THE SOURCE FOR RETAILERS •JUNE 2011 • $10.00
COLOR RICH JEWEL TONES SATURATE THE SEASON
REYERS SHOES: CELEBRATING 125 YEARS THE FORECAST FOR NEXT SPRING GARY CHAMPION ON EARTH’S EVOLUTION TREND SPOTTING: FIT TO PRINT
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Introducing BĂ¸rn Spring 2012 at FFANY | New York Showroom | 1441 Broadway | 14th Floor | New York, NY
Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director
8 You Heard It Here First
Nancy Campbell Creative Director
Designers reveal an eclectic array of Spring ’12 trends, from bold ’70s silhouettes to pops of tropical color. By Angela Velasquez
EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Audrey Goodson Meagan Walker Associate Editors Melissa D’Agnese Editorial Intern
10 Q&A: Earth Gary Champion, CEO of Earth, shares the company’s recipe for success: a three-brand approach spanning the comfort, wellness and fashion categories. By Greg Dutter
CREATIVE Trevett McCandliss Executive Art Director Brad Istnick Lenny Vella Art Directors Tim Jones Senior Designer
16 Steely Determination
CONTRIBUTORS Michel Onofrio Style Director Kathy Passero Editor at Large Jamie Wetherbe West Coast Editor
After an awe-inspiring 125 years in business, Reyers, “the world’s largest shoe store,” is still going strong.
By Greg Dutter and Audrey Goodson
24 Hot Topics
ADVERTISING Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher David Sutula VP Technology Leslie Sutula VP Account Services Laurie Guptill Production Manager
USRA’s May Event brought together the industry’s biggest stars to network and talk shop. By Greg Dutter
30 Catch the Color Wave Eye-catching hues combined with sky-high heels make a bold splash in women’s footwear. By Angela Velasquez
4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In 26 Made You Look 28 Trend Spotting 40 Shoe Salon 42 Kids 44 Street 45 What’s Selling 48 Last Word
DISCO INFERNO Designers bring in ‘da funk for fall. Clockwise fom top left: Raphael Young slingback stiletto; Pedro García platform loafer; Betsey Johnson lace pump; House of Harlow 1960 beaded bootie; United Nude Mary Jane; Velvet ankle boot by Jean-Michel Cazabat; Camilla Skovgaard sandal.
On the cover: Candela cap toe booties; vintage Oscar de la Renta blouse; Easel cardigan; skirt by Michael Kors; Eugenia Kim hat; Antipast socks. Photography by Alexandra Carr
FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) Vol. 22 issue #5 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.
ADMINISTRATION Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Melanie Prescott Circulation Manager Julie Gibson Webmaster Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director CONTACT INFO Sales/Editorial Offices 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 9Threads.com Circulation Office 21 Highland Circle Needham, MA 02494 Tel: (800) 964-5150 Fax: (781) 453-9389 circulation@9Threads.com 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 what ’s o l d i s new 7
Revisiting the Classics ON A RECENT rainy weekend while visiting my parents in their new retirement home I got to perusing old family photo albums and coffee table books that were now accessible after decades of being hidden in plain sight in the home I grew up in. One of the books, “America: A Day in the Life,” I had bought my parents as a Christmas gift nearly 25 years ago. The picture book captures May 2, 1986, depicting what everyday life was like across our country. One photograph in particular caught my attention—that of an 18-year-old Battle Creek, MI, girl standing in her bedroom getting ready for school. Clothes are strewn about an unmade bed, and on the floor are three shoe styles: a lone boat shoe and pairs of cut-out flats and Keds sneakers, both in white. It struck me instantly: Almost 25 years to the day that photo was taken, these three styles are as relevant now as they were back then. For the countless styles that come and go in the blink of a season, there are those precious few that withstand the test of time and become classics. Converse Chucks, Birkenstock sandals and Timberland’s wheat boot are a few. And there are far more silhouettes ushered in each season with a myriad of brand names attached to their familiar shapes. Fittingly, this month’s fashion
story, “Catch the Color Wave” (p. 30), revisits designers’ favorite decadal muse, the ’70s, with saturated jewel tones awash on platform pumps and sky-high heels. We’ve seen it all before, but revisiting the classics from time to time can reignite the love affair as well as entice a new generation of consumers. This month’s Special Report, “You Heard It Here First” (p.8) delves further into the ’70s revival that’s expected to be strong for Spring ’12. Chunky silhouettes—wedges and platforms with wooden heels, as well as the new “flatform” (a flat on a platform last)—are designed to balance two of the season’s expected leading apparel trends: wide-leg pants and jumpsuits. Designers are also revisiting the Grunge era of the early ’90s. Military boots and platform oxfords pair well with the season’s slouchy proportions and cutoffs. The classic Dr. Martens 1460 boot should also be in the mix. Another classic being reintroduced this spring is Kalso Earth. Gary Champion, president of Earth Inc. and the subject of this month’s Q&A (p. 10), discusses how the famous negative heel construction (developed 40 years ago by yoga instructor Anne Kalso) has been upgraded and repositioned as a premium wellness brand that’s good for the mind, body and soul. [Note: no claims of weight loss.] While the negative heel now ranks as a classic, the jury is most definitely out on whether any toning and shaping styles will one day reach such legendary status. Perhaps, 25 years from now, we can all revisit that question. Greg Dutter Editorial Director
THIS JUST IN
KIDDING AROUND Big Apple kids bring spring to life with animal prints, colorful stripes and funky shoes. —By Dorothy Hong
6 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
FFANY: JUNE 7,8,9 2011 Hilton Hotel | Room #1450 & 1451
FFANY: AUGUST 2,3,4 2011 Hilton Hotel
MAGIC: AUGUST 22,23,24 2011 Las Vegas Convention Center
You Heard It Here First DID YOU HEAR? It’s the sound of rumbling waves, a disco beat and the roar of vintage Courtney Love making noise on the fashion front for Spring ’12. After a long season of lugged soles and utilitarian shearling, next spring features an eclectic mix of footwear silhouettes and themes, the most prominent game-changer being designers’ renewed interest in pants. Designer Chie Mihara is most excited about fisherman trousers. The slim-cut, three-quarter-length pant will frame the fine single sole sandals in her eponymous line. Monique Umeh, senior footwear editor for trend forecasting service Stylesight, says the slew of “sophisticated Mary Janes, T-strap sandals and flats” will also flatter the abbreviated pant style. The fisherman pant complements Ara’s nautical and Nantucket-inspired story for spring, according to Rob Rask, North American managing director. Rask says moccasins with a sailor look, ballerinas and boat shoes with perforated uppers in gray and red are coming down the pipeline. “There’s a move toward a natural feel, whether in materials or colors,” he says. Similarly, Umeh sees a push for clean, understated “heritage” shoes. “Rich natural leathers in elephant and dove gray, beige or cream, and smooth metal accents will look classically modern and timeless,” she describes. Pops of Hérmes orange, juniper green and Yves Klein blue break up the simple lines. Even more masculine tailored footwear [think boat shoes and moccasins] look surprisingly feminine when worn with little socks or short pant lengths, she adds. Washed canvas from Italy and vintage-inspired leathers lend a shabby chic feel to Bernardo’s beachcombing footwear. Noting the over-saturation and impracticality of espadrilles and platforms, Bernardo President Dennis Comeau says the brand is focusing on woven huaraches with “a twist and hand-worked leathers” and driving mocs with a tapered toe and distressed upper. The hand-colored leather is rinsed in a washing machine and then sandblasted. Along with a focus on sustainability and earthiness, Comeau says the Boho, tropical look demands color. Less seaside village, more tiki bar, designers are also exploring the exotic design treasures tropic locales offer. “You’ll see a mash-up of global cultures,” Umeh reports, especially accents with Caribbean and East African roots. Where nudes and “blushy” pales have dominated previous spring seasons, Tanise Hill, senior designer for Restricted says a “bright color palette and daring color combinations are returning to fashion’s forefront.” According to Umeh, the trend includes earthy tones like saffron, mahogany, tobacco, dark olive, cypress green and turquoise, anchored by pops of red and yellow. These colors will be carried into vi-
8 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
brant prints including ethnic motifs and island florals. Embellishments are key in bringing this trend to fruition. The strongest styles mix rustic components with multi-color beading, glass beads, printed cork, basket weaves and shells. Umeh notes that familiar silhouettes, like wedges and platforms with wooden heels, will be updated with new colors and prints. And one emerging shape is the flatform—a flat on a platform last. Hill describes the chunky silhouette as the most influential shape for next spring. “It’s great because it makes you feel like you are wearing platforms, but really you’re in super comfy flats,” she explains. The heavy-looking shoe balances spring fashion’s other must-have: ’70s-inspired wide-leg pants. “The return of wide-leg pants and jumpsuits are increasing the popularity of high platforms and introducing double platform wedges,” Hill notes. “Tall wedges and block-heel constructions in ankle boots or wide strap sandals will be necessary to balance these new proportions,” Umeh confirms. Mihara is playing up the era’s glam factor with a rich Yves Saint Laurent-inspired color palette featuring purple and emerald green, blasts of white and metallic gold leather. However, she is taking a less literal approach to the season’s disco fever. Instead of super high heels, platforms and over-the-vamp sandals, looks she believes are “trying too hard,” the designer is offering strappy sandals with slender heels. Even oxfords and loafers are prescribed for a late ’70s update. Along with wider and rounder toes, Umeh says the silhouettes will be exaggerated with edgier crepe, rubber or lugged platform soles. The look is being applied to ankle boots, too. As more women trade in sandals in favor of closed-toe trans-seasonal styles, a grunge revival may hit the junior market hard. Umeh reports recent runways indicate designers are inspired by the slouched and loose styles fashioned by ’90s feminist punk bands. Draped jersey tops, cut-offs and skinny black jeans play into the hyper trend. Heeled or wedge-soled military boots, lace-up boots with open heel counters or toes, and platform oxfords with pronounced round toe expressions will ground this look. Designers are lightening up grunge by pairing muted tones of gray and blue—from slate to whale and concrete—with warmer shades of cork, shell and beige. Metallic highlights in gunmetal, bronze and silver, as well as chain, chain mail and metal mesh embellishments offer an industrial edge, while plum, red and turquoise provide feminine yet subtle color accents perfect for spring. •
ILLUSTRATION BY TIM JONES FOR TIMJONESGRAPHIX.COM
Next spring’s leading trends revealed. By Angela Velasquez
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T R I P L E
With a three-brand approach spanning the wellness, comfort and fashion markets, Gary Champion, president of Earth, has the company’s bases covered and positioned for rapid growth. By Greg Dutter
DIVIDING THE COMPANY into three distinct brands (Kalso Earth Shoes, Earth and Earthies) wasn’t the initial game plan when Gary Champion first joined forces with legendary footwear designer Michel Meynard, CEO of Earth Inc., about a year and a half ago. On the heels of a successful 18-year sales management run at Clarks Companies North America that saw the company become a powerhouse in the comfort footwear arena, followed by a brief stint managing Geox USA, Champion was exactly the type of seasoned industry professional Meynard was seeking to be company president. Meynard wanted to focus more on his first love—designing shoes—and leave the day-to-day running and building of a footwear company to a professional such as Champion. At the time, Earth was grounded, you might say, in its design DNA of a negative heel construction. And while Meynard tried almost every style possible to keep the brand’s wellness construction updated and fashionable, let’s face it—preventing a footwear designer from incorporating heels into any of his creations is nothing short of torture. Meynard desperately wanted to branch out and had some ideas, but he had no idea how successful one of them (the launch of Earthies) would become less than two years later. Earthies’ birth began on Champion’s second day with the company. He was in the conference room with Meynard, who mentioned he had a name (Earthies) for a new brand but not much else. “He asked what might be the right way to approach it,” Champion recalls. “I suggested what I always believed could work: creating a brand for sophisticated women who grew up wearing sneakers and comfort shoes but gave up style in the process or, when wearing fashion shoes, gave up comfort.” Champion believed a middle ground existed where a well-made and fashionable design—not fashion-forward—could be combined with a legitimate comfort construction. The suggestion inspired Meynard and his trusted design team to get right to work, and the eventual result was a collection of short heels and wedges with a three-pronged approach to comfort: a cupped heel design that sets the foot into the proper supported position, an anatomic arch that increases touch points along the transition from heel to forefoot and a cradle toe area that evenly distributes weight from the toes. Or, as the marketing team at Earth coined it: “Wellness. Elevated.” Champion says it was exactly the comfort-fashion balance he envisioned. “Our design team did a wonderful job studying the market and creating some terrific uppers, and our engineering team did a great job fitting the product and contouring the footbed,” he says. “It’s an amazing collaboration.” 10 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
P L A Y
As soon as the first prototypes came in, Champion could sense this new brand had the makings of something special. It was further confirmed by the enthusiastic response the collection received from retailers during its inaugural trade show run. But neither he nor Meynard could have predicted the enormous success it’s currently experiencing at retail. “The launch has been phenomenal,” Champion says, noting it has topped all of his launches at Clarks. “We hit a niche that resonated with our consumer immediately.” Strong sales back up Champion’s claims: Earthies scored a 20-percent sell-through in the first four days in select Nordstrom doors. What’s more, consumers are raving about the brand, as evidenced by
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O&A numerous e-mails the company received from customers effusing about the look and feel of the shoes. The enthusiasm is contagious, Champion adds. “The retailers are excited because they are seeing the reaction from their customers, and they haven’t seen that level of excitement in a while,” he says. “Women are just raving about the style and comfort. [We often receive] letters that begin, ‘I haven’t worn heels in years…,’ or ‘I never thought I’d be able to wear heels again…,’ or, ‘I’ve tried your shoes and I’m wearing them all day long…’” Whether Meynard and Champion uncovered the Holy Grail of women’s footwear remains to be seen, but the initial signs are quite encouraging. And while it may seem like a simplistic recipe—offering comfort and fashion together—it is not easily achieved. (If it were, everybody else would already be doing it.) “The piece that sells it is the fashionable design,” Champion offers. “The women aren’t expecting that shoe to look that way and be that comfortable.” It’s a scenario he has witnessed on the sales floor time and again: “The customer loves the style and the minute she steps inside she says, ‘Wow, these are comfortable.’” Champion adds that Earthies’ Fall ’11 bookings are up 35 percent over this spring. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we double our business by next spring,” he says. Next up for Champion was the relaunch of Kalso Earth Shoes for this spring. The strategy was to go back to Earth’s roots as an original wellness footwear brand, one that embraces its famous negative heel construction as a healthy lifestyle choice. Champion is quick to note that this is not about toning and fitness. “We got sucked up into that craze and left behind the heritage and authenticity of the Earth brand,” he says. That heritage is based on shoes, originally designed by yoga instructor Ann Kalso 40 years ago, that feature a 3.7-degree negative heel construction that is said to relieve joint stress, distribute weight more efficiently and improve posture. Champion is focusing on the brand’s proven benefits with the addition of premium components and leathers. Kalso Earth will open at $149 suggested retail with some boots in the $200 range. “We are taking the whole concept back to the way the brand was marketed 40 years
12 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
ago,” Champion says, which includes original packaging, sockliners featuring the Kalso Earth Shoes logo and POP focused on the benefits of the negative heel. “Kalso Earth becomes the heritage of our company—the authenticity of why we exist in this country in a branded way. It
OFF THE CUFF What are you reading? Cultural Strategy by Douglas Holt and Douglas Cameron. I’m also reading Pirates of Barbary by Adrian Tinniswood. What was the last movie you saw? True Grit. To Facebook or not to facebook? Not to. It’s just too public for me. What one word best describes you? Sincere. What is your motto? Be yourself. Is there a perfect shoe? Well, the Earthies “Bonaire” came pretty close. But I don’t really think there is a perfect
shoe, because there are too many consumers out there that have different opinions. What famous person in history do you most admire? Abraham Lincoln. He was a simple man that put great people around him and took their advice. He also had great intuition. Who is the most influential person in fashion right now? The consumer. She is taking a more powerful role in directing looks with mixing and matching brands, materials and patterns. It means your brand has to stand for something and be authentic.
puts a stamp on our corporation.” Which brings us back to Earth, so to speak. At some point next year, Champion says Earth will be re-launched as a traditional comfort brand (no negative heel construction) positioned for men and women. “I believe the Earth brand has more power than just the negative heel technology allows us to be,” he says, noting prices will open at $100 with select boots in the $150 range. And while it may be last on the list of launches, Champion believes Earth has the biggest sales potential based on its mass audience appeal. “Earthies has the potential to be big, but pricepoint wise ($159 to $200) it doesn’t have the size potential that Earth has,” he says.
All in all, Champion is bullish about the company’s overall growth prospects going forward—projecting branded sales to be at least five times its current size in three years. And while it’s obviously a market share battle, Champion’s track record of success proves he is pretty savvy in that regard—just like Meynard is when it comes to creating innovative designs. It’s a one-two punch that bodes well for the future. “Michel loves product. And while the day-to-day running of the business is something he can do, he doesn’t enjoy it,” Champion says. “That’s where I come in. It’s a great team, and I really enjoy working with him.” You’re about a year and half into the job. Is this where you expected the company to be? I believe we are further ahead than ex pected. In fact , I think we have accomplished a lot in that time period. It takes a good six months to figure out the business and get your feet on the ground as to where the company has been and where it’s going. And then it takes the next six months to figure out what product you want to deliver, which puts you six more months ahead. So this spring is really the launch of what inf luence I could have on our brands. Did you think Earthies would be a hit right out of the gate? I’ve been in the business long enough to look at it and say, ‘This should be good.’ But you never really know until you get the product in front of the consumer. I’m not a women’s size 6; I can’t try it on to see if it is really comfortable (laughs). I’m not exactly sure how well-fitting the last will be even though our engineers spent a lot of time making sure it would fit just right. We pushed our factories to get it right because we had a tight window. We wanted to make sure that when we delivered the product it fit to our exact specifications. Which came first, the fashion or the comfort? We worked on the Earthies technology first— lasts, bottoms and footbeds. We first asked, ‘How is that going to work?’ Then we shopped Europe twice in the spring of 2010 for trends and then went off to China to build the line.
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Which matters more, fashion or comfort? I believe it’s a combination—that’s the niche we hit. And we are over delivering on both comfort and design. Consumers are not expecting Earthies to feel the way they look. With respect to Kalso Earth Shoes, it’s the wellness attributes that matter most and not the toning or weight loss ones, right? Yes. Personally, I don’t believe we ever should have gotten into the fitness and toning craze. Maybe we should have done a walking shoe and some kind of [exercise] flip-flop and stopped there. But toning is not who we are. Our tagline is: “The original wellness shoe. Designed by nature, created by Kalso.” The consumer who knows us as Kalso Earth expects the wellness attributes associated with the negative heel construction as well as quality. Kalso Earth is [comprised of] high-quality comfort systems, leathers and laytex insoles. We are putting quality and creativity back into Kalso Earth.
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How is wellness different than fitness and toning? I think wellness came out of that grouping, but I don’t believe it is connected. I see fitness and toning moving more into the athletic world involving shoes related to physical exercise. Wellness, on the other hand, is not just about footwear—it relates to a whole lifestyle. When you talk about wellness, you talk about to what degree you want to live that lifestyle—in mind, body and soul. As that relates to footwear, wellness can be comfortable shoes with legitimate comfort systems and technologies. Kalso Earth is one example. Some people will buy a hybrid car, eat organic foods and buy Kalso Earth shoes. These people are serious about living a wellness lifestyle. Then there are those that just want to be comfortable and will buy Earth. And there are those that want style and comfort and Earthies is for them. To me, all three of our brands have a wellness aspect to them, depending on how serious you are about living this particular lifestyle. The fitness and toning market is having some difficulties. What do you think has gone wrong? I think a lot of those brands just over promised. The hype behind [the shoes] didn’t deliver the goods. Burn more calories, skip the gym, tone your muscles. For the woman that is working out every day it makes sense. For the woman who thinks she can put on a pair of rocker soles and walk around the mall and get fit…I just don’t see that. But I believe the category will be successful in the long run—shifting to brands like Reebok, New Balance, Nike and Adidas—that approach fitness and toning in a much more athletic way. They are the brands that are going to get that message and product right. Fill in the blank: Our industry is in... A time of chaos, because the largest country (China) we source from is going through tremendous changes. Everybody is having to scramble to meet production needs. It’s very difficult and, unfortunately, there are more questions than there are answers at the moment. Such as? We are trying to get the best read on where China’s economy and sourcing structures are going. Leather pricing is erratic and so is their currency, and there’s no clear clue what that government is doing to control it. One thing is certain: Prices are going up for next spring.
www.ara-shoes.net Despite the challenges, what is your outlook for the rest of this year? The rest of the year, while not spectacular, will be good. I believe there is a pent-up demand for footwear. I’m counting on boots being as strong as they have been this fall. I don’t see that trend going away. In general, the U.S. market is absolutely in a better state, compared to about a year and a half ago. It doesn’t feel like a recession right now. There have been worse markets. But I’m just not exactly sure where it’s heading. It could turn ugly quickly. Or it could just be a continued slow recovery. Has the consumer calmed down, or is she still a bit freaked out? It depends on the price points you are dealing in. The low-priced market is stressed right now because the high price of gasoline is having a major affect on that category. Those consumers that are doing OK financially will be a solid market. They can afford the extra $20 to fill the tank each week. 1
Has the overall mood among retailers improved as the consumer has backed away from the ledge? Well, nobody is screaming. March was OK, but April was difficult because the weather didn’t cooperate and most expected May to be better. Overall, they feel that the consumer was coming in but was not buying until she was ready to wear it. Nobody panicked early on, which was unlike recent seasons. That was a good sign. In 2008 and ’09, markdowns would have happened early. Even the department stores held their prices for the most part. There were not the 30 to 40 percent off sales signs throughout the stores. They waited for the weather to break. Before, a lot of retailers overbought in their inventories. They have gotten smarter. They are watching their inventories and turns much more closely so they don’t have to panic as early. I just think they have gotten better at those aspects of the business.
Might this more conservative approach to inventory management narrow the playing field of brands offered? The way Earthies has been received has changed. In the past, we would have had 120 accounts knocking down our door to get their hands on the product. What you are seeing now are inquiries—despite the fact that we don’t have any product left to sell them. But it’s a more thoughtful approach: ‘I heard great things about the brand. Can you show me the line for fall?’ It’s not a case of chasing trends and throwing money at them just to get product into the store. There are intelligent conversations about getting involved and to what degree. Retailers are adopting a more strategic approach to growing their businesses. Is this a long-term shift, or do you think they will revert back if the overall economic climate improves? I think if the economy comes back and the consumer starts driving it again, then money will become more available and retailers will chase again (laughs). Along those lines, has the consumer really changed? The consumer’s emotions are driven by the economy. Right now, there isn’t a lot of good news and as a result there isn’t a lot of money floating around. But when the stock market was flying, people were investing and the banks were giving out loans, people were spending. I don’t think that will come back as quickly. But if the situation improves again, the consumer might react a little slower, but, in the long run, they will be willing to spend again. >46
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R E Y E R S N C E L E B R AT I N G 1 2 5 Y E A R S
The story of how Reyers, “the world’s largest shoe store,” withstood the test of time—for 125 years and counting. By Greg Dutter “We are like the Pittsburgh Steelers: We are fighters. We have a ground game that we are sticking to. We have not changed to the new defense and offensive schemes that other (retailers) use. And we have been rewarded with a great fan base who is very loyal.” —Steven Jubelirer, vice president, Reyers Shoes The Reyers retail playbook is no secret: A vast selection displayed in 36,000-square-feet featuring thousands of styles from popular brands to rare finds, kids to adults, women’s size 4 to 14 from super slim to super wide and men’s sizes 6 to 22 from narrow to 6E. Customers come in from as far away as 200 miles to the tiny town of Sharon, located in northwest Pennsylvania steel mill country, to shop the awe-inspiring selection they can touch and try on, and to be fitted properly by a dedicated and experienced staff. You might even say its like Internet shopping in virtual reality. That bigger-than-reality aspect has been the key to Reyers survival through two World Wars, the Great Depression as well as numerous lesser recessions, the death of the steel industry, the rise of Internet retailing and big box category killers, the Great Financial Collapse, and pretty much every other tremendous obstacle and unexpected challenge you can possibly think of that occurred during the past 125 years. If what has already happened
16 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
hasn’t made Reyers obsolete, one wonders what could? The fact is very few businesses make it to the century mark and the air gets much thinner for those able to survive another 25 years. For a little perspective, back in 1886 when Reyers first opened its doors, Grover Cleveland was president, Dr. John Stith Pemberton invented Coca-Cola, Karl Benz invented the first gaspowered automobile, Apache leader Geronimo surrendered and Ty Cobb was born—it’s another 19 years before he even dons a Major League uniform. We’re talking way, way back. “There are not many businesses, period, that are 125 years old, and there are far fewer family-owned businesses that reach this milestone,” confirms Mark Jubelirer, president of Reyers. “And there are fewer yet family-owned shoe stores that last more than two generations.” Mark and brother Steven are the third generation of Jubelirers to manage Reyers. Their father, Harry Jubelirer, a shoe retailer from Pittsburgh, brought the store in 1953 from then 80-year-old Carl Reyer, son of founder Harry Reyer. (Side note: Harry Jubelirer’s father, Samuel, a former banker, became a shoe retailer after the Great Depression wiped out his business.) The Jubelirers collectively have withstood the challenges of time and not only survived but thrived. Each generation put a distinctive stamp on the family business model that enabled it to stand out from the competition and prosper.
On average, Reyers carries 100,000 pairs in its inventory.
THE SALAD DAYS
When Harry Jubelirer purchased Reyers there were six other shoe stores located in downtown Sharon. Back then, Reyers specialized in women’s narrows while the other stores offered similar unique assortments. Sensing an opportunity for growth, Jubelirer expanded the selection. “My father was not only a great shoe man but a very people-friendly salesman,” Mark says, adding he was also a workaholic. “He put a lot of fear into his competitors and a lot of smiles onto his customers’ faces.” It was only a matter of time before Jubelirer put the other retailers out of business, often hiring those former owners to work at his store, thus, laying the groundwork for a superstore. “My father was ambitious and aggressive,” Mark says, recalling how former competitors lamented that if his father ran the store like a business instead of a hobby, they would have had a chance. “He lived and breathed the shoe business, and he knew exactly what to do,” Mark says. “Banker’s hours weren’t going to cut it against him. Those other retailers weren’t necessarily slackers, but not everybody is first-in-class.” By the ’70s, Reyers became pretty much the only shoe game in Sharon. The store moved to another location in town, and became the largest shoe store between Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Later on that decade, sons Mark and Steven entered the family business upon graduating college. Both brief-
ly entertained other careers but quickly realized Reyers was their first calling, having grown an affinity for the business while working summers and school vacations. “On graduation day of college I knew I was only worth minimum wage to the rest of the world,” Steven confesses. “I had to go where I might make a little bit better wage, so I came back to Reyers. But I wanted it to be the case.” While Mark went so far as to take the entry exams for law school, he knew his destiny lied at Reyers. “There was no question about it. If you are a Jubelirer, you have leather in your veins,” he says. “As my dad always said, “This is what we were put on the earth for.’” Other fatherly wisdom bestowed on his sons: Do well by employees and customers because this is a people business and life is a two-way street. Secondly: Always conduct business in an honest manner and be fair. Third: Work hard because success doesn’t just happen. “He used to say, ‘Don’t wait for the Good Fairy. Do the work,’” Mark recalls. The three Jubelirers would talk business every night at the dinner table. The discussion always centered on Harry’s basic retail philosophy that Steven says boils down to offering sizes, selection and service that will bring the customer in as well as bring them back. It’s a philosophy that Mark says has remained constant. “Take care of the customer and everything else will take care of itself,” he says. That translates to providing the best service and selection of styles, colors and sizes that a consumer can find—all at reasonable
september 2010 • footwearplusmagazine.com 17
REYERS N CELEBRATING 125 YEARS
REYERS BY THE NUMBERS 1 store
$100 and the night off: A
36,000 square feet 100,000 pairs in stock 88: age of oldest store employee 51 years: Longest tenured employee
188 years: combined years of shoe retailing experience of the Jubelirer family 57%: Share of the staff that has been employed 10 years or longer
7’7”: Height of the world’s tallest woman who bought 2 pairs of size 22 men’s
wedding present offered by Harry Jubelirer to an employee decades ago who got married during his dinner hour
22 pairs of size 4: A onevisit purchase by a woman who flew in on a private jet from Florida 1 billion to one odds: Four members of the Jubelier family (Mark, 1970; Natalie, 1993; Harry, 1997; and Steven, 2001) scored a hole in one on the exact same hole. The feat was featured in an issue of Golf Digest
prices and under one roof. It’s a concept that you just can’t replicate online. “Shoe shopping is a tactile experience,” Mark says. “You got to feel the leathers and try shoes on.” It’s espeMark and Steven Jubelirer cially so for hard-to-fit customers who have unusual sizes and need the assistance of expert shoe fitters. It’s what sets Reyers apart from the competition, most of which have abandoned the sizes-and-widths aspect of the business all together. “You don’t think most every shoe store on the planet that carries only mediums in sizes 6 to 10 is the right thing to do?” Mark asks rhetorically. “Those retailers don’t want to be concerned with anything that doesn’t maximize profit potential, and sizes and widths is a more expensive way to do business. Offering service is also a more expensive way of doing business.” Mark adds, “These are bean counters, not shoe men.” Their neglect is Reyers gain. Mark says 50 percent of its customer base wears something other than a medium width. And even though Reyers is difficult to get to, half of its customers are traveling an hour or two to do so because of the void left by those other retailers. “I live off of their walks,” Mark attests. That’s why Reyers will never back off its vast selection premise. Anything less, Mark says, might mean coming all that way to Reyers was the wrong choice. “If you are driving an hour or two to get here, you want an experience that rewards your time and effort,” he says. “Chances are you will find it at Reyers and your shopping experience will be enjoyable and reasonable. We have to make it that way if we are going to be a destination.” Mark adds, “People work so hard for their money these days that they deserve a highquality shopping experience, and they should expect it.”
on 125 years of business
from your friends at
This destination retail approach was taken to new levels beginning in 1986 when Reyers moved to its current location and became “The World’s Largest Shoe Store.” That decade is also when Mark partnered with three other local Sharon retailers—two of which also happen to bill themselves as “world’s largest” in their respective categories: Daffin’s for candy and The Winner for off-price women’s fashion. The third partner was the Quaker Steak and Lube restaurant chain, which opened its first location in Sharon—the former site of a gas station—as a way to feed the crowds coming to shop these “world’s largest” stores. “We called ourselves ‘The Four Friends’ and began marketing cooperatively as a draw for surrounding cities,” Mark says. A key component was the organization of bus tours—from cities as far away as Buffalo, Cincinnati, Louisville and Toronto. The team enticed tour leaders to make downtown Sharon one of their regular excursions. Back then Sharon was pulling in 1,000 bus trips a year. And while the team is still drawing in busloads, traffic is now in the low hundreds annually due to the rise of Internet shopping and, to a bigger extent, gambling. “The world has changed. Those senior citizens who used to go on a bus trip to our stores are now going to casinos,” Mark laments. In fact, the past decade may go down as the most difficult in Reyers history, according to both brothers. It started off with the traumatic events of 9/11 and finished with the Great Recession. In between, there was the continued slow death of Sharon, just like so many other steel towns located along the rivers of northeast Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania. “Our location is certainly not the best,” Steven offers. “If this store were in a major population, it would do gangbusters. That’s always been our biggest obstacle.” Adds Mark, “Sharon is a dead steel town that has terrible demographics. We are older, poorer and much smaller than Youngstown, which is 20 minutes away, and that gets written about all the time for how bad it is.” Mark adds, “There is no industry here to speak of. Many of the young people have left and it’s a very difficult place to do business, let alone stay in business.” >22
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID DALE
BIGGER IS BETTER
One pair at a time. congratulations mark & steven jubelirer and all 200 employees at Reyers for 125 years of exceptional service!
R E Y E R S N C E L E B R AT I N G 1 2 5 Y E A R S
WORKING AT REYERS IS A FAMILY TRADITION FOR MANY OF THE STORE’S LONGEST-RUNNING EMPLOYEES. BY AUDREY GOODSON
VINCE CARDAMON MANAGER
BILLY REITER STOCK MANAGER
KIM JONES CHIEF TECHNOLOGY OFFICER
JOHN FRANEK ATHLETIC & WORK BOOT BUYER
“I bought shoes when I was in high school from Harry,” says store manager Vince Cardamon, who has worked for Reyers for a total of 41 years. “For my ninth grade graduation, I walked about four miles from where I lived to buy a pair of white bucks to match my grey wool suit.” Those were the days when the classic shoes came with a “buck bag”—white powder for freshening them up—and little did Cardamon know that he would one day be working alongside Harry as manager of the world-famous store. Like many Reyers employees, Cardamon got the job because his father also worked at the shop. “There’s a lot of family structure in here. We believe in nepotism,” Cardamon jokes. “My first day in Harry handed me a set of keys, walked me through and said, ‘You turn those on in the morning, turn ‘em off at night, and I’ll see you later.’ That was my training. I learned on the run,” he recalls. It was emblematic of Jubilerer’s hands-off style of empowering his employees to make the best decisions for the store, and it was a management philosophy that fit the pair perfectly during their 16 years working together. “We took the business seriously and ourselves not so much, and that was a healthy way to look at the store,” Cardamon says. And not much has changed, even with the new owners: “If you took Mark and Steven and fused them together you’d get Harry,” he jokes.
Billy Reiter joined the Reyers staff—unofficially—at age 9. “My father worked for Harry, and I used to come help my dad in the basement; I took care of all the cardboards—that’s how I got in,” says Reiter, now in charge of the store’s 36,000-square-feet of merchandise. Reiter is just another example in a long line of loyal employees who joined the staff as a kid and stayed through the decades—and when you ask them why, three names tend to pop up: Mark, Steve and, of course, Harry. Reiter recalls: “Harry was a great guy. He was a straightforward man. He would let you know where he stood, and what he expected out of you. If you were loyal to Harry, he was loyal to you.” That same commitment to honesty carries through to Harry’s sons, Reiter notes. “I can go to Mark or Steven and bring up issues, and they’re willing to sit down and listen and help you solve the problem. That’s a great part of the job—knowing you have support.” As for Reyers, Reiter hopes the store will be around for another 100 years, simply because it provides something that’s missing in the age of outlet malls and online shopping: “a one-on-one relationship with the customer.” It’s a commitment that the entire staff takes seriously: “I’ve delivered shoes to customers that are 35 miles from here,” Reiter explains. “I’ll take one pair to them and make them happy.”
Kim Jones may not have gotten her job through a family member, but that doesn’t mean the chief technology officer is any less a part of the Reyers family. She began working at the store in the 10th grade, as “someone who just bagged shoes and got the customer’s order together,” she explains. After moving up the chain in various positions (“I’ve done everything in the store, except fitting people,” she says), she was promoted to chief technology officer two years ago. “I had no accounting background or experience at all, and for them to have enough faith in me to think I could handle this job made me very proud,” she says of her promotion—just another example of the Jubelirer family habit of rewarding hard-working employees by handing over the reins, with excellent results. “Everybody is like family here,” Jones says, and she means it literally. Besides all of the father-son, sisterbrother pairs on staff, the shop’s women’s buyer and men’s buyer even tied the knot. “We call it death row because our time cards go according to how long you’ve been here, and the only way to get of it is if you die or quit,” she jokes. As for Jones, she has no plans to leave death row: “I couldn’t imagine working anywhere else. I really couldn’t.”
John Franek began helping in the stock department at Reyers at age 11, because—you got it—his father worked at the store at the time. By 18, he was buying for the athletic department. “Harry would basically let me pick the styles and he’d give it the final OK,” he remembers. “He went with pretty much whatever I gave him. He trusted my judgment.” It’s the same trust that Franek has in his own sales staff, as the athletic and work boot buyer and manager. “We do the buying right here in the store. We often ask the employees to come in and take a look, and we get their opinion. It gives them a sense of pride that their opinion is certainly valued,” he explains. Not to mention, sales staff are especially good at plugging their own picks. Conversely, “I always tell them if they pick a shoe and it doesn’t sell, it’s coming out of their paycheck, but they seem to have short-term memory loss when that happens,” he jokes. The team atmosphere, Franek says, comes out of a love for the store and for footwear that filters down from the top. Franek makes sure he dedicates every Saturday exclusively to the sales floor “to keep that connection with the customers”—a dedication to service shared by the entire Jubelirer family. “They love what they’re doing,” he says of Mark and Steven. “They love the business. This is their passion, and why they enjoy doing what they’re doing.”
20 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
R E Y E R S N C E L E B R AT I N G 1 2 5 Y E A R S
TALKING POINTS Mark Jubelirer, president of Reyers, sounds off on a variety of hot-button issues. ON BUYING: It’s actually hard to make the cut. We can look at shoes on a display and tell whether it will fit or not. We count on our trusted vendors to offer styles and size ranges as well as pricing to meet our customers’ demands. Beyond that, we are always on the search for the latest thing: If our jaw drops at something, then we want to offer it to our customers. ON THE WEATHER AND UNFORESEEN OBSTACLES: January is normally cold in Sharon, but this year it was 6 degrees colder than usual. March was 15 degrees colder than last year. There’s no question the weather affected our sales. On top of that, a gallon of gas costs $4 and the daily reports of calamities in Asia and the Middle East—not to mention a crazy Congress—do little to encourage shopping. ON COMPETITION: The competition is increasingly good at what they do. But as long as we remain focused on what brought us to the dance, we have a chance to succeed. Especially since the big guys do less well in terms of service. In an aging population like ours, people want to be pampered. ON THE GOOD TIMES: Certainly the ’80s was our sales peak. We packed them in by the busloads and on Saturdays customers had to draw a number. Everything was much more free-wheeling back then. There were a lot more factories—shoes were available from all over the world and there were more vendors available than we needed. ON ADVICE FOR FELLOW INDEPENDENTS: I have no advice. If they are still around, they can teach. They are no longer students of the game. ON THE SHOE INDUSTRY: We might pick out particular problems—like shipping deliveries in full and on time—but we love our industry. Our vendors are great partners and good people. We’re not talking Wall Street types here. ON ANY REGRETS: When it comes to buying, I don’t have any regrets because you are supposed to make mistakes. Otherwise, you are not testing the limits. Although, some days you say to yourself, ‘Oh, what was I thinking?” We certainly regret not having our father around to share in the enjoyment of this anniversary. We enjoyed that personal and business relationship for many decades. ON RETIREMENT: No plans. We’ll fight as long and as hard as we can. ON FAMILY: Our employees are our family. Generations and extended families have worked here. Our employees are wonderful. I would put them up against any other crew in the business. They are our greatest asset. ON BROTHERLY LOVE: We have different strengths, which complement each other well. [Steven] certainly tempers my enthusiasm. He’ll reasonably and realistically pull me back. We find common ground and have made a pact: Whoever feels more strongly gets the vote. ON REYERS IN 5 YEARS: Renewed, revitalized and ready for the future. We never go backwards. Maybe it’s enhanced technology like the Internet and social media. Or maybe it’s Reyers’ staff driving the busses from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. 22 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
continued from page 18 Which begs the obvious questions: Why have the Jubelirers stayed in Sharon? Why not move Reyers to a more up-and-coming city or, at the very least, open another location to offset the decline in Sharon? The answers are not that easy or cut and dry. First off, this is where the Jubelirers were born and raised and, warts and all, Sharon is home. It harkens back to that Steeler loyalty. “This is where we have been for more than 100 years. You don’t just throw something like that out,” Mark says. It’s also where the family has experienced tremendous success and growth for decades—Sharon has been very good to the Jubelirers. In addition, approximately 50 employees make their living working at Reyers and moving might jeopardize their families’ financial situations. “We have had tremendous success year after year for decades and one doesn’t give that up readily,” Mark adds. Then there’s the firm belief that Reyers cannot be duplicated short of cloning the staff. Mark likens Reyers to a well-regarded Italian restaurant: “We’ve got to be here to stir the sauce.” There’s always something—little fires that needed putting out. “There’s no way that Reyers would continue to enjoy success to the extent it has without my brother, myself and our management team in the store,” he says. “This business would suffer without our daily, intricate hands-on attention.” Then there’s just the enormous work involved with expanding or moving locations, according to Steven. It’d be a lifestyle change that perhaps fits the profile of a younger-aged risk-taker without as established ties to Sharon. “In all honesty, I would have to work hard moving to a new location and re-establishing Reyers,” he says. “I have a great lifestyle. I am not ready to put in the hours that it would take.” What’s more, Steven believes his current job is no longer work. “This is fun. It used to be work, but now it’s a hobby,” he says. “I love the challenge.” And despite the fact that pretty much every aspect of the business is more difficult these days, Steven says the fun factors outweigh the negative ones. “Everything about the business is still fun—choosing the right styles and waiting on our customers.” It‘s not really a job for Mark either: “There is never a day in me or my brother’s life where we lament going to work. We love this. This is a passion.” Mark loves the challenges as well. “The shoe business is certainly challenging, but it’s also very creative,” he says. “You can buy any shoe, heel height or color, you can advertise any which way you can think up.” And while there are constant challenges, he views them not as obstacles but as opportunities. The next great frontier is to renew Reyers Web site and e-commerce platform. It’s an untapped potential revenue source that Mark believes would pay dividends. Plans are in the works on a new design as well as social media marketing programs. “It’s part of a long-range plan and we’ll see where it gets us,” he says. “We’re not betting the farm on the Internet; it’s more an exploration stage right now.” New revenue streams aside, Mark says the ultimate opportunity remains the ability to sell customers a pair of shoes that make them feel good. He presents these common scenarios: a woman and her daughter drive three hours because they wear a 9.5 quad and a 14 wide, respectively, and they can’t find shoes anywhere that fit their unique sizes. “They come here out of desperation,” he says. Or a customer has a brace on one leg and has big size difference between each foot. “They can get attention and service at Reyers unlike anyplace else,” Mark says. “Most of the time our customers leave here with a smile because their needs were met. This is really what brings us to the dance: the interaction with our customers, their gratitude and our sense of being able to give the gift or service.” Mark adds that it’s a gift that gives much more to the giver than to the receiver. “The most gratifying part of selling shoes is performing a service that customers cannot find anywhere else,” he says. “That is what has engendered that loyalty from our customers over the years.” •
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Hot Topics The buzz from the USRA’s 18th annual May Event. THE USRA MAY Event held at the Wigwam Resort in Phoenix, AZ, once again brought together top independent retailers nationwide to learn, network, place orders from nearly 50 exhibiting vendors, indulge in a little R&R and leave armed with results-proven strategies to grow their businesses. Based on the more than 230 industry professionals in attendance, the consensus was an overwhelming mission accomplished. Guest speakers included Bob Negen, CEO of WhizBang! Training, who offered insightful tips on hiring and maintaining an excellent sales staff, and Joe Salzano, Joe Salzano of Clarks takes a moment to praise the editorial excellence of a certain industry publication—Footwear Plus!
vice president of sales for Clarks Companies, who electrified the crowd with his keynote address: “Customer Service isn’t a Competitive Edge, it’s the Only Competitive Edge.” In addition, David Sutula of 9Threads, parent company of Footwear Plus, presented nine compelling content strategies to build brand and store awareness via social media and custom publication platforms. Last but surely not least, the USRA May Event provided all of those in attendance
Team Footwear Plus: Caroline Diaco, Jennifer Craig, Greg Dutter and David Sutula.
Gary Hauss, owner of J. Stephens, takes his turn at speed dating as a way for brands and vendors to get to know each other better. All smiles: announcing a raffle winner.
FN Platform’s Leslie Gallin talks about the growth of its trade show. An evening’s entertainment included a professional hypnotist working his powers on willing attendees.
24 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
(In white) Sam Hassan, owner of The Tannery, holds court at lunch.
with their, “Where were you when the news that Osama bin Laden was killed?” moment. To be precise, it was during the first night’s dinner when an attendee casually strode to the platform announcing his demise. A cheer went up and then—not lying—the conversation shifted right back to the shoe business. —Greg Dutter
“This was the best May Event yet. The fantastic speakers and sessions have my mind bursting with new information and ideas on how Earth, Inc. can better support our independent retail partners. The most valuable information came from networking at the many fun, social events.” —Daniel Silver, director of sales, Earth, Inc. “Stop Procrastinating. Educate your staff consistently. Recruitment, recruitment, recruitment! Use website landing pages and social media to communicate with customers. In addition, take time out of your everyday work schedule to network with peers. I’ll be going to go out of my way to visit some local shoe store comrades in California. —Adam Beck, vice president of operations, Beck’s Shoes, Campbell, CA “After, hearing viewpoints from both ENKWSA and FN Platform regarding the future of a national show, I believe only one of these shows will survive. The vendors seemed to be looking to the retailers for direction as to which show to support. Retailers seemed to say they would support whichever show the majority of our vendors decided to support. Stay tuned.” —Dave Riddle, president, Shoes on a Shoestring, Albuquerque, NM “This was my first time attending, but I felt like I was visiting family. The speakers were outstanding, and I left with great ideas to bring back to our stores, like we should take time when hiring new employees and have guidelines to assist in making the right selections. In addition, the senior management of vendor sponsors were very accommodating for us to place orders.” —Joe Gradia, general mnager, Hawley Lane Shoes, Shelton, CT “It was heartening to see that so many vendors and retailers agree on the need for a national show. Overall, the May Event does an excellent job providing substantive content valuable to both retailers and vendors. They draw key players from various facets of our industry and provide ample time for networking.” —Matthew Schwartz, executive vice president, Aetrex “I loved the fact that so many retailers attended this year’s May Event. The networking opportunities were great and we opened a couple of new accounts. I also thought Joe Salzano’s presentation about the importance of customer service was timely and people seemed to really enjoy it. The vendor insights were very good as well. I loved the last day when the raffles were pulled for the retailers; it’s such a great idea to encourage the retailers to see every vendor in attendance.” —Beth Bartholomew, senior director flagship sales operations, Clarks Companies “The USRA event was a great way to connect with other retailers and hear what is going on in their stores—what’s selling, which brands are fading, great promo ideas and more. The casual setting—including valuable pool time—made it easy to interact with vendors as well and see what they were bringing to market. There were many takeaways but, in particular, the seminar on hiring, training and firing—learning that we must have training manuals and non-negotiable standards—was very helpful. The event was well worth the time and effort.” —Gary Weiner, president, Saxon Shoes, Richmond, VA
made you look EAST MEETS WEST
Spirit of Inspiration
After going west for 128 years, Lucchese sets its sights on new territory with a youthful, fashionforward line. By Kathy Passero
From bold over-the-knee styles to rugged boots and mocassins featuring modern hardware (right), Lucchese’s new line is perfect for urban cowgirls.
IT’S AN ENVIABLE predicament to find yourself in: At age 128, Western boot legend Lucchese was so robust and healthy that it seemed to have run out of room to grow. Its archives in El Paso, TX, were stuffed with handwritten fan notes from the likes of John Wayne, Bing Crosby, Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, Sharon Stone, NBA great Scottie Pippen and several U.S. presidents. Devotees of the brand kept their boots for decades, sending them in for resoling and adding new pairs regularly. So where do you turn when you’ve conquered the Western frontier? If you’re Lucchese, you strike out in a brave new direction by introducing a first-ever non-Western collection—an edgier, more youthful line called Spirit that marries the fashion-forward sensibilities of a seasoned New York designer with the venerable traditions of a brand favored by the U.S. Cavalry in past centuries. And if initial responses are any bellwether, the gambit just might make a Lone Star classic a favorite among mainstream audiences. “About a year ago, we went through a brand study and realized we’re probably the best kept secret in the U.S.,” explains CEO Paul Lavoie. “We may be one of the last domestic shoe manufacturers. We’ve done a lot of things right and we have fans who are absolutely passionate about us. But there are a lot of people out there who hear our name and think we could be anything from pickles to underwear. We needed to get the word out about who Lucchese is and to have an entry point for non-Western people to expand our base and share the brand with the rest of the world.” Enter Head Designer Monika Paez, who cut her teeth in Manhattan working for Ann Taylor. Paez, who joined Lucchese in 2009, has spent the past 12 months conceptualizing and fine-tuning the Spirit line. “I had tears in my eyes the first time I came here,” recalls Paez. “I saw something I thought no longer existed—a huge cobbler’s shop with people making products by hand, some using techniques you don’t even find in Italy anymore.” Paez immersed herself in the company’s archives, studying Lucchese’s heritage and the qualities it prided itself on (fit, leather quality inside and out, natural hand finishes) to understand how to give the classic the right facelift for a new fan base. “I knew we had to embrace our Western roots, so I started thinking about cowgirls,” she explains. “What is a cowgirl? She’s very American, very authentic, daring and brave. I looked at my daughter, who is four and loves to dress as a cowgirl. Why? Because it’s so much fun. I knew this line had to have a real sense of youth and fun, a little daring. That’s the message.” Paez adds that every model will feature Lucchese’s famous fit. “These aren’t boots you have to spend time breaking in. They’re comfortable immediately, and they already look vintage, with distressed soles and a lot of burnish.” Spirit will debut Fall ’11 with a variety of casual, timeless styles ranging from moccasin-like flats to mid-heel booties and will expand into slippers, open-toed and Gladiator sandals, wedges and beyond, including small leather goods, in the next few years. Embellishments like braided and corded leather, turquoise and silver pay tribute to the brand’s cowboy ancestry, while lower heels and rounded toes honor its equestrian ties. Unlike Lucchese’s Western boots, though, the new
Male Pattern Boldness
Clockwise from top left: pony hair chukka by Ash; Toms hi-top; Adidas Originals boot; Asics running shoe; Sperry Top-Sider laceless sneaker; Royal Elastics slip-on; Vans slip-on.
28 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL. FASHION EDITOR: ANGELA VELASQUEZ
Loud prints take root on men’s styles this fall.
A HINT OF SHIMMER AND SCALING HEIGHTS ENLIVEN THE LATEST COLOR-SOAKED DRESS STYLES. PHOTOGRAPHY BY ALEXANDRA CARR Betsey Johnson suede stiletto sandals; Marc Jacobs blouse; Moschino cardigan; plaid pants by Balenciaga; Antipast patterned socks. 30
Vena Cava X Tenoversix ankle strap pumps; Missoni blouse; Alberta Ferretti sleeveless tweed top; Milly skirt; felt hat by Lola Hats; Antipast socks. Opposite: Laurence Dacade pumps with rose gold accents; Christian Dior floral coat; purple cardigan by Marc Jacobs; Tulle blouse; Chanel skirt; Maria La Rosa knee socks.
Tania Spinelli multi-strap suede stilettos; Marc Jacobs blazer; Missoni blouse; skirt by Plein Sud Sun; Antipast socks.
Steve Madden platform stilettos; Philosophy di Alberta Ferretti dress; Alessandro dellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Acqua cardigan worn over dress; blue cardigan by Marni; Antipast socks. Opposite: Black and gold pumps by Giuseppe Zanotti; Moschino blazer and pants; Dolce and Gabbana blouse; leopard hat by Lola Hats; Antipast socks.
Pour La Victoire suede platform pumps; Gucci blouse; ChloĂŠ vest and skirt; D&G floral blazer; Maria La Rosa socks. Opposite: Chelsea Paris Mary Janes; Dolce and Gabbana blouse; D&G sweater vest; Claudie Pierlot skirt; Antipast socks. Style Director: Michel Onofrio Fashion Editor: Angela Velasquez Makeup: Deanna Melluso @ Artlist Hair: Yoichi Tomizawa @ See Management Model: Frances @ Muse 39
August 2-4, 2011 Tuesday – Thursday Hilton New York Hotel & Member Showrooms
SAVE THE DATE November 30 – December 2, 2011 Wednesday – Friday Check out exhibiting brands and plan your appointments at
ATHLETIC COMFORT GREEN KIDS OUTDOOR STREET
All Systems Go Nina Kids surges ahead with a dedicated children’s department and a commitment to fit. A COUPLE YEARS back, the Nina Kids staff came up with a decidedly simple, yet endearing mission: “We just want to make kids happy,” recites Alan Paulenoff, the company’s executive vice president. More than a line of adult takedowns, Nina Kids has its own dedicated design, production and sales staff. “It functions as a kids’ company,” Paulenoff says, “Not just a side project.” This focused approach to children’s footwear has paved the way for success. “The biggest factor in this whole thing is we build shoes for kids,” says Ken Masiello, design director. “We have a fit department, and that’s a big thing. A lot of our competitors don’t address that.” And retailers are taking note. Masiello says they are impressed by the “flexibility factor” and the collection’s price point. “We’re offering, in many cases, a better quality product for a better price compared to our competition,” he says. And while pricing, comfort and fit are three important parts of the equation, they’re nothing without the chic styles that draw kids in. “The shoes have always had a fashion flair that people have associated with Nina, even more so over the past few years,” Mary Robertson, Nina Kids’ director of publicity, attests. Nina Kids’ vast array of styles put the company in a perfect position to venture into new territory. In the beginning of 2010, the brand approached Lord & Taylor, which hadn’t carried any children’s shoes in its stores for decades, with an opportunity. “We came to them with the idea of putting children’s shoes in their children’s clothing department, as opposed to putting them in the shoe department. They thought it was a good idea, and a great way to maximize space in their stores.” As Robertson points out, it’s a game of convenience for hurried parents. “There’s the adorable shoe right next to the party dress,” she says. “It’s grab and go.” Now, nearly a year later, the partners had their biggest sales week ever in late April. With Spring ’12 on the horizon, there’s no slowing down. Nina Kids plans to debut its first line of rain boots, as well as a collection of vulcanized canvas sneakers. “We’ve really tried to diversify and be on trend,” Masiello says. “We do a lot of research through fashion services, travel and talking to retailers.” —Meagan Walker 42 footwearplusmagazine.com • june 2011
Real Characters Birki’s charismatic cartoons draw kids in. WHILE CHILDREN’S CHARACTER obsessions change from day to day, few personalities have the everlasting charisma and staying power of Walter Disney and Ub Iwerks’ Mickey Mouse and Jim Henson’s Muppets, characters that sprung to life in 1928 and 1954, respectively. Encouraged by the likeability and longevity of the characters, Birki’s jumped on the licenses in 2008 and has continued to work with Disney ever since. Robert Mangione, vice president of sales and marketing for Birki’s, says the licenses were originally acquired for the European market, and later evolved into worldwide deals. One of the company’s strengths is digital printing, something that is key when producing kids’ licensed character shoes. “We take graphics and make the left and right shoes’ designs meet together,” he explains. “Thematic story-telling is important. We’re not athletically inclined, so we’re tying in Disney to make the products compelling to children.” For kids in particular, that means adding bold styles that are comfortable and practical. As a licensed brand of Birkenstock, Birki’s has always made comfort a priority. The shoes’ soft footbeds are more flexible to adapt to and support a child’s maturing walking motion. The cast of characters printed on the kids’ sandals and clogs are a who’s who of children’s favorites: Kermit, Animal, Fozie Bear, Mickey and Minnie Mouse, among others. Mangione notes that sandals typically sell better than clogs in the licensing department, and that Minnie Mouse is the brand’s hottest property. Mangione recognizes there are fresh options popping up everyday. “There are new personalities all the time,” he says. “It’s up to us to determine their life expectancies.” That’s one of the challenges in footwear—incorporating any sort of licensed property into the product in a compelling way. Shoes are more of an investment than a T-shirt, and for that reason Mangione says, “The value to the consumer has to be more than just the personality on the product itself.” —M.W.
EXPERIENCE OUTDOOR RETAILER
Summer Market Trade Show and Open Air Demo • August 3-7, 2011
OPEN AIR DEMO }}} Jordanelle State Park will welcome 2,000+ retailers! Get hands-on testing of the latest outdoor gear with plenty of water access, off-road trails, and shelters for eating, relaxing and getting out of the sun.
TRADE SHOW }}} Welcome to Summer Market 2011, where 1,000+ brands will connect with over 7,000 retail buyers. Salt Lake City will open its arms to 20,000+ industry professionals at the perfect Summer Market destination! For more information check out
OPEN AIR DEMO • AUGUST 3, 2011 Jordanelle Reservoir, UT TRADE SHOW • AUGUST 4-7, 2011 Salt Lake City, UT
continued from page 15 So consumers didn’t learn a thing about saving for a rainy day? They learned for the short-term. But I think it disappears within the masses fairly quickly. The only difference between the luxury and volume market is money. But the consumer psyche is basically the same: When you have money in your pocket, you want to spend it to make yourself feel good. What do you love most about this job as opposed to other ones you have held in the industry? I now have my hands in everything. There is a difference between running a wholesale business and answering to a president of a wholesale business. I now have a responsibility to our outside partners and to the people that work for me—the ones who put food on their families’ tables. I need to make the right decisions to grow the business in a profitable way. It’s a responsibility that becomes apparent very quickly and it is fun, exciting and reinvigorating. But it’s a responsibility that you don’t take lightly. It challenges you on so many different avenues. And there are different challenges that come at you each day. Clarks was getting to the size where I had six or seven people reporting to me. It ran itself because I had good people around me and they had good people around them. People we had hired and trained. At some point you are sitting on top of a team and end up getting further away from the retailer and the consumer. So it’s kind of fun to get back in the trenches and build something again. Do you recommend all successful career veterans to try this? Well, what makes the opportunity at Earth possible is that I have tremendous product people in-house. Michel and his team of designers are very talented and understand the market. The product team is a big piece of
what makes you successful in this business. Marketing and distribution strategies, operations and IT, human resources—you need those aspects but you have to have the right product people. That’s where many brands fail. They don’t understand the consumer and can’t answer their needs. I’ve been blessed to work with two very talented design firms with respect to Clarks and Earth. And both Bob (Infantino, former CEO of Clarks Companies N.A.) and Michel are very talented product people. What keeps you coming into work each day? It’s the passion of this business. The footwear industry is quiet and well hidden. It’s a small group of people that are successful. I really enjoy the people not just in our offices but out in the field as well. Many of the retailers—from department stores to independents—are good people to work with. And it’s fun to win. But winning is not easy. It’s not easy. The economy has to be strong enough to allow retailers to invest in your products; that’s outside of our control. We have to stay in touch with our consumer and keep making great products that are delivered on time, look and fit right, and resonate with them. We need the talent pool in order to achieve that. And we have to buy and sell the right shoes. There are lots of things that can go wrong in that formula but, at the same time, there are lots of things that can go right. With the right product, I know how to go out and get the sales. I’ve always treated people fairly and been honest, and I’ve built a reputation of trust. When I say we are going to make money together, they are usually willing to give me an opportunity. The right product with that opportunity is a winning combination. That’s where I believe this Earth family of brands can go. •
Step into Style with Azura Fashion
June 7-9 Booth# 2014 New York, NY
June 12-13 Booth# 110 Marlboro, MA
ATL FASHION SHOW June 15-17 Atlanta, GA
• Soft leather uppers
• Thickly padded leather sock liner • 3 ½ “outsole
June 26-28 Booth# 801 Fort Lauderdale, FL
• Made in Italy
July 27-29 Las Vegas, NV
www.springfootwear.com | 800.962.0030
NOTHIN’ BUT NET mission was to provide high-quality products for consumers who couldn’t afford $200 shoes. I want to continue with that model, but take it to a whole new level.
LEGACY ATHLETIC WILL AWARD STOCK OPTIONS AS A CONSUMER PURCHASE INCENTIVE.
Sounds like quite a different concept than just marketing cool kicks. Legacy Athletic is really a call to action for kids. Your legacy doesn’t start after doing something incredible. Today is your legacy, not tomorrow. That’s what we need to instill in kids: what you’re doing now builds your legacy.
HOOP DREAMS Rodney Henry spots up for his third sneaker brand foray, and this time he’s doling out stock options as an add-on for his consumers. By Meagan Walker He’s done it again and again—and now he hopes to do it once more. Rodney Henry toiled behind the scenes to launch NBA player Stephon Marbury’s semi-eponymous line, Starbury, in 2006. The line was based on Marbury’s star power with a reverse layup: high-quality basketball shoes that were affordable for all. A few years later, Henry leveraged the big-name contacts he made through that deal to start his own company, Protégé, based on the same pay-less-get-more model. That company generated nearly $60 million in sales of merchandise sold at Kmart between February 2009 and February 2010. 48
Meaning? Legacy Athletic is a public entity that has the ability to expand into different categories, such as entertainment, lifestyle and performance. Legacy will also acquire and license additional brands. Beyond that, there’s going to be a life skills component that teaches kids about how to manage their money. We’re going to have community partnerships where we teach these skills. We’re going to teach them that money management is not rocket science; it’s a simple formula. They don’t teach that in school. They have math classes, but no one teaches about how to spend and save money properly.
Now, with what seems like a fine-tuned formula, Henry is spearheading his next launch, Legacy Athletic. The company is based on the same tried-and-true affordability principles of Starbury and Protégé, but this one will be publically traded, offer a multi-brand portfolio that includes a product scope beyond footwear and—for the out-of-the-box component—incorporate financial education for young adults. Is the third brand launch a charm? It’s not about me anymore. It’s for the people. When I first started Protégé, the
How will you get the word out about Legacy’s unique message? We’re going to hit the college circuit to do speaking engagements with athletes. We’ll partner with after-school programs to talk with students. We’re going to award kids one share of stock in Legacy for completing our class. This way, they have something they can be proud of and they will also have a reason to start following the stock market. They can feel good about completing the class as well owning something. That’s going to motivate kids. Now what about the shoes? Legacy will implement the latest innovations and technologies. We developed new composite foam with a very low breakdown rate. It won’t smell; it won’t absorb sweat. It’s super light and eco-friendly, because it can be reground and recycled. But consumers still won’t have to worry about price. There are three tiers—low ($39), mid ($59) and high ($79). The mission of our products is to make kids feel comfortable and good about themselves, which helps them perform better in school. Basically, kids want the attention of their peers. I’m going to give them all the materials and performance levels that a $200 shoe offers at an affordable price. They’ll get the best of the best to perform against the best. •
When fashion and comfort become the “Essence of You”
Visit us at FFANY – June 7-9th, 2011 | Booth #2300