to your business of late? One of our best-selling boot makers switched factories from China to India and the result was disastrous. We had put most of our 2011 open-to-buy in the flat boots category with this vendor and had to return dozens of poorly made units. The vendor was outstanding though and worked closely with our store to remedy the problem. What are you looking to add more of in your footwear assortment this coming season? We love Chelsea Crew’s new version of color blocking on some of its tried-and-true lasts. We ordered every colorway, especially in the lowheeled Mary Janes. What is your fastest-growing customer segment? Women ages 40 through 58 are coming in droves. I believe they love the convenience of a local shop, but more importantly the personal touch that they don’t get at the big box stores. If you could control the weather, what is the first thing you would do? I wouldn’t change a thing. Seattle is a beautiful place to live and do business, and I mean that sincerely.

Feet First New Orleans, LA Family owned and operated since 1977, Feet First is the Big Easy’s go-to for comfortable, high-quality footwear. With locations uptown on Magazine Street and in the heart of the city’s historic French Quarter, the merchandise mix ranges from fashion brands like Sam Edelman and Corso Como to popular NOLA



Bos. & Co.

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designers like Feelgoodz and Saints for Sinners. Voted “New Orleans’ Best Shoe Store” by Gambit Weekly for three years running, co-owner and buyer Evelyn Poitevent credits the shops’ popularity with her staff ’s ability to always go the extra mile. “Our No. 1 goal is to create a customer for life,” she says. On average, how many rainy days are there in a year in your location? A lot! It will rain here pretty much every day during the summer. How is the rainy weather good for your business? During the week it kills business, but on the weekend it can help because people can’t go to the park or be outside in general and they don’t want to be cooped up at home, so they go shopping instead. What are your current top-selling brands? Sam Edelman, Bernardo, Poetic License, FitFlop, Keds and Corso Como. What are your best-selling rainy weather brands? We carry Nomad rain boots exclusively—the classic wellie and cowboy silhouette both sell well. And, especially when there’s a major event going on, we also sell a lot of Havaiana flip-flops and all-natural rubber flip-flops by local entrepreneur Feelgoodz. Marimekko umbrellas are a best seller as well, and I want to start carrying rain ponchos for the festival crowds. Is it wellies with wild prints or solid colors this spring? Definitely the wild prints. We sell lots of florals, animal prints and, because of the

New Orleans Saints, the black and gold fleur-de-lis always does well. Do you see the wellies craze continuing? We’ve been selling tons of rain boots for five years and, I know it’s a trend right now, but I see it always being a necessity for us because of our climate and major events like Jazz Fest and French Quarter Fest. It always rains during Jazz Fest. What has been the best new brand added to your store’s mix within the past year? Corso Como. It’s been a full year since we started carrying the brand and it’s turned out to be one of our top sellers. Customers like it because the shoes are comfortable, high quality and sophisticated, but still feminine and classic. What has been the biggest surprise—good or bad—related to your business this year? We’ve seen a huge increase in sales of accessories like hats, scarves, socks and belts. I’m getting the sense that people want more of that grab-and-go stuff. What is your fastest-growing customer segment? I would have to say the twenty-somethings. Lots of young professionals are moving here fresh out of college for teaching jobs, and New Orleans is a huge entrepreneurial hub for people starting up businesses. If you could control the weather, what is the first thing you would do? I would make it sunny and breezy with low humidity and temperatures in the low 70s every single day. Except during French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest, when I would make it rain every day so I could sell tons of rain boots. •



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A new breed of rain boot silhouettes and an assortment of mouthwatering hues keep women coming back for more. Photography by Jason Hindley

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Tall boot with bow print by Kate Spade.


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Black Cougar wedge with zipper detail, pink lace-up wedge by Dirty Laundry. Opposite page: Tartan duck shoe by Aqua Stop, Chooka skimmer.


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Aquatalia by Marvin K. penny loafer. Opposite page: Orange duck shoe by Sperry Top-Sider, Bogs lace-up boot.

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Mel by Melissa bow-embellished ankle boot; Opposite page: Isle Jacobsen tall lace-up boot, short boot by Swims.


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Laceless sneaker by Dav. Opposite page: Keds sneaker. Fashion Editor: Angela Velasquez

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Clockwise from top right: Badgley Mischka teal peep toe; crystal-embellished stiletto by Pella Moda; Dee Keller platform pump; satin stiletto by Nina.


$350 and $500 and is targeted to chic upscale boutiques and high-end department stores. — Angela Velasquez Which designers do you admire the most? I have a huge appreciation for Nicholas Kirkwood and Brian Atwood. I think their designs are truly unique and stunning. Which shoe in your closet is currently getting the most wear? My Christian Louboutin black matte python sneakers. Which trend do you hope to never see again? Low-heel square toe shoes.

Bird Calls

A flock of feather-embellished dress styles flutter into fashion this fall.

Who are the best-dressed women? Angelina Jolie, Emma Watson and Natalie Portman. What else would you like to design? I’d like to break into the men’s elegant footwear market. If you weren’t designing footwear, what do you think you might be doing? I would have to be involved in the footwear industry to some degree—maybe sales. What do you love the most about your job? That I’m able to travel to the most inspiring places in the world and get to meet the weirdest and most wonderful people.


AS THE SON of a 30-year footwear veteran and member of a footwear-obsessed family, some might say Adam Benjamin’s destiny was written in the stars, but style watchers would say it’s his panache for crystals that make his designs sparkle. Benjamin spent his childhood submerged in shoes and industry talk. “As soon as I was old enough, I was working in my family’s London shoe factory. There, I learned every aspect of shoe production, from design to conception,” the footwear protégé explains. That insider knowledge of physical footwear manufacturing was key in developing his design abilities, but it was Benjamin’s taste for elegance and glamour that helped him carve a niche of his own. In 2004, he launched his small eponymous London-based bridal collection, which quickly became a leading luxury bridal footwear brand in Europe. Today, Benjamin Adams has evolved into an evening must-have for women, which the designer describes as “elegantly outrageous,” adding that the line is “all about creating a collection that encapsulates the allure and glamour of any special occasion.” Adams is taking a decidedly more playful approach to his Fall ’12 designs with a wild collection of crystal-embellished shoes. Each gem is painstakingly placed to create an all-over animal print. “We have created a crystal leopard print platform wedge, which is something that has not been done before and therefore has generated huge attention from buyers,” he confirms. Other styles include jewel tone platform peep toes, ladylike lace-covered pumps, strappy sandals, classic d’orsays and trendy cone heels. The fall collection retails between 48 april/may 2012

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Front Men



Ugg’s new upscale men’s collection melds classic rock styling with Italian craftsmanship.

Color Delights Industry veteran Martin Berendsen introduces two vibrant brands to the U.S. MARTIN BERENDSEN HAS been around shoes his entire life, from growing up in the family shoe business in the Netherlands to managing some of the most recognizable brands (including the U.S. subsidiaries of Dr. Martens and Caterpillar), but the task at hand has the footwear veteran both excited and a little dazed. “It’s been a more difficult and different experience than expected,” he says. Berendsen is referring to his role as importer for both Turkish brand Inuovo, which he is also helping create, and Dutch company O’Quiery. “After working for other people all my life, I thought maybe it was the right time to do something for myself,” Berendsen says. Inuovo made several appearances at trade shows this year and the reaction was stunning. “I have never worked in a booth that was as busy as Inuovo’s,” Berendsen says. “I have never written out more orders in all my life.” Berendsen says the Fall ’12 collection, made from soft leather in a multitude of hues, reinterprets current trends in the market. “We take the fashion, we translate it, but we don’t knock it off,” he says of the colorful line. The most popular standout from the collection is the women’s

biker boot, which retails from $119 to $129. The brand’s other boots top out at $169, and the shoes retail from $49 to $79. Color was a main inspiration for O’Quiery’s Fall ’12 collection, as well, with classic men’s styles in a kaleidoscope of options, which sets it apart from most other brands. “I think colors have a lot of opportunity [in men’s shoes],” Berendsen offers. “Why would I buy a pair of black or brown shoes when I already have five or six pairs?” The shoes, which retail around $300, are of the utmost quality, according to Berendsen, from the handmade construction to use of the finest calfskins. O’Quiery did not, however, make any appearances at trade shows this season, as Berendsen’s strategy for the brand is slightly uncommon. “The goal is to launch [the brand] very softly, to just be in the right stores and take one step at a time,” he says. Berendsen says both brands appeal to the wearer’s rebellious side, with the daring colors in O’Quiery and the unique designs and price points of Inuovo. From his perspective, the shoes practically sell themselves. “My job is getting in front of the right customers, showing them the product—the colors and the prices—and then I’ve said enough.” —Maria Bouselli

WITH ONE SUCCESSFUL men’s line already under its belt, Ugg Footwear, a division of Deckers Outdoor, looks to tap into the ever-growing audience of men who values quality and luxury with the launch of the Ugg Collection for Men this fall. The high-end grouping (suggested retail ranges from $325 to $795) is billed as a unique convergence of the spirit of classic rock—think Jimi Hendrix and The Clash—with exceptional Italian craftsmanship. “You will see a real edge infused throughout the collection that is paired with the fine art of boot and shoe making,” confirms Leah Larson, creative director. The materials are what differentiate the collection from the Ugg for Men line launched last fall. “Ugg Collection is made using only the finest hand-sourced Italian materials and highest standards of craftsmanship that will be priced and positioned differently from our core line,” Larson notes. “We set out to create something truly distinct by working with hand-dipped and hand-painted leathers to create colors and deep textures and embrace the unique differences in each shoe. Literally, no two pairs are the same.” Stacked leather heels, buffalo leathers and waxed-wool shafts each contribute to the distinctive design aesthetic of the line. The rock era of the ’60s and ’70s is credited as inspiration for the designs. “That era was particularly influential from a fashion space. Radical changes were happening in music and culture and they were reflected in the styles we saw,” Larson remarks. “[Those musicians] personified the ‘no rules’ lifestyle with an individual style that was truly unique and celebrated.” Two standouts include the Nigel, a rocker boot with brass buckles and broken-in leather that retails for $795, and the Allcott, an edgy take on the traditional spectator silhouette. The hand-stitched shoe, at $450, has a weathered look and feel, with brogue touches and welted Blake construction. Put it all together and Larson expects to expand the brand’s male consumer base with styles such as oxfords and moto and chukka boots. “The line has a very chic, yet rugged and wearable look,” she says. —M.B. april/may 2011 • 49

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Like Mother, Like Daughter Luiza Barcelos’ adult line of delicate and feminine footwear launches a girls’ collection that’s every bit as chic. BRAZILIAN WOMEN MAY be known for sizzling good looks and laid-back attitudes, but with designers like Luiza Barcelos, they’re quickly earning a reputation for their amazing footwear, too. And now, thanks to Barcelos’ newly launched girls’ collection, little ladies everywhere can get in on the action. Barcelos’ new collection, which she describes as a “mother and daughter line,” was born out of her desire to find elegant silhouettes to add to her 5-yearold daughter, Ana Vitória’s, growing shoe collection. “When talking to other mothers and hearing their similar struggles, I decided this was the perfect opportunity for the brand to start production of children’s shoes,” explains Barcelos, who also acts as style and marketing director at her namesake brand. Heavily influenced by her women’s line, the Luiza Barcelos kids’ collection is “made for girls who have been stylish and graceful since birth and who see their mother as an icon,” Barcelos maintains. For the adult collection, the designer consistently draws inspiration from her travels through Brazil—from the banks of the Itabapoana River to the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro— and her attraction to brilliant purples, yellows, greens, corals and fuchsias creates a dominant color palette. This might seem a little heavy-handed as far as inspiration for a children’s line goes, but Barcelos takes care to add the appropriate girly adaptations to children’s silhouettes, such as hearts, glitter and animal prints. Specifically, this fall the brand offers everything from leopard print and rhinestone skull-adorned ballet flats to metallic boots with plenty of hardware, as well as suede and snakeskin ankle-strap sandals—all of which retail for $30 to $50. “We create unusual combinations when we think of children’s footwear, like suede with metallic leather or glitter, pelage and animal print,” Barcelos reveals. “The difference is in the final result: a mix of delicate and graceful models.” In addition, Barcelos says the shoes must be comfortable. In fact, she believes the similarities in construction and materials between her women’s and girls’ collections set her apart from many other children’s brands. “The girls’ shoes have the same care put into them as the adult line, regarding the development and manufacturing process,” she notes. —Mary Avant

Surf ’s Up Vans’ classic skate shoes move beyond ramps and sidewalks and take a dive at little surfer girls and boys. THE SIGNATURE VULCANIZED sole and canvas construction of Vans may go hand-inhand with everything extreme sports and So-Cal culture, but the iconic style isn’t just for tweens and teenage skaters, BMX-ers and punk rockers anymore. They’re for little rebels, too. And although the brand, which debuted in 1966, has offered kids’ styles since the ’70s, it is putting a lot of effort into expanding the collection beyond simple adult take downs of its staple styles. This past fall, Vans shifted its focus to bringing authenticity, originality and color to its kids’ Classics line by incorporating exclusive childfriendly colorways and prints (like neon, glitter and animal themes), alternative closure options and kids’-specific collaborations with brands like Hello Kitty and Yo Gabba Gabba. Kids’ Classics Category Manager Ashley Ahwah reports that the Fall ’12 collection (spanning infants, toddlers and kids up to size 4 and retailing for $22 to $45) will feature a broader mix of styles, like chukka boots for boys and slip-on boots for girls. “The kids’ collection has all the classic styles Vans is known for,” Ahwah says, “but we have added a balance of prints and colors to keep things exciting for the younger consumer.” Particularly exciting for pint-size Vans fans is the launch of a new Surf collection. “The adult surf product has been picking up a ton of momentum in the market over the past two years, and we feel this is a natural progression of the line,” explains Ryan Quinn, category manager. The kids’ sandals and slip-ons (retailing for $38 and ranging from sizes 10.5 to 6) are deconstructed, lightweight and feature an EVA insole. Quinn notes that the boys’ slip-on Bali and Rata Vulc, which has a “cool moccasin vibe,” and the girls’ nautical-inspired Palisades weave bold color pops with a comfortable construction. The goal, says Quinn, is to “take the look that the grown-up surf crowd wants and translate that into styles that the kids and parents are stoked about.” —M.A.

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continued from page 15 it was almost a 50-50 split between direct and wholesale. In ’07, with a limited product offering and a heavily wholesale-dominated business, sales were $550 million. So I still think the region with greatest potential to grow in pure dollars is here. Currently, 12 percent of consumers have figured out that we are no longer a clog company, and 46 percent of our revenue now comes from clogs. In addition, China continues with its methodical growth of about $20 to $30 million each year. And we had a really good year in Brazil in 2010 and 2011 was OK, but the market offers great growth for casual lifestyle product with its warm weather. We also have a huge opportunity in Europe. We just reset our management team there. The region’s sales used to be larger than Asia and now that region is 2.5 times larger, so I think Europe offers significant opportunity for us. And the Middle East will be a region where we expect to see $20 million to $40 million in sales growth this year. It’s another warm climate with a consumer base that seeks casual footwear. Is the goal to evolve Crocs into a more traditional brand presentation at retail—on the shoe wall? It depends. With certain partners, like Famous Footwear, you’ve got to be sold in a box. That’s how they interface with their consumers. In our stores, we are still heavily hung—probably 70 to 75 percent of our product still goes into self-service displays. But when we get into boots— products that are $60 to $80 at retail—your consumers expect a box. Even in our own stores, we have to add a little more sit-and-fit space. Do you envision Crocs becoming a multi-billion-dollar brand? We believe Crocs can continue to innovate and create spaces where the brand can play. Last fall, for example, we introduced a cobbler collection of clogs at a little higher price point ($45 to $60) that were comfortable, fun and a strong impulse buy. We also introduced translucent styles, the Chameleon (color-changing) line in kids’ and a sneaker collection. We believe we can build a lot of relevant offshoots using our unique brand DNA and design spin that will allow us to grow. We are getting into more doors and, within those doors, adding more SKUs. In ’09, Famous Footwear let us back in with 18 silhouettes, and then it grew to 35 the following year and then to 50. This year it’s going to be 80 styles in men’s, women’s and kids’ that they carry. That’s the kind of growth and confidence we like to see, and I think that is going to continue. If you combine all of our channels, it should drive 15 to 20 percent growth for the next three to five years. So, to answer your question, we think we can be a $2 billion brand over the next four to five years. Are you a Shoe Dog now or still a high-tech guy at heart? After working in high-tech for 25 years, there is still a part of me that misses the new gadget coming out. I guess men are more techy than footwear savvy. But I’ve learned a lot about shoes over the last seven years. It’s a fun industry, it moves fast from season to season and you see what sells right away. We often have internal bets on which collections will sell the best, and what you think is going to and what consumers actually buy are often two different things. During the design stage, you don’t know whether it is going to sell 1 million pairs, 50,000 or a couple of million. Obviously, no one thought we would have sold 120 million pairs of clogs five years ago. Actually, during our first-ever global sales meeting last May, I sat with the company founders, who were just dumbstruck by the big production the meeting was. I asked them if they ever thought, in their wildest dreams, that Crocs would turn out to be what it has become. The answer, of course, was no. But that’s the cool part: They didn’t think it ever would get to $1 billion, so where does it stop? There is no cap on what we can do.


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Reduce, Reuse, Buy Shoes Patagonia’s Advocate Weeks program encourages retailers and consumers to give back to what they love the most: their planet.

The Advocate Weeks display in Patagonia’s Seattle store supported a local water conservation organization.

A style from the Advocate collection.

IN AN INDUSTRY where the “sole” purpose is to create attractive, functional footwear that allows consumers to explore the world around them, it’s vital that outdoor brands don’t just talk the talk. They have to walk the walk, too. Patagonia, a brand known for its dedication to environmental protection and sustainability, is proving to do just that. Through the brand’s long-term partnership with 1% for the Planet—a collection of companies that donate 1 percent of their sales to environmental organizations—Patagonia introduced the Advocate Weeks program, meant to educate retailers and consumers while encouraging them to support local eco-centered organizations. The brand’s footwear division, a licensee of Wolverine Worldwide, is also taking part in the initiative with a collection of Advocate styles whereby a portion of those sales are donated to participating retailers’ organizations of choice. “Our business has a negative impact on the environment,” explains Sue Harvey-Brown, marketing manager for Patagonia Footwear. “We wanted to offset that impact and give back to the environment that we’re taking so much from.” The effort began in the fall of 2010 when Patagonia Footwear debuted the Advocate moccasin, a lightweight, functional shoe that was easy to pack, making it perfect for outdoor lovers. The launch partnered with 15 retailers, with the brand donating at least $10 to a respective retailers’ local environmental organization for each pair sold. Patagonia’s Advocate collection has since expanded to include silhouettes like lace-ups, ballet slippers and woven flats for both men and women. Harvey-Brown adds that there’s always an Advocate shoe in the brand’s Top 10 selling styles. The number of participating retailers has exploded, too. With more than 100 stores part of the program, Patagonia is reaching and educating more consumers than ever. Lisa Lamberson, general manager at Mountain Sports in Flagstaff, AZ, says her staff’s enthusiasm is what really makes the program come to life in the store. For its Advocate Weeks last May, employees even made a rap video to promote the program, dropping lines such as: “Patagonia is the first to admit, you’re only cool if you’re an advocate.” The store, which was one of the original 15 participating in the pilot program, has twice won a prize for being the most enthusiastic and successful participating retailer. While Patagonia Footwear’s program is good for the environment, it’s great for business, too. In the two weeks that Casale’s Shoes in Cape May, NJ, ran the program last spring, the store doubled its sales of Patagonia Footwear, reports Lindsay Casale, manager and buyer. Jason Giroux, a buyer at Outdoor Gear Exchange in Burlington, VT, reports that the program helped sell 45 pairs of Patagonia shoes during its 19-day run, compared to 11 pairs during the same period the previous year. Advocate Weeks is also helping Patagonia Footwear gain a bigger presence in stores. “We’re still in our infancy,” HarveyBrown explains, but thanks to the program, Patagonia has been able to secure dedicated floor and window space. “It’s been great because we’re still small in a lot of our retailers’ stores,” she adds. Casale suggests that other footwear brands—especially those in the outdoor category—take a page out of Patagonia’s playbook. “If you’re creating products to wear in the environment, do things to protect that environment,” she says. —Mary Avant

52 • april/may 2012

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