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Caroline Diaco Publisher

Il Moro

Greg Dutter Editorial Director

8 Make it Rain

Nancy Campbell Creative Director

With rain boots and accessories hot on the market, manufacturers and retailers share their top tips for riding the waterproof wave to maximum sales. By Audrey Goodson

10 Q&A: Bogs

EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Audrey Goodson Meagan Walker Associate Editors Melissa D’Agnese Editorial Intern


Bill Combs, CEO of Bogs Footwear, dishes on the company’s acquisition by Weyco, makers of Florsheim, and why the weatherproof boot brand’s future is bright. By Greg Dutter

CREATIVE Trevett McCandliss Executive Art Director Phong Q. Nguyen Brad Istnick Lenny Vella Art Directors


16 Midwestern Moxie

CONTRIBUTORS Michel Onofrio Style Director Kathy Passero Editor at Large Jamie Wetherbe West Coast Editor

Matt and Jane Stricker mixed oldfashioned know-how with innovative ideas to build their Nebraska-based boutique into a growing chain.

By Audrey Goodson

ADVERTISING Jennifer Craig Advertising Director Rita Polidori O’Brien VP Business Development David Sutula VP Technology Leslie Sutula VP Account Services Laurie Guptill Production Manager

18 European Report From unexpected bursts of citrus to updated takes on the basic black dress shoe, the Micam and GDS shows revealed Europe’s essentials for fall. By Angela Velasquez

Mel by Melissa

Steve Madden

24 Love Rain

ADMINISTRATION Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Melanie Prescott Circulation Manager Julie Gibson Webmaster Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director

Fall is awash in chic studded details, pop patterns and striking silhouettes for waterporoof boots. By Angela Velasquez

Sperry Top-Sider

4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In 22 What’s Selling 23 Trend Spotting 34 Shoe Salon 35 Green 36 Kids

Columbia Aquatalia

40 Last Word

On the cover: Le Chameau tall rubber boot. Photography by Jason Hindley.

FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) Vol. 22 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. ©2011 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

CONTACT INFO Sales/Editorial Offices 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ Circulation Office 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

editor’s note the perfect storm 7

Looks Like Rain IN CASE YOU have been living under a rock the past year, the country is awash in rain boots. When it rains (or snows), it pours wellies—many in cheery colors and whimsical patterns. Rubber boots are the latest utilitarian fashion statement in a long line of user-friendly footwear staples, including Merrell’s Jungle Mocs, Ugg sheepskin boots, Crocs and ubiquitous flip-flops, to cite a few. Rather than run to higher ground, we embrace the rapidly emerging category with a special issue. The coverage starts with This Just In (p. 6), which offers a rainy day mosaic of stylish New York women wearing wellies. This is one case where the catchphrase, “Only in New York” rings untrue. Rain boots translate outside of über fashion capitals to Middle America and beyond for the obvious reason that inclement weather occurs everywhere. In addition, it’s a go-anywhere and go-with-anything style. Our Special Report (p. 8) provides useful merchandising tips on how to maximize sales in the category. Like the myriad of styles being offered, the first rule of thumb is to be eclectic. Wellies are foot candy, and the more you can tempt passersby with enticing flavors, experts say the better your odds of garnering a sale. Rain boots are also often an impulse buy, as are an

increasing array of related accessories—be it sock liners, umbrellas, hats or gloves. Speaking of tempting, our fashion review (p. 24) highlights the latest Fall ’11 rain boots. Award-winning photographer Jason Hindley works his magic for us once again with an English garden at night time juxtaposition. Bias duly noted, but it’s simply stunning. How long can this rain craze last—is the gauge half full or near the brim? One thing is certain: it’s not going to stop raining. (If the alternative happens, the ongoing viability of fashion trends will be the least of our concerns.) Perhaps the Uggs phenomenon offers clues. At its core, the sheepskin boot’s comfort attributes—both physical and emotional—keeps consumers coming back for more. Coupled with enticing fashion updates it’s become a beloved staple. Similarly, as long as rain boot suppliers put a fresh spin on designs while delivering on the utilitarian premise of keeping feet warm and dry, the category could attain closet staple status as well. It’s not like people will long for the days when their unprotected shoes were ruined or the times they were cold and miserable. It’s a sentiment backed by Bill Combs, CEO of Bogs Footwear and the subject of this month’s Q&A (p. 10). Sales of Bogs’ all-weather boots increased 100 percent over last year, and Combs forecasts no let up in sight. He attributes the growth in part to a fundamental macro shift in consumer shopping behavior that seeks products that last a long time and deliver practical benefits—the very definition of a rain boot. Greg Dutter Editorial Director

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Rockin’ Rubber

When the forecast calls for rain, New York streets become awash in the latest utilitarian fashion wave: wellies. —By Dorothy Hong

6 • april/may 2011

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Make It Rain

WHEN IT RAINS, it pours—literally for retailers offering increasingly popular waterproof boots and related accessories. Riding a recession-inspired wave toward more functional fashion, the rain boot category burst to $53 million in sales last year—a 120 percent increase over 2009, says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD Group, a consumer market research firm that tracks the footwear industry. “2010 was a banner year for rain boots,” Cohen confirms. “People started buying two and three pairs, and not always at the same time.” And many retailers report that foul-weather accessories—from boot liners to umbrellas—were some of their best-selling add-ons last year. This year promises to be even bigger, as many companies—like powerhouse brands Ugg Australia and Dansko—dive into the category for the first time. And market leader Hunter continues its evolution beyond its iconic wellie with the introduction of even more platform, laceup and wedge styles. Then there’s the bad—er good—weather: Several years of miserable winters in population-rich areas form the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic states have forced consumers to consider practicality when shopping for footwear and accessories. Put it all together and you have the makings of a perfect storm for retailers looking to maximize returns in a rapidly emerging category. Here’s how:

8 • april/may 2011

1. Keep It Eclectic “I definitely think variety is key,” says Sue Marfino, owner of Buffalo, NY-based Shoefly. “I try to carry different colors and even a couple of different styles. Most of the boots come in whole sizes, so keeping a variety helps people find something that fits,” she notes. Tatiana Glass, owner of Shoe Fetish, also stocks a large variety of rain boots at her three Northern California locations. “When we bought only two styles, we wouldn’t sell as many,” she explains. Glass finds that buying one brand exclusively—for her, Däv—allows her to offer Shoe Fetish customers a wider array of styles and colors in her boutiques’ limited space. Some retailers, however, say that carrying several different brands gives their customers a variety of price points to choose from. Andy Nastasi, owner of Downtown Shooz in Brookline, MA, carries boots ranging in price from $39 to $69, but he will be adding Ugg’s rain boots and shoes— which retail for $110—to his mix this fall. No matter the strategy, experts agree that stocking an eclectic mix is key to keeping customers coming back for more—especially as the category continues to evolve with fashion-forward silhouettes and details. “We all want to be individualistic, and rain boots are another way we can express ourselves,” explains Rob Moehring, CEO of Washington

Shoe Company, makers of Western Chief and Chooka, which doubled its sales in 2010. “We can go from bold and bright to Goth and rocker chic to sophisticated and elegant. A boot is a large canvas for saying something— it’s a dramatic statement.” That means carrying everything from outrageous patterns to basic black. “Buying a depth of colors is important,” agrees Scott Starbuck, owner of City Soles in Chicago. But A.J. Majumdar, Däv’s vice president of sales and merchandising, notes that the category’s continuing expansion into fashion means women are increasingly seeking a chic, sophisticated look in a neutral color palette. “Black, gunmetal and champagne are our strongest colors,” he notes. Beyond color, successful retailers also suggest stocking a range of silhouettes, especially as a mid-height boot shaft is emerging as a big trend for fall. “I think it’s important that they have the various heights represented at retail right now,” confirms Bill Combs, president of Bogs Footwear and owner of Burch’s shoe store in Eugene, OR. “Some people want to have more of a shoe for a wet spring day or going out on a soccer field for their son or daughter’s game,” he explains. In response to the new demand, several manufacturers are releasing ankle-height boots. “We are offering a >38


Rain gear retailers and manufacturers offer key tips for sunny sales in stormy weather. By Audrey Goodson



Bill Combs, CEO of Bogs Footwear, talks about the recent acquisition by Weyco Group, makers of Florsheim, and why even if the rain boot craze were to dry up tomorrow, the brand’s future remains lush. By Greg Dutter

TIMES ARE GOOD at Bogs Footwear. The Eugene, OR-based maker of all-weather boots (not just rain, mind you), closed the books on 2010 with sales soaring nearly 100 percent compared to the previous year. This year, reports Founder and CEO Bill Combs, sales continue at a torrential pace— with no let up in sight. And in order to facilitate the expected growth, the company just dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s on its acquisition by Weyco Group. Combs describes the merger process as painless and seamless, and says it will enable his family business team (wife Sue manages design and development and sons Dustin and Riley head sales) to remain intact and focused on what they do best while Weyco provides the necessary backroom logistics and financial support. In fact, Combs says that after the initial in-person meeting with Weyco’s Tom and John Florsheim, both parties sensed it would be a perfect match. “We could just feel there were great common goals, and they saw our upside for growth and we saw what they could bring us,” he says. “Their people are terrific and the way management treats them is fantastic.” Combs adds, “You can tell when you walk into an office whether the employees are happy or not. I was amazed by Weyco’s environment and their capabilities.” Call the merger a win-win: Weyco diversifies its brand portfolio by expanding further into the casual and performance markets (Bogs also makes the outdoor sandal brand, Rafters), and Bogs obtains the support needed to take the company to the next level. The way Combs describes it, Bogs, now in its ninth year, has only just begun. “We own very little share of any market we play in, so our upside for growth is terrific,” he says. Those markets currently span the New York fireman to the Alaskan fisherman to the Wisconsin dairy farmer to the Wyoming rancher, as well as outdoor enthusiasts and urbanites in between seeking protection from the elements. The broad appeal, Combs notes, is based on the brand’s unique waterproof, breathable and insulated bootie construction found throughout the line. It consists of scuba-like four-way stretch neoprene material, wicking lining that keeps feet warm and dry and a shock-absorbing nylon pad—all built on comfortable contoured lasts. It’s why Combs believes Bogs is much more than just another rubber rain boot brand. “That’s probably our biggest point of differentiation: Our boots are waterproof, but they are not ‘rain boots,’” Combs explains. For example, he says a person wearing Hunter wellies on a 40-degree day or lower will get cold feet but they will be nice and warm in a pair of Bogs. “Our insulation works from temperate conditions down to -40 degrees,” he says. “We think of ourselves more as making comfort shoes that 10 • april/may 2011

just happen to be worn in cruddy conditions.” Combs admits that the current rain boot craze has led to some spillover sales for Bogs—especially since the company began introducing pattern uppers in ’06—but rain fashion is not the only reason Bogs is growing rapidly. The growth, Combs ascertains, is more utilitarian at its roots and also why boots, in general, have been popular the past few years amid a difficult economy. “Boots solve a problem. They are often waterproof, warm and keep you out of the mud,” he says. “And they are long-lasting and, therefore, of great value. When the economy gets difficult, people tend to buy what’s needed, what works well and what will hold up for a while.”

O&A industrial market—what we call “Tuesday How did the Weyco deal come about? Combs foresees little abatement in the current morning accounts” that size up their inventories Like any fast-growing, family-owned company, utilitarian fashion wave; you might even call it the on Monday, order on Tuesday and want it in we were out looking for capital to fund our new normal with respect to shopping preferences stock by Thursday—we needed to have a lot growth. Weyco resulted from that search, and it of American consumers. “We see a trend in people of inventory in stock. Well, that just doesn’t fit turned out to be a very good deal for both sides. simplifying their lifestyle and buying less but with your typical trade bank ratios. So we had buying better—and buying what works,” he says. some rather large decisions to make, “There is great opportunity for anyone, and Weyco already had all of those like us, that builds product that solves a aspects in place. Lastly, Tom and John problem and lasts for a long time. And Florsheim are shoe people and just if you can twist a bit of fashion into the really great guys. They wanted to carry equation, then it helps even more. I on this vision we had. think the future is pretty bright.” What are you reading right were still alive, I’d hire my Combs has plenty of firsthand now? Life, the Keith Richards father because he’s the best Did you get other offers? knowledge of current consumer biography. It’s a great read for salesperson that I have ever Yes. We talked to a lot of great, smart sentiment, as his family owns the the plane. worked with. people. We learned a lot. And Weyco legendary Burch’s, a 10,000-squareturned out to be the very best fit. foot sit-and-fit store in Eugene, OR. What are your three most What is your motto? “Make “It’s a huge advantage, because we are frequented websites? Bogs better shoes every day.” It’s a How has life changed at Bogs since right in front of the customer and we Footwear, The New York tough, never-ending pursuit. the acquisition—and what can learn about last, girth and fit as well as Times and The Wall Street retailers expect going forward? all those particular wants and needs,” Journal sites. Who is the most influential It’s really pretty much business he says. “We often take new samples person in fashion right as usual. We will be moving our into the store for a weekend and get To Facebook or not to now? From our company’s warehouse to Wisconsin and we will tremendous feedback.” Facebook? Personally, I don’t perspective, it’s got to be move development, design, branding Hence the reason this fall Bogs take the time. However, my Mother Nature—and all the and marketing to Portland, OR. Going will begin introducing more shoe-like son handles our company people that use our shoes as forward, the changes retailers can styles featuring hybrid constructions of page, and our number of a result of her influence, be expect will be better delivery, more rubber bottoms paired with fabric and friends keeps growing. We it soccer moms, urbanites, inventory and much less freight neoprene upper materials. It’s what look to our end user all the farmers, fisherman, cost for our retailers located in the the people want, basically. “You will time for how to make our outdoorsman, etc. It’s everyone eastern part of the country, which are see more of that for Spring ’12,” Combs product better and Facebook is who needs warm, dry and numerous. In addition, it frees my says. “So far, the reaction has been a great resource for that. comfortable footwear. wife and I to concentrate on product good, and this will represent the next development. Overall, I don’t think step for Bogs.” What is inspiring you most In high school you were most there are any disadvantages because In the meantime, Bogs is getting right now? Our new Venetian likely to… Work in my father’s we have always operated like a publicly set to move into new Portland, OR, flood boots collection for store (Burch’s Shoes). traded company with a small board offices that will house design, sales Spring ’12. We are feverishly that watched our financials. and marketing. There are currently studying the Venice market What is your favorite 40 employees in Oregon and Combs and culture. hometown memory? It’s Did you envision this kind of says workforce expansion is likely in coaching my two sons’ various popularity five years ago for Bogs— order to keep pace with the expected If you could hire anybody, sports teams from grade one that would lead to an acquisition growth. Also in the works: developing who would it be? If he school on up, in Eugene, OR. like this? a new ecommerce site and getting Honestly, no. We started out in the the word out on the brand’s new farm and agricultural business selling Industrial collection. “We are targeting basic black boots. But people like me, cold storage workers that are probably who were not farmers or ranchers, now wearing leather boots that crack,” started buying our boots to wear to their cabin How did you go from seeking funding to an he says, adding the market segment has huge in the mountain or to a football game, and their actual acquisition? potential. Overall, Combs says the company has wives were wearing Bogs to their kids’ soccer About six months ago we could see that not only scratched the tip of the iceberg with respect game on a cold Saturday morning. I realized that only were we going to need capital, but we were to Bogs’ long-term growth prospects. “We have there was a real upside and that’s where we saw facing some operational constraints—like the very talented people—my sons, in particular— growth potential. size of our warehouse and its location, inventory and Tom and John Florsheim are very talented,” control systems, back office capabilities, etc. he says. “We are certainly raring and ready to Is that what Weyco saw in Bogs as well? And given the financial situation today at many take it to the next level. The growth is out there Well, I think our brand doesn’t really complement banks coupled with our decision to enter the to be had. We just need to go for it.”


12 • april/may 2011

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their existing portfolio, but it gets them into a market where they see great potential. You know as well as anyone how difficult it is to go outside of a category and succeed. It’s really difficult—almost impossible. But they can surely help Bogs succeed. They have a stateof-the-art distribution center located in the middle of the country (Glendale, WI) that can ship a pair of shoes from order to out-thedoor in an hour. When dealing with Internet retailers, in particular, that’s going to be a tremendous asset. They also have a great back office to support our direct-to-consumer online sales, which is growing rapidly. Their customer service team is of a size capable to support our projected growth. They have good factory relationships in China as well as in other countries. Those strong relationships also help with our current factory base. And the biggest aspect is that they are a family shoe company and understand the importance of customer service like we do, which has been the backbone of our family-owned retail business. At Burch’s, we sit every customer down, measure both feet and polish the shoes that they walked in wearing. We also offer a forever return policy, no questions asked. It’s old-fashioned service that seeks 100 percent customer satisfaction. We have applied that same philosophy to Bogs and it has helped us tremendously. Some examples? If a farm and agricultural store in Oklahoma calls us saying one of its customers got one of their Bog boots torn up in his tractor, we will send that customer a new pair. If a commercial fisherman in Alaska loses one

of his boots overboard, we will send him a new pair as well. No questions asked. We believe our customers, and I think that’s important. Is there a typical Bogs customer? It’s a broad customer base. It spans a soccer mom shopping in Brass Plum to a guy like me who shops REI and is coming out of stiff hiking boots but doesn’t want to wear a pair of sneakers. It’s also the guy working on the dairy farm; he doesn’t earn a high income but needs a durable boot that performs. It’s the same scenario for the Alaska deepsea fisherman or the rancher in Oklahoma. We cover a wide range of income, so we have to keep the value in our product. It all sounds a lot more involved than finding a rubber boot factory and then slapping on some funky prints. We go out into the market to find out exactly what our customer needs. We travel to Alaska and work with the fishing boat captains. We see what they are currently wearing and ask them what would make the product perform better and be more comfortable. We continually test our products with the end user; I think that’s the secret. Unlike a lot of wellie companies, we make functional footwear and everything we do has to work. That’s why the dairy farmer who is milking cows 365 days a year is great to talk to because he can tell you things about comfort, warmth and moisture management that make the person who buys a pair of Bogs at REI and may wear them 20 times a year just that much more comfortable.

Didn’t Bogs product appear on the TV show, Deadliest Catch? We outfit the crew on the Time Bandit boat featured in the series. They just got back from Opilio crab season and it was 20 below zero where they were fishing and our new commercial boot got rave reviews. Where does Bogs come in on price? We range from $60 to $180. Our printed boots are right under $100 and industrial product is in the $130 to $140 range. And our collection coming out this fall that pairs a vulcanized construction with waterproof leathers will be in the $180 to $190 range. What’s your take on the footwear market’s overall health for the rest of this year? I think it’s going to be an OK year. Inventories are clean from fall and winter, which frees up more open-to-buy. Also, since nearly everybody is coming off a couple of tough years, figures are not terribly tough to go up against. Having grown up in a shoe retailing family, do you have any advice for your colleagues? Just do what you do and do it really well, and don’t worry about what the competition is doing. We have a saying in our store: Once we are happy with our product mix, presentation, service and advertising, we don’t worry about anyone else. Our store managers, Terry Allen and Sarah Graves, do an amazing job in this regard. They have been with the store for more than 20 years. Is it harder for independent retailers to succeed today? I think five years ago if you would have asked me that question, I would have said the independent is a dinosaur and will eventually go away. But today I would say the future is as bright as it has ever been for an independent retailer. If you can sign a good lease and know who you are—whatever category you choose—and don’t go outside that, I believe you can build a nice business. There is still plenty of opportunity out there. Many say the exact opposite—they say the sky is falling because Zappos carries everything. Well, Zappos can’t sit down in front of the customer and explain a shoe’s features and benefits, no matter how good their website is. As good as Zappos is—and they are phenomenal—and as good as some of the big box dealers are, they still can’t replace that intimate relationship that an independent can have with a customer. That’s never going to go away. What about those complaints that consumers will come into a store for that service and then buy it online for less. I’m sure that happens. But for most people, when they get great service and the price is relatively close and they have the benefit of a 60-day return policy that allows them to come back for an exchange no questions asked, they will make the purchase. And that scenario just doesn’t happen with online retailers. So I believe independent retailers can compete. In fact, Burch’s had its best year yet in 2010. (The store opened during the 1930s.) That’s a surprise considering the overall economic climate. Why? Because we have really good people and they are very creative. Today, you have to be creative, and you have to take a certain amount >38

RubbeR masteR cRaftsmen since 1853 (847) 531-1553

The Footloose & Fancy family: Matt and Jane Stricker with retailers-intraining Maizie and Cruz.

Midwestern Moxie When times got tough, Jane and Matt Stricker got going, building their Nebraska comfort boutique Footloose & Fancy into a growing chain. By Audrey Goodson IN A WAY, it’s fitting that a 12-foot-long train station bench greets visitors to Matt and Jane Stricker’s traditional sit-and-fit, Footloose & Fancy. The boutique often serves as a central hub for both fleeting visitors and fifthgeneration Huskers in its prime downtown location, steps away from the University of Nebraska. A Lincoln institution in its own right—the shop has been meeting the comfort footwear needs of its customers for more than three decades—Footloose & Fancy has stood the test of time, much like its weathered bench, even as competitors have cropped up across the city in the past five years. And for co-owner Jane Stricker, the shop has served as the launching post for her 15-year-long journey in the footwear industry— something she never would have imagined when she was hired on the spot at age 18 by the shop’s former owners, Jim and Marla McCabe. “Out of high school, I just needed a summer job, and a friend of my mom’s said they were hiring,” Stricker remembers. A shoe horse, she liked the idea: 16 • april/may 2011

“I’ve always loved shoes, and it started from when I was tiny and would wear my grandma’s high heels everywhere.” Stricker worked at the store all through college, and during her senior year in 2001, she knew the McCabes were getting ready to retire and sell the store. “I was like, ‘How could somebody who didn’t work here run it?’ Encouraged by her husband Matt, Stricker told Marla she was interested in buying the store. Long story short, she and her husband became owners of the venerable boutique in March of 2002, three months after she graduated from college. The couple turned out to be a perfect pair when it came to selling shoes: “I love being on the sales floor; I love the interaction with people and finding out their problems and figuring out how we can help them,” Stricker explains, adding that, “Matt’s totally the numbers guy.” While both Strickers handle buying at the Outdoor Retailer and WSA shows, she credits her husband with ensuring all runs smoothly on the business end. “He works with an inventory

consultant so we have enough boots and clogs, which are going to be hot this fall, in stock. Matt loves making sure the business runs as best as it can. So we’re a good team.”

Learning Curve

actually the faculty that are really good customers,” she says. “Our customers are well educated; they have done their research.”

Social Media Savvy

Even with the shop’s loyal clientele, the Strickers still struggled like most retailers when the economy bottomed out in 2008. Instead of retreating into The transition from salesperson to store owner wasn’t without its challenges. recession-induced frugality, they decided to become aggressive in recruiting “It’s strange how much times have changed since we bought it from them,” and retaining customers. In addition to direct mailings sent out to 25,000 Stricker muses. “Marla was old-school; she did everything by hand, from homes, the Strickers began advertising twice a week in the local paper and writing orders to payroll and entering bills.” Bringing the store up-to-date on a local radio sports channel, and they also began interacting with their meant more than just entering the electronic age. As a slew of new heavyweight customers through e-blasts, Facebook and Twitter. But the biggest boost competitors popped up online and in town—including Brown’s Shoe, Von in sales came when the couple took a gamble on Groupon, a daily deal site Maur and Scheels—the Strickers knew they had to “be on” at all times. “One offering deep discounts in local markets. “I can’t tell you how many new of the biggest struggles when you run a retail store is competition,” Stricker customers it’s driven into our store,” Stricker says. Footloose & Fancy even says. “I think a lot of big box places are coming into small towns, but you can’t broke a Groupon record at the time, selling 752 coupons—the most in the really compete against them. With Dillard’s, they don’t pay for product until deal site’s history for a locally owned footwear store, anywhere. they sell it. We don’t get those benefits,” she notes, adding with an edge of Stricker says Groupon has also given her hope that the store can beef up its determination, “but competition can only make you better.” online arm, which she admits has taken a backseat to the brick and mortar. The first step in outpacing their rivals was to reposition the boutique, which “When the big dogs got even bigger, we just subsided,” she acknowledges. had changed very little since it inception in 1975 as the third U.S. Birkenstock But now the couple is working with Groupon on a nationwide promotion, retailer. Still known around town as “the Birkenstock store,” the Strickers which would drive shoppers to the Footloose & Fancy website. “Groupon has made sure to continue to carry the shop’s bread and butter brands like Dansko, given us some light that there is potential to compete against and Finn Comfort, and, of course, Birkenstock, while bringing youthful, innovative Zappos,” she explains. names to the mix as well. They also added an array of accessories, from scarves Despite the innovative measures, the Strickers know its their old-school to handbags. “We really had to reinvent ourselves and start carrying more commitment to customer service—the hallmark of a successful sit-and-fit— brands, being more of a lifestyle store—that no matter where you’re going, that ultimately keeps their customers returning again and again, sometimes we can fit you,” Stricker explains. Part of that strategy was adding footwear long after they’ve moved away. Stricker’s favorite memory goes back to her brands that were hard to find anywhere else in town. Footloose & Fancy is one sales days in the summer of ’97, when “a woman brought in her 2-year-old of only two Lincoln stores carrying Toms and Vibram FiveFingers—now one daughter Mariah, who had full leg braces on both legs and had to use them of its bestsellers, along with Ugg, Naot, Keen and Sperry Top-Sider. “We’re to walk.” After fitting the little girl into a pair of Birkenstock Rios that could aggressive,” Stricker explains. “We go get brands that Lincoln needs. We go to be worn over her braces, “I asked if she could try them without the braces just the shows, and we show brands why they should be in our store.” to see how they really fit her foot—and she was able to walk without them,” The changes paid off, and the Strickers were able to open a suburban Stricker says. “Her Mom was stunned, location in 2004, built by hand in the shocked and cried. Mariah’s parents never evenings by Matt—usually after putting in Footloose & Fancy’s original downtown location opened in 1975. thought that she was going to be able to a long day at the downtown location. Even walk without the braces. Now, Mariah is my though the new shop boasted sleek lighting longest running customer. They have since and leather chairs, the Strickers made moved to Minnesota but call every spring to sure it maintained the same welcoming order a new pair.” Midwestern vibe of the downtown Now that the Stricker family has grown location—including matching tin ceilings. to include a 4-year-old daughter, Maizie, The hard work earned the couple an and a 9-month-old son, Cruz, Stricker can’t award for best new store from WSA. spend as much time on the sales floor as The Strickers also found that having two she used to, but that doesn’t mean her locations helped with inventory control, commitment to the shop has declined a bit. as well as establishing the new chain as a “I don’t know if it’s the way I was raised, but local staple. “People like that we’re locally I just want us to be the best shoe retailers owned; Lincoln is still a small town in that that Matt and I can possibly be,” she says. sense,” Stricker notes, adding, “We know The Strickers’ rugged determination has our customers. If there’s a problem, they’re paid dividends: “We beat our forecast for in our customer history and we can get The suburban location, built by hand by Matt Stricker, 2010, and we’re forecasted to do even them a replacement immediately.” won a ‘Best New Store’ award from WSA. better for 2011,” she notes, adding that they That knowledge is another reason the have their sights set on Omaha for their store stands out from the crowd, and why next Footloose & Fancy location. Despite the Strickers require all employees to go the success, it’s not the profits that make through a rigorous training program. Stricker smile when she lists the favorite “We do a lot of employee role playing parts of her job. “I love the interaction in the store. For example, if the person with other people and making them happy, has a certain foot ailment or is a difficult especially because if their feet hurt, then customer, we want our staff to feel very everything hurts,” she says. “I also love the comfortable,” she notes. This know-how interaction with our staff. And I love seeing is especially important in a college town, what’s new and hot.” Stricker adds, “It’s Stricker points out. “Everyone thinks just perfect for me. It’s what I was meant that being so close to campus would be to do.” • awesome because of the students, but it’s 17

The Fall ’11 GDS and Micam shows delivered an array of trends as diverse as the host continent. And per tradition, U.S. retailers are watching with a close eye to get a jump on the next big thing in fashion. What trends will cross the pond? Which will be lost in translation? Three leading retailers sound off. BY ANGELA VELASQUEZ

the european report Nicola Benson

Juiced Up?

The tangy shades of yellow, orange and hot red that popped off the GDS and Micam show floors may be one example of a trend not reaching its full fruition stateside as retailers may be hesitant to carry these warm colors into the colder months. “For spring and summer, sure,” says Eric Michelson, buyer for Michelson’s Shoes, but not for the Lexington, MA, store’s rough winters. With red as an exception, Michelson says he hasn’t seen many bright colors for fall/winter, or even had a rep propose it. “Yep, they [customers] are going to have to get that somewhere else,” agrees Mark Jubelirer, president of Reyer’s Shoes in Sharon, PA. He plans to stick with seasonal favorites like deep burgundy, gray, army green, autumnal jewel tones and an assortment of neutrals. Consumers wanting to get juiced can visit owner Elena Brennan’s Philadelphia-based boutique, Bus Stop. She expects the burst of color to invigorate fall wardrobes. “Yellow and orange look great with gray, black and brown,” she explains. “I’ve seen some excellent examples of this from United Nude and [shoe brand] 80%20.”


dummy caption



Luichiny 18 • april/may 2011

Femme Fatale


Laura Jane

Dark, sexy and dangerous: black dress shoes continue to have a place in fashion. This time around designers are adding a bit of weight with chunky (but still sky-high) heels, platforms, ankle cuffs and booties—a silhouette Jubelirer predicts many girls shopping for homecoming dances will request. “Our customers are definitely attracted to the edgier silhouettes that you might see Madonna wearing,” he reports. With no shortage of black patent, mesh and satin footwear in sight, buyers will have plenty to choose from. “Black for evening is always the best-seller, but for next fall we’re looking for styles with material interest, ruffles, pleats or mixed with an accent color,” Michelson says.


Designers are adding a bit of weight with chunky heels, platforms, ankle cuffs and booties.


Stuart Weitzman

Linea Marche

Big Hair


Maybe the urge is founded on a renewed sense of consumers’ willingness to splurge, or a more primal desire to retaliate against seasons of simplified designs, but big, decadent, glorious fur and shearling is on the rise and packing more than just hidden comfort and warmth. “I think Fall ’11 shearling options are much more playful and noticeable than this winter’s selection,” Brennan reports. She says the fact that the material is great for “keeping toes toasty and being a fantastic adornment” bodes well, as customers still shop with a utilitarian approach. While mammoth-like boots raised hairs, er eyebrows, at the European shows, Jubelirer says he is cautious about getting tangled up with too many extravagant styles. “Ultimately, people want warm, comfortable and wearable shoes. We are choosing to offer that with shearling-lined boots and shoes like clogs with fur trim.”




Gold Rush

The value of gold is skyrocketing. The precious metal remains a go-to embellishment for evening, but softer shades of gold are acting as a new neutral, gilding unexpected silhouettes like sneakers, chukkas, crepe wedges and for the more daring, wrestling-inspired laceup boots. Brennan describes gold as a “must” for fall. Michelson says his store is putting money into gold, especially styles with visual interest and ones that can go from dress to dress casual. “The real test will be to see how well it does for spring/summer because we’ll be offering a lot of metallic in the next few months,” he adds.


Gianmarco Lorenzi Trend

Orquidea Negra 20

A New Low

To complement the season’s influx of tapered trousers and longer hemlines, footwear designers are cropping boots down to the ankle. Not to be confused with booties, which end at the top of the foot, ankle boots were met with mixed reaction on the GDS and Micam show floors. Many female buyers wondered if the average woman could pull off a shoe that visually shortens the leg. Brennan, who touts ankle boots as a personal favorite, says the style is a lot more flattering than people think. She is ordering a variety with wedges and sculpted heels. Michelson thinks U.S. consumers are ready for a fresh take on the boot. “There’s been an absence of this product,” he says. Jubelirer agrees, adding this is one runway look that will translate to Middle America: “Just so long as the boots are flat or have a comfortable heel height,” he adds.


See by Chloé

Lella Baldi by Mary Irismorata Strenesse Blue


Georgina Goodman

BOWS Prim and proper details soften fall staples.

Kron by KronKron Gianmarco Lorenzi

TINY CRYSTALS Glitzy details are strong with younger women.

Wopke Baldinini

COLOR BLOCK Color block and two-tone styles add dimension to outfits.

STITCHING Quilted touches work well in women’s and men’s.

VICTORIAN Look out for ruffles, pointed toes and laceup closures.

april/may 2011 • 21

w h at ’s selling

college towns



Located near the picturesque campus of the University of North Carolina, Monkee’s offers customers southern hospitality at its best. “There’s always a friendly face to greet you; I’ll guarantee you’ll walk out of the store feeling better,” owner Heather Madigan promises. With 21 locations spread across the Southeast, each Monkee’s offers a unique mix of products. Here, with a nearly 30,000-strong student base, Monkee’s banks on the “latest in thing,” so its well-heeled students don’t have to travel to New York or Milan for their footwear fix.

A comfort staple in Boulder, CO, for more than 36 years, Pedestrian Shops caters to the walking needs of all ages. General manager Tony Distasi says owner Richard Polk’s earth-friendly commitment (stores operate on 100 percent wind-power and all employees receive an Eco-Pass for buses) as well as numerous community outreach programs (including two annual shoe drives to benefit local homeless shelters) appeals to many of the like-minded 31,000-plus Colorado University students.

Current “dean’s list”: Tory Burch flats and sandals, Jack Rogers Navajo sandal and mid-price items from BCBG, Jeffrey Campbell and Frye.

Current “dean’s list”: Reef’s Fanning sandal, which is equipped with a bottle opener on the outsole, Chaco flip-flops, Ugg boots and Dansko, which is a top-seller for working students.

Chapel Hill, NC Tony Burch



Best-selling accessories: Chunky necklaces and layering pieces in bright colors from Mood and Lola. Footpetals and Haute Heels pads to make shoes more comfortable.

Best-selling accessories: Keen, SmartWool and Point6 socks. Bags by Haiku are also popular as are Osgoode Marley soft leather wallets.

When do sales peak for college student shopping? The highest amount of traffic is during game days and weekends as well as around spring formals and graduation.

How important is the college aspect to your business? We cater to a lot of college students who work in area restaurants—the people who are putting themselves through college.

What is unique about UNC students? They’re trendy but classic. Tory Burch and Kate Spade are steady. They’ll choose the classic Burch flat but tie-in trends like bright orange or metallic, or classic Frye cowboy boots with a sundress.

What is unique about CU students? The average Boulder student is outdoor-minded. Even if you’re not from Colorado, you become very connected to the outdoors, and our footwear brands definitely enhance those experiences.

Do you host any college-themed promotions? Our trunk shows at sororities are popular. It creates a special connection with our target shopping group.

Do you run any college-themed sales? We hold a “Spring Break Sandal Sale” at the beginning of the season.

Did the past semester meet or surpass sales expectations? We were pleasantly surprised; we’ve seen an increase in spending again. Jack Rogers


Boulder, CO

What was the best new brand added to your mix this year? DVF Shoes, particularly the platforms and strappy styles. Rank student preference for brand, price and comfort: No. 1 is brand. If it’s a name that’s getting lots of press, then that’s what they want. Second is price. Comfort is not that important for girls—they just want to look good when they go out at night. Which is more common: parents’ credit card or students’ cash? Daddy’s credit card [laughs].

22 • april/may 2011

Are students in a shopping recovery mode? Absolutely. I feel like the optimism of the parents has been getting through to their children. What was the best new brand added to your mix this year? Earthies. Tons of students have been trying them on, but the styles also translate well for older customers. Rank student preference for brand, price and comfort: Price and brand for college students are very close, but in this economic climate price wins out. Comfort comes last. Which is more likely: beer money or shoe money? I think the average student would spend on beer. I don’t want to fool myself [laughs]. —Melissa D’Agnese


Yellow Box

White Mountain

Calleen Cordero



Zip It

The closure takes front and center stage this fall. april/may 2011 • 23



Däv studded boot.


Green quilted boot by Kamik; Earth faux alligator wellie. Opposite: Hiker lace-up by Hunter.


Floral boot by Ranger. Opposite: Ugg Australia rubber sneaker.


Nomad wellie; Chelsea boot by Dansko. Opposite: Teal lace-up by Bogs; Sorel duck boot.




Chooka nauticalinspired wellie. Opposite: Crocs animal print boot.


Designer Chat: Ausiie Boots Australia

34 • april/may 2011

Clockwise from top left: Bettye Muller slingback; peep toe by Coye Nokes; Nine West cage stiletto; Joan & David pump; quilted platform pump by Sergio Zelcer.

The Other Sheen E D I T O R’ S P I C K S

military-inspired lasts for navigating rough winter weather. And for the first time, the fall collection, which retails between $250 and $1,000, includes alligator tail details. “It’s a unique combination,” he says. “Since we are a husband-and-wife team, we are willing to trust one another and take chances.” —Angela Velasquez Where do you find inspiration? Melissa: We’re huge admirers of Donatella and Gianni Versace. Versace’s designs are timeless, elegant and focused. Everything makes sense and is deliberate. Which footwear designers do you admire the most? Alexander McQueen was fearless. His footwear collections are amazing and the shoes are designs that he loved. He wasn’t just making shoes to satisfy the masses.

Sleek heels and patent leather prove to be a winning combination for fall.

What are your favorite fashion magazines? Vogue Italia and Harper’s Bazaar are true fashion magazines. Who is your all-time fashion icon? There are certain people who tend to get it right all the time. For example, Diana Ross. Her customs are timeless. And my husband is a Jennifer Lopez fan. What is your favorite shoe to wear? Our Swagger Rock boot. It’s short with double fringe, chrome studs and trimmed with braided suede. I get compliments every time. I also wear our Angelina wedge a lot. It has a sculpted wood wedge that makes your feet look smaller. If you weren’t designing, what do you think you’d be doing? My other full-time job as mom to our three children.


“WE’RE A GREAT partnership in crime,” says Melissa Tampi, Ausiie Boots Australia co-owner and designer of her and husband Ivan’s footwear venture. The couple’s unique design experiences—Ivan was involved in custom automobile design and Melissa worked as a buyer for her parents’ USA-made concept stores in Australia—has somehow morphed into making a line of luxurious, handmade sheepskin footwear in the U.S. Despite launching in August ’08, a time when Melissa says retailers were reluctant to bring in new luxury brands (even the ones they liked), the recent round of trade shows saw retailers looking to once again spice up their mix. “Without getting away from the comfort aspects, we are offering women sheepskin boots that can complete and add to stylish ensembles,” Melissa says. “People are ready for fashion beyond the basic boot.” According to Ivan, that involves using double-face Grade A Australian sheepskin, fine merino wool, distressed leathers and suede and Italian hardware on modern silhouettes and handcrafted Alder wood heels. “Our fall collection has a vintage-feel with materials but is fashionable enough to wear out on the town,” he describes. Other styles combine platform wedges and chunky


Naturally Naya


The earth-loving shoe brand celebrates a successful first year. EXACTLY ONE YEAR ago from this Earth Day, April 22, Naya Shoes premiered its (literally) down-to-earth collection of shoes. A member of the Brown Shoe conglomerate, Naya is committed to being an accomplice to women who want to lessen their global footprint without sacrificing fashion. From a materials standpoint, Naya opts to use vegetable-tanned leathers and linings, recycled fabrics, water-based cements and cork footbeds in every style. Kasey Gibbs, director of design, says she’s most proud of how the line has continued to evolve with a defined, feminine look. “I look for singular details that make shoes feel special,” she says. As for the forthcoming Fall ’11 line, Gibbs says women should be on the lookout for “curvy heel shapes, perforated patterns, ruffle details, vintage buttons, soft knit patterns and motorcycle jacket-inspired zippers and buckles.” That range of detail breaks down into five distinct collections, which have been well reviewed by retailers thus far. “We received a lot of positive feedback on our wedged boots and our motorcycle-inspired boot,” Gibbs says. While the collections from Naya constantly evolve to fit the comfort and style needs of women, the brand’s principles stay consistent, says Naya Vice President Pat Hogan. “Our message to consumers remains


the same as the day we introduced the brand,” he says. “Naya is focused on our commitment to leaving a softer footprint on the earth.” Beyond just the materials used in the shoes themselves, Naya’s packaging is also earth friendly—boxes are made of 80-percent recycled paper pulp. Although some believe the green movement may be losing traction, Hogan sees it differently. Naya reached 30 million consumers in just one year via its extensive brand story exposure in numerous print and online outlets. “The movement is actually gaining momentum,” he attests. “The story is very sticky—women sincerely care about what we are doing.” Hogan adds, “It’s a combination of looking good, feeling good and doing good that appeals to our customer.” —Meagan Walker

Green Scene Companies continue to put their best eco-friendly foot forward. Chaco Launches Green BOGO Program: Throughout the month of April, Chaco is partnering with the Arbor Day Foundation to replenish the Pike National Forest in Colorado and Moss Island Wildlife Area in Tennessee with trees. The very appropriately named program, Buy One Get One Tree, promises to plant up to 60,000 trees for each pair of Chacos sold both online and in stores. Retailers are encouraged to match Chaco’s donation.

Etnies Plants a Rain Forest: Etnies’ dream began four years ago when CEO Pierre-Andre Senizergues met with leaders in Costa Rica to discuss the country becoming carbon neutral by 2021. Fast-forward to today and the company and country have made strides toward that goal. Last month, Etnies team riders, the native Maleku tribe and La Reserva Forest Foundation planted the first 150 trees of the Etnies Rainforest. Etnies will continue to plant trees in Costa Rica for every pair of Jameson 2 Eco shoes purchased.

Birkenstock Hits the Road: The shoe of choice for tree huggers for decades, Birkenstock has maintained its green credentials with its fully repairable and renewable cork footbeds. The company recently joined forces with the Sustainable Living Roadshow (SLR), a group of volunteers who travel the nation in America’s largest biofuel-powered caravan. SLR pays college campuses and festivals visits, aiming to educate, inspire and empower the communities. Visit sustainablelivingroadshow. org for details.

Teva Comes Clean on New Ad Campaign: Teva has been a constant supporter of its water roots since it launched more than 25 years ago. For its 2011 ad campaign, Pair for a Foot, the brand promises to help protect one linear foot of river, lake or ocean for every pair Teva shoes purchased. By year’s end, Teva hopes to preserve 4.3 million feet of waterways by working with non-profits like the Waterkeeper Alliance and Ocean Conservancy. Log on to to see how much progress has been made.

Drinks are on Freewaters: Californiabased sandal company Freewaters commits itself not only to innovative and comfortable flip-flops but also to helping preserve the environment. The company founded Project Freewaters, a program that provides clean drinking water to one person for every pair of sandals it sells. Last year’s initiative brought company owners Martin Kim and Eli Marmar to Kenya to teach the community how to build wells. —M.W.

april/may 2011 • 35


Skater Style Me-in-Mind launches Neon Eaters, a sized-up brand for freethinking, alternative kids. IMAGINE LANDING A 600-store account—right out of your backpack. For Christian Denney, owner of Me-in-Mind Footwear, that’s reality. When Denney attended WSA in Las Vegas in 2005, he brought along a backpack full of samples from Me-in-Mind, his kids’ shoe brand. Lo and behold, Denney inked a deal with teen retail chain Hot Topic. “A lot of people are like, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Denney relays. “But I think people are overanalyzing the whole business thing.” A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandise in Los Angeles, Denney launched the original Me-in-Mind brand six years ago after recognizing a void in the children’s market. “I thought there wasn’t anything geared toward a younger parent from the boarding scene,” he explains. Soon, another gap (and opportunity) opened as those children outgrew Me-inMind, which runs through size 8. “Once they hit that point, we were losing customers left and right,” he says. To eliminate that drop-off, Denney will debut Neon Eaters this fall in sizes 7 to 13. The Neon Eaters’ aesthetic is decidedly skater with durable canvas uppers and vulcanized rubber outsoles. As for prints, lions, tigers and bears naturally dominate the Oh My! style. For mini musicians, the Wanna Rock offers a gray-black base for boys and pink-black base for girls, with drum, guitar and boom box drawings on the uppers. The fall collection also carries over a number of styles from Me-in-Mind. Suggested retail prices range from $24 to $30. Denney says there’s a principal difference between kids that fit the Me-inMind styles and those that will want to wear Neon Eaters: “Once a kid can start talking, they’re very opinionated. Neon Eaters sounds funky, cool and different to the kids,” he explains, adding the name is intended to appeal to kids rather than to parents. “Neon Eaters is for that energetic kid whose confidence is more than their sense of fashion. They own it. They walk around like, ‘I dress myself. I’m proud.’” —Meagan Walker 36 • april/may 2011

Block Party

Childhood pastime Lego builds a brand in the kids’ market. FIRST CAME THE Erector Set, followed by Tinkertoy and Lincoln Logs and finally, the building blocks with unparalleled staying power—Legos. Created in Denmark and brought to full-nest households everywhere, Lego remains the most coveted brand among boys ages 5 to 10, according to wish list surveys. Produced by INA International, a division of Canada’s largest sporting goods retailer, the Forzani Group, Lego Footwear first entered the U.S. market two years ago. The licensee prioritized sticking to Lego’s essential premise, being a brand both parents and kids know and love backed by a product commitment to the well-being of children. For example, Lego shoes contain no PVC. Jonathan Carter, VP of footwear at INA, says the law does not yet ban the use of PVC, but that Lego is very particular about being on the forefront of such concerns. “Lego makes high-quality products that parents can trust,” Carter attests. “Remember the lead recalls? Our products were fine because we’re way ahead of the curve.” Lego’s principal designer, Hing Yeung, brings a stack of footwear design experience to the table—from Keds and Payless to Dickies and Airwalk. Carter describes Yeung as “a start-to-finish kind of guy” who does more than just design— he travels to China with the production team, finalizes prototypes and generally keeps two hands on deck at all times. Yeung’s creations look as if the Legos could be plucked right off the shoes. Available in 12 styles for boys and six styles for girls, Carter says it breaks down to a 90-10 split between the sexes. “We expect the number to change as the line gets out there, but not by more than 5 percent,” he says. The most popular style, the Concrete, comes in eight colorways for boys and four for girls. The shoes are sturdy yet still allow feet to grow naturally, and come in toddler sizes 5 to 13 and 1 to 4 (youth). Suggested retail prices range from $35 to $45. All in all, Carter believes that the key to Lego’s continued success as a brand—and why it crosses over to footwear so well—is built on the company’s all-encompassing brand extensions. “There’s a Lego magazine, Lego theme parks, Lego-themed games online. It’s not just a brand; it’s part of kids’ lives as they grow up.” —M.W.


Thanks to all the May Event retailers, manufacturers and guest “professors” for sharing their knowledge about footwear retailing.





Contact USRA for membership and early enrollment in the 2012 May Event!

Phone: (818) 703-6062 Email: www.USRAONLINE.ORG

One Industry. One Goal. One Place.

SPECIAL REPORT • continued from page 8

Q&A • continued from page 15

lower silhouette,” confirms Dansko’s creative director Ann Dittrich about the brand’s new weatherproof collection. “We’re offering a clog silhouette as well as an ankle boot pull-on, so that gives the ability to wear it in warmer weather.” Plus, trendy new slip-on weatherproof shoes for men, from brands like Bogs and Sperry Top-Sider, promise the possibility of gaining sales from a relatively untapped demographic. “Don’t rule out men’s as an opportunity, either,” confirms Cohen of NPD.

of chances, but you also have the basics in stock. You have to make the retail experience so much better than it has been in the past. That means the presentation, display and product all have to wrap together with the advertising and service so that when a customer walks into your store they believe they got something way beyond their expectations. We work at that every day at Burch’s. When they walk into our store we want people to say, “Wow.” And when they leave they say, “Wow, that was a phenomenal experience.”

2. Stock Beyond Spring Forget April showers—rain boots are increasingly becoming winter wear, thanks to the introduction of both built-in and interchangeable liners. “We are truly weatherproof, meaning our collection can be worn in rain, snow and sleet, because they have a fleece lining,” explains Däv’s Majumdar. “We definitely like to have our product merchandised with cold-weather boots. If you just categorize yourself in rain, you can fall into that rubber rain boot category, which can be inexpensive.” Combs says Bogs also suggests retailers emphasize its boots can be worn nearly year-round, thanks to a neoprene lining. “Our boots sell from September all the way through to April,” he notes. For companies like Chooka, which sells unlined rubber boots, accessories can help extend the product’s shelf life. “We sell liners, and showing those with the boots really helps,” Moehring says. The company is releasing a collection of fur-trimmed boots and socks for fall, in hopes of pleasing women seeking trendy details as well as warmer options. Marfino in Buffalo confirms that the “introduction of fleece boot liners really help move the boots through the winter.” Glass notes that even in temperate California, her customers heading to colder climes normally just buy a rain boot with socks. “You can put on socks, and you’re still not spending a ton of money as compared to a cold-weather boot.” At Nastasi’s shop, located in a Boston suburb, rain boots often sell year-round because “in the winter people get tired of throwing on a big, bulky boot. And in the city, it’s not really snow [on the ground]—it’s slushy mud puddles.”

3. Tempt With Windows “When it’s raining, people buy—literally,” says Starbuck. “For sure, it’s buy now, wear now.” That’s why retailers recommend maintaining a tempting window display full of eye-catching styles during traditionally rainy months. “By buying colors and brightening up our window displays and making them more fun, we find we end up selling more of the colors than we do black,” Starbuck notes. Nastasi confirms that rain boots are definitely a spur-ofthe-moment purchase at his store. “It’s walk-in traffic. It’s both impulsive when they see it in the window and impulsive when its raining.” Retailers also recommend changing up the display periodically to keep windows fresh for passers-by. “We change our window once a week,” Marfino notes.

4. Keep Accessories Handy For companies like Däv, umbrellas and socks make up 20 percent of sales, and the items sell especially well when paired with matching rain boots. “We love having them in the same spot in the store. It allows the sell-through to be stronger, it makes it much easier for the customer and is something I would highly recommend,” Majumdar suggests. Glass recently added Däv umbrellas to her mix, and they “blew out,” she reports. “A lot of people buy the umbrellas with the rain boots, since they have umbrellas that match in cute prints.” Marfino recently began carrying boot liners, which she displays by placing inside her boots—a strategy that’s helped drive sales. “People were really excited about them,” she says. She also reports that clear, plastic bubble umbrellas are her best-selling accessories. Location is also key: “You want to move the transitional spring stuff up front now, and have all the accessories around it,” Combs explains. “Everything has to have a story. It’s really important that consumers see not only the shoes, but how they’re going to wear it and what they’re going to wear it with—the whole package.” •

38 • april/may 2011

Might consumers be in need of that “wow” factor more than they even realize these days? Do they even know what they may be missing anymore? It’s almost like you expect bad service nowadays. My sons are a classic example: They no longer expect service, but when they do happen to come across good service—be it a shoe store or checking into a hotel—they are blown away. I think that’s what is missing in a lot of retail today. Is there a new normal with respect to consumers’ shopping behavior? I’m not sure it’s a new normal, but people are surely simplifying their lifestyles by buying less and buying better as well as working on their financial health more than before. I think it’s all good, and hopefully these will be long-term habits. Is the recession over? Oh no. I think we have a ways to go in that regard. In Oregon, specifically, the job outlook continues to be very bleak. Having said that, business is certainly better than it had been a year or two ago. I believe the good retailers—the ones that have been able to survive—will thrive. But it varies from tier to tier. For example, the farm, agricultural and industrial retailers don’t have the big peaks and valleys like a lot of fashion-oriented stores. They sort of just rock along and have small increases. Their primary customer has no choice but to, say, milk their cows 365 days a year. If their boots wear out, then they have to go buy a new pair. The outdoor specialty guys are much the same way: They just kind of rock along because most of their customers are still going to go outdoors regardless of the economy. Where do you see Bogs in three years? I don’t know as far as actual numbers, but since we currently have so little market share in any of our markets, if we continue to make innovative shoes that make people feel better in uncomfortable environments, then our future is bright. We have also only just started selling our brand in Europe and that should add to our overall growth. What do you love most about your job? I get to make and sell shoes every day. That’s a perfect world. And you get to work with your entire family… Yes. It’s been a nice perk, and we all work really well together, although, we don’t see each other too often with my wife and myself spending a lot of time in China and my sons on the road selling. But you can’t sell anything sitting in Eugene, OR. That pretty much confirms it: You are a bona fide Shoe Dog. Yes. I think it’s a great thing to be. I enjoy sitting down with fellow Shoe Dogs. I view it as a positive connotation. •

LAST WORD Guy Juke, an artist from the Austin Arts + Music partnership, paints a mural for his city at the Austin Convention Center.


Keds Reunion Tour: 2011 The classic sneaker company revamps and redefines itself for Millennials on an interactive, cross-country odyssey. —Meagan Walker For a brand that’s been around since before the Bolshevik Revolution (wild, right?), it may have been inevitable that its mission would need some tweaking to connect with a new generation. Keds kicked off a nine-city tour at South by Southwest in Austin, TX, last month, asking music lovers, film buffs and fashionistas, “How Do You Do?” “Keeping in mind that this campaign is in many ways a reintroduction, we felt ‘How Do You Do?’ works as a salutation and introduction (or sometimes re-introduction) to the brand,” says Laurie Heller, digital marketing manager for Keds. From Austin, the Keds’ team drove a 32-foot trailer, which just happened to resemble a shoebox, around the country to ask new and old customers, “How Do You Do Art? How Do You Do Style? How Do You Do Music?” While on the month-and-a-half-long crosscountry trip, Keds made stops at 11 college campuses, including the University of Texas, UCLA and Boston University. Inside the trailer, visitors got a taste of the company’s rich history by tapping large, touch-screens. A chronological company timeline was painted on the shiny wood floor: 1938, Keds launches a heeled women’s shoe; 1949, PRO-Keds makes its debut; and in the 1980s and ’90s, Keds makes cameos on Happy Days, Saved by the Bell


and Full House. Special, city-specific designs in limited quantities were also created for each stop. Design-your-own stations were set up, photogs snapped fans’ pictures with their custom shoes, and oversized beanbag chairs comforted tired students. “The goal is to encourage campus communities to do what they do, while incorporating Keds into their lifestyle,” Heller says. “We hope the experience inspires students to create, collaborate and contribute within their local communities and keeps Keds on top of mind in the process.” Using the power of social media, Keds invited their followers on Twitter to post what inspires them about their city using the hashtag #KedsHDYD. For each tweet with the hashtag, Keds donated $1 to a chosen arts-based charity in that city, and also brought an artist from that community on board for the event. Instructed to take inspiration from the tweets, the chosen artist painted murals reflecting the sentiments of the people behind that city’s tweets. Heller says the event held at UCLA garnered an amazing response, and the tweets moved the artists from Inner City Arts to interpret L.A. in a special way. “They constructed a large panel made of a map of L.A. adorned with reusable items, showing all the freeway systems and interchanges,” she says. “It was truly incredible.”

Footwear Plus | The Source for Retailers | 2011 • April/May  
Footwear Plus | The Source for Retailers | 2011 • April/May  

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