Footwear Plus | The Source for Retailers | 2011 • October/November

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10 Fighting the Good Fight

Caroline Diaco Publisher

From FFANY/QVC Shoes on Sale to ShoeDazzle, the industry unites to fight breast cancer. By Meagan Walker

Greg Dutter Editorial Director Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher

14 Q&A: Aetrex

Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors

Larry Schwartz, CEO of Aetrex Worldwide, shares the comfort brand’s secret to steady success in a rapidly shifting market. By Greg Dutter

EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Fashion Editor

20 Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

Audrey Goodson Meagan Walker Associate Editors

A New Orleans native returns home after Katrina to rebuild her family’s footwear shops. By Meagan Walker

Michel Onofrio Style Director Laurie Guptill Production Manager

22 No Ifs, Ands or Butts

Kathy Passero Editor at Large

With consumer complaints on the rise and sales on the decline, toning brands shift away from better body claims. By Audrey Goodson

Tim Jones Senior Designer Melissa D’Agnese Editorial Intern

26 The European Report

ADMINISTRATION Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager

Brands at GDS tempted retailers with an array of bold colors and textures. By Angela Velasquez

Melanie Prescott Circulation Manager Julie Gibson Webmaster

30 Roll Your Own

Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director

Men’s merges comfort with city style. By Angela Velasquez


32 Royal Highness

Advertising/Editorial 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@

Comfort styles are drenched in rich shades of spice for spring. By Angela Velasquez

Circulation 21 Highland Circle Needham, MA 02494 Tel: (800) 964-5150 Fax: (781) 453-9389

6 Editor’s Note 8 This Just In 42 Shoe Salon 44 Street

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

45 Kids 46 What’s Selling 48 Last Word Right: Spring Step cage sandal. On the cover: Blondo cut-out sandal. Dress provided by Southpaw Vintage NYC.



Photography by Aneta Bartos. Model: Rachel/Supreme Management.

FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) Vol. 22 issue #9 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. Š2011 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

Xen Zapis Chairman Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno CFO




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editor’s note un comf ortabl e times 7

Charting New Territory He who hesitates is lost. Many a footwear company has fallen victim to the aforementioned phrase, which can also fall under the guise of resting on one’s laurels or getting soft. And then there are those companies that reach a certain girth and become too big to move. The nimble nature that brought them to the forefront is replaced by a big-business mentality that is counterproductive—and demoralizing—to the entrepreneurs that got the company off the ground. No matter what the causes of corporate inertia may be, the inability to move forward, adapt and evolve ultimately leads to a company’s demise. One only needs to look around the current comfort footwear landscape to observe numerous companies in various throws of stagnation, whether it’s product that hasn’t changed much in years or a refusal to adapt to the American market’s unique tastes and demands, no matter how unfashionable they may be. In addition, there have been several changes in leadership that can potentially create vacuums as well as instances where there’s been a lack of any consistent leadership at all. With regards to the latter, a management team of starts and fits is akin

to the old saying: one step forward, two steps back. The Euro comfort segment, in particular, is in a state of flux. Brands that retailers have counted on for decades may not be as bankable. This is all the more unsettling since the comfort category is quite unlike fashion, where volatility is the nature of the beast. In contrast, retailers and consumers build life-long affiliations with their beloved comfort brands, so change can be jarring. And while the turmoil allows others to fill the void, the changes are never predictable, smooth or quick. Retailers must absorb the often long and winding road of a brand in decline. It’s not easy to switch gears, especially taking into account the lag time between when a retailer knows a brand is not what it was and when a customer accepts the fact. The next few seasons may see seismic shifts in the comfort footwear landscape. The potential loss of a once dominant Euro accent could create new centers of power. The current bubble-like correction taking place in the shaping and toning segment, which has had a strong presence in comfort stores, is also causing major repercussions. And the rise of natural motion and customizable footwear will alter the comfort playing field going forward. Comfort may well be in the process of morphing into a new category called wellness—shoes that are good for the mind, body and soul. It’s an evolution that’s sure to involve new brands, technologies and retail formats as well as generations of new consumers. While change can be uncomfortable at times, it can also be the impetus for new growth opportunities and prosperity. Greg Dutter Editorial Director




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8 • october/november 2011

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Fighting the

The footwear industry unites to support Breast Cancer Awareness month. By Meagan Walker

Good Fight LEADERS IN OUR industry have once again come together for Breast Cancer Awareness month. Over the past 17 years, the QVC and FFANY partnership, Shoes on Sale, has sold 1.5 million pairs of shoes and subsequently raised more than $35 million for the fight against breast cancer. This year’s three-hour broadcast once again offered La-Z-Boy shoppers a wide variety of shoes (100,000 pairs!) from approximately 80 brands at half the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. Three companies—Nine West, Brown Shoe Company and the Camuto Group— are Special Pink Benefactors, meaning each donated at least $500,000 of inventory for the broadcast. Joe Moore, president and CEO of FFANY, says those donations are “a big deal to the organization,” which spreads the proceeds around to seven research centers scattered across the country, from Santa Monica, CA, to Little Rock, AK. Wolverine World Wide, a decade-long supporter of FFANY Shoes on Sale, donated more than $200,000 from eight of its brands for the 18th annual event. “As an industry, we touch and support so many 10 • october/november 2011

causes,” says Christi Cowdin, director of investor relations and corporate communications. “FFANY Shoes on Sale has led the way and set the bar very high by bringing so many companies together to unite for one cause.” Timothy O’Donovan, retired WWW chairman, was honored at this year’s event in New York with one of two 2011 Jodi Fisher Humanitarian Awards. Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, also received the award at the gala held at the Waldorf Astoria in New York this month. Having raised $2.7 million in 2010, goals were set even higher this year. “That’ll be our minimum—$2.7 million,” Moore says. “But hopefully we’ll break the $3 million mark.” Numbers aside, Brown Shoe’s Todd Murray, vice president of wholesale marketing, remembers what’s important beside raising money for research. “It’s all about awareness,” he says. “With each step our brands take, we touch one more person, whether an employee, a consumer or anyone fighting the disease. Connecting with those around us and lending support

goes a long way in this fight.” The Walking Company, the nation’s largest specialty comfort footwear retailer, also rallied the troops. Its “Walking for Hope” campaign aimed to raise $200,000 during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness month to benefit City of Hope and the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF), as well as other local charities across the country. The funds will be raised through the sale of The Walking Company’s exclusive pink ribbon footwear from Ugg Australia, Dansko, Ecco, Aetrex and house brand Abeo. “We felt we were a natural conduit to help this cause because of two things,” says Andrew Feshbach, CEO of The Walking Company. “One is our name and the fact that most of the events associated with Breast Cancer Awareness month are walking related. And two, to be blunt, a good portion of our customers have been afflicted with this disease or are related to people that are. There is a natural overlap with our customer.” Feshbach agrees that beyond raising much-needed funds, it’s the spreading of the message that makes an impact. “Awareness is the answer,” he says. “There’s a significant amount of research showing that people put off thinking about it. This is about making it a household understanding and educating people.” To this end, Feshbach challenged his co-workers to wear a pink shirt every day in October and he did the same.

While traditional brick-and-mortar methods continue to raise millions for research, internet-based campaigns are increasingly joining the fight as well. One such example is e-tailer ShoeDazzle’s video series featuring breast cancer survivor stories. “Women love to watch them,” says Deborah Benton, COO of ShoeDazzle. “It creates a social community where women can relate to one another. There’s been an outpouring of support—hundreds of likes and comments on our Facebook page—for these incredibly courageous women.” Similarly, Under Armour once again set out to find three survivors with different backgrounds who embody the company’s athletic ethos for its “Power in Pink” campaign. “Some are mothers, some are not. Some have full-time careers, some are stayat-home moms—they’re all very authentic women,” says Amy Larkin, senior director of events, sponsorships and community. Under Armour awards each woman $5,000 to give the charity of their choice, which often allows them to donate to the people and clinics that helped them through their survival process. Under Armour also keeps in touch with its Power in Pink winners. “We’re not one of those companies that likes to write a check and move on,” Larkin says. “The dollars we’ve been able to raise have made a significant impact not only through the purchase of technology but also in the lives of individuals.” •


Here’s proof the footwear industry’s fight against breast cancer is doing its part to deliver life-saving results. It was a little more than a year ago when my mother-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer. It came out of the clear blue just as summer was about to begin. She had no family history, no prior related illnesses, was in relatively good health, had undergone regular exams and then, bam, after a routine check-up she was diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease and underwent a double mastectomy within weeks. To say she and the rest of our family was blindsided with fear and upended by the unknown is an understatement of epic proportions. The ensuing yearand-a-half was fraught with frequent life-or-death uncertain-

ties, numerous surgeries, rounds of debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatments, drug cycles with horrible side affects and those that triggered allergic reactions, and, through it all, doctors who performed miracles and those who made mistakes. The pain and suffering was as serious, as they say, as cancer. The mental anguish often seemed to equal the physical toll the disease inflicts. As a ringside observer, this is one nasty, indiscriminate and relentless disease. But breast cancer can be beat. What surely would have been a six-months-to-live sentence not too long ago has resulted in a cancer-free bill of health

12 • october/november 2011

this fall and doctors projecting many years more of life expectancy if the disease does not return. So here’s to a job well done and living proof: The footwear industry’s efforts, led by FFANY Shoes on Sale, create tangible benefits. Every shoe sold and every penny counts in the fight to treat and eventually eradicate breast cancer. My mother-inlaw is just one survivor. But she is now one of what will be millions more. Stop for a second and think about how meaningful that ripple effect is and will be to millions of people the world over. It’s truly aweinspiring. —Greg Dutter


Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Deborah Benton and Kristina Levsky of ShoeDazzle.

NEW BALANCE A Susan G. Komen sponsor for 22 years, New Balance commits at least $1 million to Komen’s Race for the Cure annually. The athletic company also releases a collection of merchandise, Lace-Up for the Cure each October. Five percent of net sales from the collection go to Komen.

FERGIE The Awareness, by Fergie Shoes, much like the brand’s namesake, demands attention. Fergie Shoes is part of Brown Shoe Company, which donated $500,000 worth of shoes for FFANY/ QVC’s Shoes on Sale. ALEGRIA For a third year, the comfort brand Alergria has partnered with the NBCF and bows a classic Donna clog in a mosaic of pinks this year. RON WHITE Leading Canadian designer Ron White created the Robin shoe lined in passion pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month and donated $100 per pair sold to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


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If you build it, they will come. That mantra worked wonders in the movie Field of Dreams, and a similar philosophy—of relentless comfort footwear brand-building and related product extensions—continues to pay enormous dividends for Aetrex Worldwide. Just in the past year, the Teaneck, NJ-based conglomerate has launched two new footwear brands, expanded two recently introduced ones, opened its first flagship store in the nearby town of Englewood (with more on the way soon) and introduced new software for its revolutionary in-store iStep digital foot scanning devices that accurately measure feet and determine foot type and pressure points. What’s more, Aetrex designed the program’s software in-house—just another diverse product extension achieved by the talented workforce residing within its headquarters. While one could argue the recent variety of efforts, which also include expansion of its Lynco over-the-counter orthotics program, all fall under the realm of comfort footwear (“They are all cousins,” says CEO Larry Schwartz.), few companies go to such lengths to do it all themselves. Call it the Aetrex way, and one of the main reasons Schwartz believes the company has scored 19 straight years of growth. “Our diverse talents allow us to be nimble, financially stable and react quickly,” he says. “We couldn’t have achieved all the different launches that we’ve done the last few years if we weren’t as vertically integrated as we are.” In addition to the product diversity, the rapid-fire frequency of Aetrex’s brand extensions is impressive, even by the most aggressive industry standards. But Schwartz shrugs it off with a self-deprecating “all in another year’s work” assessment of the fast-growing company. “We are pretty relentless at always trying to improve,” he says. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve been able to build a comprehensive footwear program.” He adds, “That’s our dream: to build something that is both unique and great that delivers to the consumer. We have big ambitions.” Much of the company’s recent success has been gener14 • october/november 2011



Larry Schwartz, CEO of Aetrex Worldwide, discusses how the company’s vertically integrated approach—spanning shoes to orthotics to foot scanning devices—is knocking it out of the park. By Greg Dutter

O&A ated by its branded division, which includes this year’s newly launched Berries and Essence labels as well as Sandalistas and Bodyworks. Collectively, they span men’s and women’s, from athletic to casual to dress categories. The way Schwartz sees it: Comfort should be a feature in every shoe regardless of style. It’s one of the reasons why the company has incorporated a “by Aetrex” tagline with each brand. “Aetrex is the stamp of approval for all of our collections that it meets a certain level of comfort, wellness and health,” he says, adding the name reflects the company’s heritage in the orthotics and biomechanics industries. “That’s where our dad and grandfather started the company 46 years ago [as Apex Footcare]. Our DNA consists of all these pedorthic principles that we integrate into our designs.” For example, Schwartz says, when Aetrex [the company was re-branded six years ago to reflect its product diversification] designs a pump, features include a builtin orthotic, memory foam and metarsal cushioning among other comfort-based constructions and materials. It’s a design philosophy that is increasingly resonating with consumers: Why suffer for fashion—or anything, for that matter—if you don’t have to? But it requires that the fashion not be sacrificed in the process. “There are ways to make shoes more comfortable and still keep them fashionable,” Schwartz says, admitting that there was a learning curve for the company. “It took us a while, but we have figured out that formula and that has been driving a good portion of our growth.” Heading into 2012, Schwartz says Aetrex will shift its attention somewhat away from new launches. Instead, the focus will be on expanding the existing portfolio. “We have introduced our first generations in a lot of categories,” he says. “Now it’s more about expanding those categories and making them even better.” That means plenty of new shoes as well as new orthotics and foot scanning programs. “We have exciting new products coming out in the next six months,” Schwartz maintains. “We just received our first previews of Fall ’12, and the shoes look terrific.” Despite the continued economic uncertainty, Schwartz remains bullish about Aetrex’s continued growth both short- and long-term.

With thousands of iStep devices now installed in comfort specialty stores across the country, Aetrex continues to pick up sales in orthotics as well as crossover sales of its shoes. Schwartz says it’s been a win-win for Aetrex and its retail partners. “We believe our iStep program cre-

OFF THE CUFF What are you reading? Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life. My only criticism is the passiveaggressive stuff about Mick Jagger, who deserves more credit for The Rolling Stones’ success.

pos to see what’s going on with new product.

What are your three desert island albums? The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street and Beggars Banquet and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run. “Thunder Road” was my favorite song 30 years ago and probably still is today.

What person in history do you most admire most? Without question, it’s Abraham Lincoln. He’s my hero and I try to read at least one book about him every year.

What qualities do you most admire in others? Confidence and humility expressed at the same time, and trustworthiness. What are your three most-frequented websites? This time a year, it’s Big Blue View. I’m a pretty crazy New York Giants fan. Then it’s Yahoo for news and Zap-

What one word best describes you? From a business standpoint, it’s strategic. From a personal one, it’s objective.

What is inspiring you now? Recently, a 10th anniversary memorial service for the victims of 9/11 in my hometown— the level of unselfishness that the firefighters exhibited—was incredibly inspiring. I’m also inspired by seeing firsthand the success our retailers are having with Aetrex. It’s good to get out and see the fruits of our hard work.

ates add-on sales, offers store differentiation, is core to their needs and provides a unique customer experience,” he says. To that end, Schwartz says it’s only the beginning for Aetrex. “We feel we have a long way to go and don’t plan on slowing down any time soon,” he says, noting that his brothers (Evan and Matt) and the rest of the senior management are not ones to shift to neutral. “It’s very difficult for us to stay home—except maybe if

16 • october/november 2011

there’s a Giants game on.” He adds, “We are excited about our future. We think we have the best sales team and have built a great product line, and we will continue to do everything we can to be a great company.” What does the Aetrex brand represent the marketplace? We believe the Aetrex name means consumers get more with our shoes. It’s a more technical construction, including increased support, a higher quality of materials and customization options. Our newest Essence heels collection is perhaps the best example of that. While it’s been one of the biggest surprises in terms of sales this year, maybe we shouldn’t have been surprised because when you designed a women’s pump that features built-in arch support, memory foam and anti-microbial linings—in a design that is appealing to the end user—it makes sense that sales were strong. Comfort and style presents significant growth opportunities. So why isn’t everyone else doing it or, at least, doing it well? It’s really not that simple to do. And while I can’t speak for other companies, nobody has our pedorthic background, which spans more than 40 years. Our heritage is founded in making products that get people comfortable on their feet. We have integrated all of those orthotic principles into fashion-forward footwear. It’s in our DNA. Can brands get by solely on their looks these days? The giants who can do extensive marketing campaigns can still get away with a lot. But for most of us, especially those in the casual and comfort space, if you don’t have authentic product that is going to provide true comfort benefits to the consumer, then you are going to find it difficult to survive. How would you rank style, fit, brand and price with respect to consumers? In our opinion, a product has to meet a certain fashion threshold in order for the consumer to even try it on, especially in women’s. Once they try it on, it’s comfort and fit that we believe

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are most important. In the athletic space, brand continues to be dominant.

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Is customization becoming a must-have feature in comfort? Customization is a feature that can lead to the most important benefit to the consumer, which is authentic comfort. We believe that customization gets us to a different level of comfort—shoes that feel better than other products on the market. For example, we’ve integrated a lot of terrific new materials—memory foams and stretchable fabrics—into our designs to address this need. And our foot scanning technology is another example of how we integrate unique adjustability features into our footwear. In addition, some of our athletic shoes feature adjustable counters. There’s no question we offer more in terms of customized comfort than anybody in the market. And there’s real legitimacy to it. The key is to deliver it in a way that’s fashion forward and exciting for consumers. Is it safe to say that the Euro comfort segment might be undergoing some contraction right now? It’s still a big factor, but I don’t think it’s what it used to be, and it’s not driving the category the way it once did. For one thing, we’ve seen a slowdown of new ideas and products coming from some of those particular companies. It’s one of the motivating factors behind our aggressive pace for the past few years. The refusal to give in to the specific needs and tastes of American consumers is a recurring theme with some of these companies. But no matter how ugly it may appear, you still have to listen to your customer, right? Oh, absolutely. The partnership is real. You have to be a good partner, starting with your retailers. If some of our competitors lack that approach, it results in us being even more appreciated. Having said that, I believe you just have to stay focused, be aggressive and do what’s core to your brand. Because you never know how the market is going to evolve. Along those lines, one of the positive aspects that we’ve seen over the last 10 years is the high level of risk-taking and fresh ideas being brought to footwear in general, which we believe has a positive affect for everyone. One such example is toning and shaping. What went wrong? It could have been the category. But several things happened: First, the consumer is pretty smart and if there are a lot of false claims, eventually there’s going to be a backlash. In my opinion, some of the product aspects are real and some are not. You mean to tell me that not every woman who wears rocker soles will develop a body like Kim Kardashian? Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case (laughs). There aren’t really any short cuts when it comes to improving your fitness. With respect to our Bodyworks line, we refer to it as a wellness product and believe that is an important distinction. The design goes back to our pedorthic routes. It features a double rocker sole that is designed to unload pressure and stress in areas of the foot most susceptible to pain. It really does work. Pressure is transferred away from the rear and forefoot areas and toward the midfoot, which encourages healthy midfoot walking and proper body alignment. The shoes also feature a lower profile to reduce risk of injury and are significantly lighter than other similar shoes on the market. Consumer feedback on Bodyworks has been really strong. You didn’t mention the words shaping, toning or weight loss.

Was that intentional? Yes. We do believe that these shoes, if used with regular exercise, will have some strong fitness-related benefits. And if consumers experience real benefits from wearing these shoes—if they lose some weight or improve their fitness—then most of them will probably re-buy. Nevertheless, we are positioning it primarily on its comfort and wellness attributes. Have Bodyworks’ sales been impacted by the category backlash? No doubt. Bodyworks did not hit its forecasted sales for this year. Going forward, it will be a slow build for us. We are going to stick with it because we believe in the product’s benefits. So shaping and toning will survive as a category? There’s going to be a shakeout first simply because there is so much supply sitting on the shelves of manufacturers and retailers. It’s a step back to eventually move forward. In a lot of ways, it was a toning bubble like you see sometimes in the economy. But I expect these products will continue to have a place in the market. Some of the ideas that came out of this boom have strong consumer benefits, but everybody just has to be more realistic about the claims. Could barefoot/minimalist shoes be the next bubble? We look at that category as also having a place in the market. There’s legitimacy to the differences in forefoot and rear foot strike running. For Aetrex, however, we have always been focused on the shoe and orthotic being big parts of the solution, so I don’t see us moving in that direction. It’s another category that is rife with end-use confusion. Might it be déjà vu all over again? There are many different foot types, and some people could benefit from less footwear when they run. The problem that brands often get into is making claims of one magic bullet. Aetrex takes the contrary approach that there are many different foot types. We believe there are people with flat, flexible feet compared to those with rigid, high arches, and there are many different types in between. In addition, there are a lot of different aspects in terms of a person’s gait and running styles. So while there is a big population that may benefit from a minimalist approach to running, there is a ton of people that benefit from support and structure as well. Aside from buying less, what do you think the biggest change in the consumer’s behavior has been since the recession kicked in? The consumer continues to get smarter. And while obviously there’s a group of consumers that will be more price-conscious and conservative, it’s certainly not everyone. From our perspective, women didn’t slow down their buying habits as much as men. Women’s is still a very strong market and I believe always will be. Even if it is a slightly smaller pie that we are all fighting over, we are still lucky to be in the footwear business as opposed to some other industries. That said, we are planning our business under the premise that next year will be similar to this year in terms of the overall economy, but for us that’s not really a negative since we experienced low doubledigit growth this year. Is there an economic recovery really taking place? It’s definitely a new reality. If we are actually recovering, it is certainly slow. However, it felt a lot worse in 2009 as people were much more in survival mode then. I’d say it’s only slightly better, and I don’t think that we are anywhere close to being in a boom >47

WHO SAYS YOU CAN’T GO HOME? A New Orleans native ditches the Big Apple for the Big Easy and helps rebuild her family’s shoe stores after Hurricane Katrina. By Meagan Walker

AS HURRICANE KATRINA pummeled New Orleans, government officials, rescue workers and longtime locals were forced to make many difficult decisions beginning in late August of 2005 and for many months after. For one NOLA expat, Evie Poitevent, the devastation the hurricane left on the city spawned her return to her hometown and the decision to move back couldn’t have come easier. “I had spent six years [working in journalism] in New York City and I started to ask myself, ‘What’s going on with my life?’” she recalls. “I love New York, but I wanted to ease up on the intensity of everyday life. Then Katrina happened. From there, it was a no-brainer. There was nothing to discuss.” So Poitevent flew back to New Orleans on her 30th birthday, only six days after her family reopened their shoe shop, Feet First, on Magazine Street. “I went back gladly, fired up to help,” Poitevent says. “I felt so strongly about helping our family’s business. My mom and dad and the business paid to put me through private school, to be able to go on trips. I really had a strong sense of wanting to give back.” Poitevent’s mother and father, Debby and Eads, opened Feet First in the summer of 1977, upon returning to New Orleans after living in St. Louis for a couple years. “My dad had been in banking,” Poitevent explains. “Back then, when St. Louis was a shoe hub, all his clients were shoe people.” So when the couple returned to NOLA (due to her mother’s yearning for friends back in New Orleans), they had to figure out new career paths. “They decided they wanted to be their own bosses,” Poitevent says. “They had the shoe contacts, so that’s what they did: open a family-run shoe store.” Though he was an infant at the time, Evie’s brother, Sam, eventually got involved with the business following a career in archaeology and is now a co-owner, too.

Family Ties

Operating as a foursome, the family decided to temporarily downsize the two-location outfit due to Katrina. For 20 years prior, Feet First ran a location on Charter Street in the historic French Quarter. “Not knowing what we would come back to, we decided during the evacuation that we should close it down. We knew that tourism would be gone for a long time,” Poitevent says. But with the city getting back on its feet and the tourists returning, Feet First opened a second, smaller shop on Royal 20 • october/november 2011

Feet First’s post-Katrina French Quarter location on Royal Street.

Street (not far from the old Charter Street location) in the lowlying Quarter to complement its 3,000 square feet of sales floor space on Magazine Street. “The two locations play off of each other really well,” she explains. “While Magazine Street is probably 75 percent locals, the Royal Street business attracts 75 percent tourists.” To capitalize off those visitors, Feet First instructs its associates to plug its convenient in-store shipping policy. “We tell our customers that if it’s going out of state, there’s no sales tax, because the tax here is high—9 percent,” she says. “If they’re buying multiple items, it’s a better deal to pay the $10 shipping fee and avoid the sales tax.” Being so close to the high traffic tourist hub, the Royal Street location also offers to deliver purchases to nearby hotels, easing the load for those tourists that want the shoes, but not the baggage. Poitevent says the main store’s longevity makes the typical customer tough to profile. “Because we’ve been around a long time, our target is pretty wide, from high school girls all the way up to age 70. It’s a generational business—daughters grew up with their moms taking them here, and now they bring their own kids. We don’t alienate anyone.” To that end, the product mix varies from trendy fashion labels to mainstay comfort brands, as the shops carry everything from Sam Edelman, Poetic License and Corso Como to Sanita, Naot and Keds. Even though Poitevent says N’awlins lags a year or two behind the New York fashion scene, her customers share the Big Apple’s love of seasonal fashion—something that never ceases to amuse her. “New Orleans people want to believe they have four seasons,” she says with a laugh. “They ask for boots in August when it’s 100 degrees. We’ve tried to bring boots in that early, but they just sit there on the floor until October.” There’s also been an increased interest in comfort in recent seasons, and shoppers don’t hesitate to spend extra on that category. “Baby boomers are getting older,” Poitevent says of their increasing desire for comfort footwear. “But it’s been surprising to see how many young women—high school and college aged—love their Naots.”

Party Time

While Feet First customers are understandably shopping with more practicality due to the difficult economy, Poitevent advises not to discount a New Orleans girl’s penchant for a party. “This town loves any excuse to have a party,” she says. “The debutante scene is still really big. Mardi Gras is the grand culmination of the season. I’d say New Orleans probably dresses up more than some other towns.” Whether customers are out for everyday shoes or special occasion, fit always tops the list of must-haves during shoe shopping, which Poitevent likens to some other dreaded shopping adventures: jeans and bathing suit shopping. “Sizing is so erratic and unpredictable. Shoes are made all over the world. Our M.O. is to find out the customer’s typical size and bring out a half size up and down,” she explains. “It’s just like clothing: You need to get people in the shoes.” In a city with an intense sense of pride, local labels are always big sellers, which is why the shop carries a number of homegrown designer duds, like NOLA Couture fleur-des-lis accessories, Skip N’ Whistle bags and Feel Goodz flip-flops. “Even if we don’t have something people want in the store, we try to refer them to our neighbors and support the local community around us,” Poitevent says. “We’re proud of the local culture and live and breathe ‘buy local, shop local.’” She adds, “After Katrina, it was taken to a whole new level. It was a feeling of, ‘We can’t count on anyone to help us; we’re in this together.’” •

Above: Feet First offers everything from rings, necklaces and bracelets, to handbags and, of course, plenty of shoes. Below: Sam, Debby, Eads and Evie Poitevent in their element.

october/november 2011 • 21



With consumer complaints on the rise and sales on the decline, shaping brands are changing their tone. By Audrey Goodson

BLAME IT ON Kim Kardashian. When the ubiquitous reality star never be wearing that type of shoe. If you’re extremely overpronating, appeared in a sultry Super Bowl ad last March saying “Bye-bye, train- it can hurt your knees, ankles and back. There are not enough people er” and “Hello, Shape-Ups,” it may have marked the moment when out there who understand that.” Despite reports of injuries and unsubstantiated claims combining toning footwear finally jumped the shark. What had been explosive growth in the category—from $29 million in sales during the first to put a damper on the category, the numbers of customers buying eight months of 2009 to more than $1 billion in 2010—slowed to a toning shoes is expected to stay relatively stable, with purchases dropsluggish decline earlier this year. According to the NPD Group, which ping by only 5 percent in 2011, according to SportsOne Source Group, tracks the footwear industry, total sales for toning footwear in the first a retail sales tracking firm. “I think Skechers completely oversatueight months of 2011 dropped by almost half compared to the same rated the market, but we’re going to continue to sell it,” Bentvelzen period in the previous year—mostly due to a number of leading brands confirms. “For Payless and the chains in the mall, it was a fad shoe. All the sudden the fad died and they discounted. But the independent slashing prices by nearly half. “Toning needs to get itself into shape,” asserts NPD’s Chief Industry comfort shoe stores who understand the shoes’ benefits are going to Analyst Marshal Cohen. Many shoppers were lured into strapping on sell through the product.” It’s those benefits—improved alignment, shaping shoes by ads promising everything circulation and muscle recovery, just to from stronger calves to calorie-blasting name a few—that retailers say will bolster benefits. When the footwear didn’t live lagging sales. “We still have customers that up to the hype, consumers began to balk, benefit tremendously from these shoes,” and now the entire category is suffering says Jane Strong, owner of Happy Feet from the backlash. “Brands like Skechers Plus, with nine locations on Florida’s West implied the mere act of lacing up your Coast. Bentvelzen notes that many cusshoes was going to turn you into Kim Kartomers keep coming back to Shoes-n-Feet dashian,” says Cam White, co-owner along seeking toning shoes for their therapeutic with his wife Celia Tellez, of Total Relief benefits, and especially to help with ankle Footwear in Austin, TX. “A lot of brands and foot problems. And Kip Odermatt, jumped on that bandwagon, but they took owner of Shoes That Fit in Modesto and Elk a lot of heat for it and they turned off the Grove, CA, and Foot Solutions in Stockton, marketplace.” CA, notes that many of his customers are In fact, disgruntled customers have drawn to shaping shoes for the cushion. taken their complaints to court. New Bal“That’s the bottom line,” he says. “It’s the ance and Skechers both faced lawsuits fact when you step down, you relieve the over their advertising claims, while Reeheel strike shock. That’s the real benefit bok was recently forced by the Federal that people are buying the shoes for.” Trade Commission to fork over $25 million in customer refunds to settle charges —Jane Strong, that it falsely advertised its EasyTone The New Spin Owner, Happy Feet Plus and RunTone shoes could measurably Many brands have already shied away strengthen muscles in the calves, thighs from headline-stealing claims in favor of and butt. The director of the Federal a healthy-for-you premise. “We are not a Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection has declined to toning shoe,” says MBT’s Director of Marketing, David Ludd. “To be say whether the organization will take action against other toning lumped into something that really isn’t true—shoes that make your footwear manufacturers. In the meantime, Skechers announced in derrière look great—just isn’t who we are. We were lumped into that August that it stopped using certain test results in its ads. category based on competitive forces,” Ludd explains. “We’re the originators of the physiological comfort shoe category.” Ludd adds, “MBT shoes provide great benefits for the entire body, from displacing heel Too Good to be True Part of the problem, retailers note, is that consumers placed unre- pressure to providing better circulation and activating core and staalistically high expectations on toning footwear—just like any fad bility muscles.” Similarly, Terry Stillman, CEO of Novascarpa Group, diet product—and were doomed for disappointment. “The customer makers of Joya, notes that, “Magazines and consumers have said Joya thought, ‘I’ll wear them while I’m vacuuming and I’m going to lose is a toning shoe, but we’ve never actually used that word. We’ve never weight.’ Well, no, not really,” says Chris Bentvelzen, owner of San said this is going to change the way you look.” It’s an important distinction for the troubled category. With toning Francisco’s Shoes-n-Feet. In turn, many retailers rode the toning wave to big profits, neglecting to make sure the shoe matched the promises backfiring, many manufacturers are seeking new ways to customer’s needs—and sometimes even instigating injuries. “I’ve seen convince consumers to make the switch to rocker bottom soles. White, it with all these products—people just put them in it because it’s the of Total Relief Footwear, says he believes the category will thrive hot shoe,” Bentvelzen says. “And there are a lot of people that should by emphasizing a health and wellness message—one that resonates

“We still have customers that benefit tremendously from these shoes.”

october/november 2011 • 23

particularly well with the baby boomer demographic. “I joke that baby boomers live in mortal fear of the scooter store. They want to be active, and they place a premium on comfort and lifestyle,” he notes. “I think the marketplace is moving from shoes that promise toning to shoes that allow people to have a more active and enjoyable lifestyle. It’s more about enjoying being on your feet.” Many retailers report buying Joya’s super-soft walking shoes, as well as the Bodyworks line by Aetrex and Aravon, by New Balance, in hopes of capturing this active, comfort-seeking demographic. In addition, New Balance plans to carry its Truebalance toning collection into Spring ’12, but will focus its energy on its performance health and wellness products, like its earth-friendly newSKY collection, which launches in October, says Jenny Cavaioli, the brand’s public relations coordinator. In addition to appealing to active boomers, brands also believe the shoes’ benefits are a fit with athletes who can wear them for post-workout muscle recovery and improving circulation. “Elite athletes find our product amazing for their overall well being,” MBT’s Ludd says. Stillman says Joya has seen the same boost in interest from fitness fiends. “People in competitive sports really need something afterwards to recover with—to get out the aches and pains and lactic acids—and Joya works really well in that regard.” Cohen at NPD believes that brands with a “heritage of fitness and comfort stand to fare best” when making this wellness pitch to consumers. That’s where Rusty Hall, president and CEO of Mephisto, sees products like the brand’s Sano by Mephisto rocker bottom collection standing out in a crowded category. “As everybody kind of falls into who they are as a brand, and who they are in their DNA, brands like Sano will resonate with consumers because of the heritage of Mephisto as a walking brand,” he notes. Hall adds that while the brand isn’t growing as fast as it was two years ago, he’s pleased with Sano’s steady progress—and that the company has been able to sustain price points in the high $200s. Hall also believes Sano’s new sleeker profile fits the overall move in the category towards a more fashionable product that will prove more tempting to the category’s largely female demographic. “They want a prettier product,” he attests. “I think that forced us as manufacturers to look at how we can put more technology using less—and that creates the low profile.” Ludd reports that MBT has also moved to a lighter weight and lower profile for some styles, and has introduced patent leathers and “unexpected” open-toe silhouettes and sandals. “We are ramping up the femininity in our women’s products,” he explains. In addition, the brand is introducing a waterproof, lightweight travel collection for Spring ’12, which Ludd says has been a hit with retailers.

SHAPE SHIFTERS Toning shoes ramp up the style with slimmed-down profiles for Spring ’12. Joya

Bodyworks by Aetrex


Down but Not Out No matter the direction toning takes—be it as wellness, recovery or fashion footwear—many in the industry say the category may be down, but it certainly isn’t out. “The category won’t go way, but only a few brands will survive,” White predicts. Strong at Happy Feet Plus believes the brands with authentic benefits and quality construction will survive—traits many of the newcomers lacked. “They just didn’t have the same support or quality footbed that MBT had, and that disillusioned the customer in some cases.” Indeed, many see the category’s constriction as a good thing—getting it back to a core crop of reliable brands. “I think the category is more solid now than it probably was initially,” says Hall. “It obviously took off like a rocket, and in some people’s eyes it may have fizzled, but we think it’s finally settled into where it needs to be.” By returning to its wellness and walking roots, the category has a chance to win back cautious consumers. “A lot of brands have gotten the point that we need to communicate about these products being healthy—but it’s not the be-all, end-all to a chiseled physique,” Stillman notes. “If companies concentrate more on their technology and making it a comfortable, healthy shoe—and spend less money on the propaganda of promising a thousand things the shoes do for you— then the category will be extremely healthy.” •

Sano by Mephisto


THE EUROPEAN REPORT The 24,000 visitors in attendance at the recently held GDS show in Düsseldorf, Germany, were presented with an array of vibrant colors and intriguing textures. From rich suedes in monochromatic colors and glossy neons to a more subdued range of neutrals with an organic feel, the Spring ’12 selection offered something for every retailer. BY ANGELA VELASQUEZ






Designers revisited their Art 101 textbooks and explored the wonders of the primary color wheel. Red, blue and yellow casual and dress styles added a lively pop to the women’s and men’s groupings, while designs featuring suede were the most rich in color and texture.

Floris van Bommel 26 • october/november 2011


Floral prints were in full bloom. Unlike the pale and dense ditsy prints seen everywhere stateside, designers at GDS showcased a selection of floral prints inspired by the ’60s with a vibrant color palette to match.

Pare Gabia



A nest of snake and reptilelike textures slithered their way onto a variety of styles. Paired with classic leathers, the skin takes on an elegant look for day. Evening calls for bigger and more daring allover snake print.



Goldmud Penny Loves Kenny



Shocks of neon pink, yellow and green paired with slick patent leathers combined for traffic-stopping allure. The ’80s-inspired color palette also lent itself to bold color block options.

Jazz shoes, slouchy boots and chukkas comprised of ultra soft, buttery leathers tempted buyers to touch and feel. Dusty pink, pale yellow and washed shades of sand enhances the relaxed look.

Cubanas Cece L’amour


Chie Mihara


Borrowing chic elements from casual and dress designs, a slew of sleek sneakers kicked up the category’s game. Details such as perforated uppers, leather straps and boat shoe lacing added a cool and sophisticated vibe.

Atelier do Sapato



Contrasting cap-toes, burnished leathers and muted colors lent a scholarly look to traditional oxfords and Mary Janes. The classics complement the season’s fancy sock and cropped trouser trends.


In step with the omnipresent Boho trend, footwear in earthy shades of tan, beige and nude outshone other neutrals. Fringe, heavy grommets, wood grains and straw added some grit to the otherwise feminine silhouettes.

Pedro Miralles

Stuart Weitzman Clarks

28 • october/november 2011


From left: Boat shoe by Aetrex; Pajar lace-up; moccasin driving shoe by Minnetonka; sneaker by Clarks; Ugg canvas and leather boot; Ecco boat shoe. Happy Socks and Rockport socks provided by United Legwear.




From left: Rieker whipstitch Mary Jane; flat sandal by Naya; Taos two-tone sandal. All clothing provided by Southpaw Vintage NYC.



Spring Step cage sandal. Opposite, from top: Camper peep-toe sandal; fringe wedge by Minnetonka; Morenatom cut-out flat.



From left: Dansko slingback clog; colorblock thong by Think!. 38



Opposite, clockwise from top left: Indigo by Clarks cut-out peeptoe; suede sandal with studded details by Naot; woven slingback by Audley; Oh! Shoes wedge. Fashion Editor: Angela Velasquez Makeup: Dawn DeSantos Hair: Deycke Heidorn / See Management Model: Rachel Alexander / Supreme Management 40

Quiet Giant

The classic monk strap resurfaces for spring.


Terry De Havilland


shoes are really classic and I think they stand the test of time. I steer clear of anything too gimmicky or too obvious and concentrate more on profile, color, texture and shape to create a statement,” he says. “I’m a bit of a maverick.” —Angela Velasquez What trend do you hope to never see again? If there’s one thing in life that I’ve learned, it’s never say never. I’ve gone off certain trends and then, five years pass, and suddenly I love them again. Who do you think is the best-dressed woman of the moment? Gwyneth Paltrow. There’s something going on with her at the

42 • october/november 2011

Clockwise from top right: Distressed shoe by Bed Stu; single monk strap by Donald J Pliner; double monk strap with brogue detail by Lloyd; J. Shoes cap-toe.

moment. I also really like Michelle Pfeiffer’s elegance, and I can’t help but love the anarchy of Helena Bonham Carter. What is the most challenging part of your job? Keeping the balance between creativity and commerciality. I get very frustrated by prediction charts. I think they stifle individuality. The business of fashion is a strict and fickle mistress. If you weren’t designing, what do you think you’d be doing? It’s not a job; it’s what I do. For me there is no alternative. I can’t imagine retiring. I wouldn’t know how to fill my days. •


NOT ONE FOR habitually following trend forecasting reports, British designer Terry De Havilland made a rare exception for his recent spring collection. “I had a tipoff that my designs from the ’70s were part of a heavy-duty prediction chart,” says the designer, who made a splash that decade with his strappy Margaux platform wedge. Instead of watching copycats reinterpret his work, De Havilland beat them to the punch and knocked himself off. “My ’70s styles are what my customers want so that’s what I’m giving them,” he explains. With 50 years of design experience (Selfridges in London recently marked the anniversary with a month-long exhibit of his work), De Havilland’s style is second nature. He describes his footwear aesthetic as “sexy, wearable shoes with the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) ethos.” For Spring ’12, that means the Margaux revamped with python, colorblock platform pumps, crystal-embellished peep-toe shoeties, Mondrian-inspired flats and lots of gold, silver and color metallics. De Havilland also embraces the return of pointed toes: “I love points. They’re what I cut my teeth on, so I’m testing the waters with them again.” Lower heel styles also have a tinge of ’60s Mod simplicity but, De Havilland adds, part of the fun is trying to make flats look sexy again. “My

Congratulations to our 2011 honorees




Founder and Chief Executive Officer Susan G. Komen for the Cure®

Retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Wolverine World Wide, Inc.

recipients of the



SUZE ORMAN 2011 PSA Spokesperson


H I G H L I G H T O F 2 0 1 1 , C L U B F FA N Y A F T E R - PA R T Y F O R T I C K E T H O L D E R S T O T H E “ F FA N Y S H O E S O N S A L E ” G A L A E V E N T A T T H E W A L D O R F = A S T O R I A , O C T O B E R 1 3 T H !


Crystal Clear Former Titan design director Eric Rutberg reveals a bold, eponymous collection. AFTER MORE THAN two decades of designing shoes for everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Gwen Stefani to Betsey Johnson, when Eric Rutberg decided to launch his own line, the collection’s moniker was, well, transparent. “When I decided to open a label under my own name, I wanted all of it to be transparent, as a person and a company,” explains Rutberg, who created shoes for Bebe, LAMB and Badgley Mischka, before launching his Spring ’12 women’s collection, Eric Rutberg Transparent. “It is refreshing to just be me,” he says. “I get to nurture my personal vision with an intense focus and the utmost creativity.” Fittingly, Rutberg describes his target customer as similarly selfaware. “She may not know exactly what she’s going to wear with the shoes, but she knows at the end of the day that her aesthetic is really fine-tuned and it works.” Rutberg calls his collection “aggressively feminine shoes,” noting, “even when they’re tailored, they’re strong.” Inspired by the designer’s lifelong obsession with all things midcentury American, the collection’s stacked platform wedges and heels, rich embellishment, graphic colorblocking and saturated color palette aren’t for the demure. “The women I respond to and that respond to my work are strong and opinionated,” he notes. “No one buys it because it’s a safe, little black pump.” Rutberg was immersed in the shoe industry at an early age: His grandfather owned Prague’s, a shoe store in central Connecticut that was later replicated throughout the Northeast when his mother and uncle opened branches in their hometowns. Rutberg, however, was lured out west by the mid-century design movement sweeping California. The move led to an assistant buying job at iconic highfashion chain I. Magnin & Co., and eventually to design director at Titan Industries, where Rutberg enjoyed crafting shoes that were an exact reflection of what his celebrity clients were seeking. “I always want to do other people’s shoes, because I like getting into other people’s heads,” he muses. For his own collection, with retail price points ranging from $190 for flats to $290 for dress shoes, Rutberg was inspired by the casual coolness of designer Lilly Pulitzer in her heyday, as well as George Nelson and George Nakashima’s stark modernist furniture, which Rutberg collects. The line, he reports, was well-received at the summer trade shows, and picked up by both Neiman Marcus and Fred Segal. “People would say, ‘We never saw anything like this,’ and I thought that was exactly what we wanted people to say,” Rutberg says. “And the orders proved that we were correct.” —Audrey Goodson 44 • october/november 2011

Breaking the Cycle Merrell’s Evera MJ pump allows women to ride in style. WITH GAS PRICES showing no signs of dropping dramatically any time soon, not surprisingly bike racks in metros across the country continue to get their fair share of use as commuters increasingly ditch their cars in favor of more affordable two-wheeled transportation. For women, however, the trouble has been finding a shoe that they can comfortably and safely ride in, but also be stylish enough to wear around the office. Enter Merrell’s Heels on Wheels collection for Spring ’12, which offers female riders a combination of fashion and function. Named “Best in Show” by at the recent Outdoor Retailer show, the stylish Evera MJ pump is a sleek heeled, peep-toe Mary Jane (available in red and black) packed with features perfect for cycling, including the right amount of rigidity in the sole, super grip rubber and reflective details for safety. “There’s a big trend out there,” says Manon Belley, Merrell’s vice president of product development, noting the number of people riding bikes to work has increased 29.8 percent between 1990 and 2007, according to a report conducted by the Alliance for Bicycling & Walking. “It’s something the entire world is talking about and it’s not going to change tomorrow, so we thought, ‘How can we apply this?’” Belley believes the new silhouette will result in more women riding—and talking. “As an outdoor brand, it’s controversial to do a heel,” she says, “But controversial product is good. It makes people react.” She adds that even though Merrell’s roots remain in outdoor, the brand needs to diversify and adapt to its consumer’s changing needs. “Our customer wears multi-sport shoes, but she doesn’t wear them all day long.” According to Belley, the reaction from women so far has been great, and she sees the brand expanding the collection. The Evera MJ will arrive on shelves this February, with a closed-toe version to follow next fall, she says. “A lot of people want a heel, so we’re trying to integrate that little something more into the product.” —Meagan Walker


Little Italy Fiorentini + Baker releases a luxe capsule collection for little stars. ASSUMING THE OLD adage that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, celebrity offspring Nahla, Sunday, Suri and Apple will soon be sporting the effortlessly stylish and classic footwear of Fiorentini + Baker. That’s because Fiorentini + Baker loyalists Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise and Gwyneth Paltrow, respectively, have already made the brand a frequent blip on the fashion radar—and now the high-end Italian-made boot maker is marking its 10th Anniversary with a capsule collection for children. Fiorentini + Baker designer Deborah Baker notes that the kids’ collection was initially prompted by requests from regular customers who expressed an interest in footwear for their kids. “The footwear we make should be enjoyed by adults and kids,” Baker says, noting the line pays tribute to some of the brand’s key styles from the past decade. “We chose styles from the permanent line that we thought would work on little feet.” As with all of the brand’s designs, Baker says the boots are kept simple by focusing on supple leathers and suedes with minimal hardware. It also provided an opportunity for Baker to play with youthful shots of color. “There will be more neutrals and brights in this range,” she says, noting the collection includes eye-catching deep red and cool shades of blue. The line is led by three unisex boot styles—the double buckle 713, short Eli and signature three-buckle Eternity—that allow parents and kids the chance to coordinate. The collection also includes a lace-up boot for boys and tall rounded-toe, pull-on boot for girls—two styles that are attracting a lot of interest from buyers, Baker reports. Suggested retail prices range from $380 to $500 and sizes span 4 to 12. “Children’s collections are very popular at some of our retailers, so the timing is right,” Baker says, adding that she hopes to expand the selection next year. “This kind of footwear for kids is a luxury item, but hopefully they will be passed down to younger members of the family.” —Angela Velasquez

Street Sense Ecco’s hybrid golf collection swings from course to playground. THE FIRST HYBRID golf shoe to hit the men’s market, the Ecco Street, was notably worn by two-time PGA Tour Player of the Year Fred Couples at the 2010 Masters Tournament. Despite Couples coming in sixth place that year, the sidewalk-to-course style had heads turning immediately, not to mention imitators scrambling to develop their own greens-to-street versions. “We went from 0 percent of our business being hybrid golf shoes in 2009 to 60 percent of our business in 2011,” says David Helter, specialty sales director at Ecco USA. “We were the lone wolf and after 2010, when the rest of the market saw what we did, everybody started to chase it.” Ecco is keeping a step ahead of the pack with its expansion into a Junior Street collection for Spring ’12. The four-colorway grouping correlates with the women’s and men’s collections, allowing for father-son and mother-daughter matching. Sizes range from 1 to 7.5 and suggested retail is $90. —Meagan Walker

Stocking Stuffer It’s not too late to add Primigi’s holiday style to the merchandise mix. The Patrizia ballet flat, adorned with sparkling sequins and black patent, livens up basic outfits and serves as the finishing touch to holiday dresses. The shoe is available for immediate delivery. Call: (800) 562-2212. october/november 2011 • 45

what’s selling

sit & fits



Family owned for more than 25 years, the Shoe Parlour claims to hold the largest footwear selection per square foot in midtown Manhattan. Located across the street from the celebrated Carnegie Deli, the 1,300-square-foot store sells leading brands to locals and tourists alike, including Ugg, Hunter, Dansko, New Balance and Sorel, says CEO Jason Rogowsky. “Our customers come from all over the world and we offer that personal service where everyone feels like family when they walk in the door.”

Northern California’s picturesque Napa Valley is home to Shoes on First, a 2,600-squarefoot, independent retailer with a diverse brand list and an even more unique clientele. Regular customers include David and Victoria Beckham, Nicholas Cage, tourists in search of shoes (and wine) and upper-crust locals. “We have a large and faithful following across the U.S. and Canada,” says owner Phil Aved of his 12-year-old business. “I even have some repeat customers in Japan that I send shoes to.”

Current top-selling brands: Ugg, Hunter, Vibram FiveFingers and Sorel.

What makes your store unique? Along with our unique brand list, there are 265 restaurants within five miles of our store so offering the right comfort shoes is extremely important to our clientele of restaurant workers.

New York, NY Hunter

Best new brand added to your mix this year? Wolverine 1000 Mile.


Are boots once again reigning supreme this fall? Boots are playing a major role in our sales again—especially those that are practical and waterproof. Specifically, we expect Ugg will continue to be strong, and Sorel and Hunter will play major roles as well. Wolverine 1000 Mile

Is toning and shaping footwear still an important segment of your business? People are still interested in the concept. The category still does well for us. [Shoe Parlour sells MBT, Alegria, Skechers ShapeUps and FitFlop.] Do your customers know what brand or style they want or are they open to your recommendations? A lot of our customers know what they want, but we carry some smaller companies that we can get them to wear as well. They love our recommendations.


Is the natural motion category a growing segment of your business? Yes. What do your customers seek from you first: brands, price or service? Our selection of brands comes first and then, unfortunately, price. What’s the outlook for the holiday shopping season? We are looking forward to another big snowstorm over the holidays. That was great for boot sales.

Eric Michael

What has been the biggest change in your customer’s behavior of late? Customers continue to question the authenticity of the goods because of all the counterfeit goods on the market coming out of China.

46 • october/november 2011

Napa, CA

Current top-selling brands: Sanita, Fidji, Everybody, Cushe and Rieker. Are boots once again reigning supreme this fall? We’ve been selling boots for more than two months already. I do a lot of direct importing of boots, and we offer a wide variety, including a zebra print suede ankle boot by Helle Comfort that’s been popular. In addition, our Western boots by Rieker experienced dramatic sales, and another big trend is military flavored boots, especially by Eric Michael. Is toning and shaping footwear still an important segment of your business? Yes and no. I buy a few of those shoes because of their quality. But people took what was an item and decided to make it a category, and that’s not what it is. I don’t see these items as a necessity to run my business. Although, we do carry Gravity Defyer shoes and the brand has become our No. 1 seller in men’s. Is the natural motion a growing segment in your business? Not really, but I’ve got friends who are selling thousands of shoes with the fingers in them (laughs). I hope everyone enjoys those Vibram FiveFingers, but let’s hope they don’t find someone with six toes. What do customers seek from you first: brands, price or service? Service first and sometimes fashion advice. We have close relationships with Pedorthic specialists who recommend patients to us to get fit properly. It’s part of the success behind the sales of our Fidelio orthotic shoes. —Melissa D’Agnese

continued from page 19 again, but I remain hopeful that things will not get worse.

every right to ask a lot from their suppliers. I believe the market strikes the right balance.

There’s an optimist for you. From a business perspective, what do you miss most from pre-2009? Everything definitely felt easier back then. While there is still an enormously high ceiling for our company, you definitely have to be sharp today. We are interacting with a lot more people who are truly struggling and, subsequently, many are much more risk-adverse. There’s also the increasing supply side challenges. It’s just a different world. It’s a tougher game now.

Any advice for retailers—a soapbox moment, if you prefer? Now it’s more important than ever to try and execute at a high level and to focus on providing better consumer experiences. It’s surely not a time to rest on one’s laurels. The retailers that really develop their personnel, create memorable in-store experiences and bring in the best products will be the ones that survive and prosper.

What do you think has been the biggest change in how retailers decide to choose one brand over another? Many have become smarter and are also demanding more from their wholesale partners. It’s actually one of the things that helped us once the recession began, because we’ve always been very good partners to our retailers. For example, we offer f lexible return policies and six-month financing programs to help make seasonal buys. At Aetrex, those types of strategies were already in place, whereas other manufacturers had to adjust the way they do business because of the increasing demands being placed on them by their retailers. And let me say that retailers should be making these types of demands. I would if I were them. It makes sense in such a challenging environment. You might be the only wholesale executive to go on record with that statement. When do the demands become unacceptable? It’s OK until we say no. And there are times that we do say no. Sometimes we ask a lot from our suppliers, too. At the end of the day, retailers have to do their part. If they do, then they have

Do you expect online retailers to continue to play a bigger role in comfort footwear sales? Online is certainly not going away. It requires traditional retailers to provide experiences that consumers can’t get when they go to an e-commerce site. Certainly, our iStep and Lynco programs can’t be done online. You can learn about feet online, but you can’t learn about your specific feet. It’s one of the reasons we are really excited about our concept stores, and why we will continue to roll out new ones as the year progresses. The first store is doing very well. People are walking in because they see the shoes in the window and then there’s a big technology presence that appeals to shoppers who are getting their feet scanned and learning about their specific foot types through iStep. We also have a component where gyms and healthcare professional are referring clients. How many stores do you plan to open? We expect to open a few more next year and then we’ll see how it goes from there. The goal is to partner with independent retailers to run them, but there will also be some company-run stores as well. Why do you think Aetrex has done well online

PUBLISHER’S STATEMENT 1. Publication Title: Footwear Plus. 2. Publication No.: 0006-975. 3. Filing Date 10/3/11. 4. Issue Frequency:monthly except bi-monthly April/May and Oct/Nov. 5. No. of Issues Published Annually: 10. 6. Annual Subscription Price: $48. 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication: Footwear Plus, 36 Cooper Sq. 4th Floor, New York NY 10003. 8. Complete Mailing Address of the Headquarters or General Business Office of the Publisher: (Same as #7). 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor: Publisher: Caroline Diaco, 36 Cooper Sq. 4th Floor, New York NY 10003; Editor: Greg Dutter, 36 Cooper Sq. 4th Floor, New York NY 10003; Managing Editor: none. 10. Owner (If owned by a corporation, its name and address must be stated and also immediately thereafter the names and addresses of stockholders owning or holding 1 percent or more of total amount of stock): ZapCap Peeps, LLC; Leon Zapis, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145; Richard Bongorno, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145; Leslie Sutula, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145; Phong Nguyen, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145. Zapis Capital Group, LLC; Leon Zapis, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145; Maria Wymer, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145; Donna Thomas, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145; Renee Seybert, 26202 Detroit Rd. Ste. 300, Westlake, OH 44145. 11. Known Bondholders, Mortgages, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages, or Other Securities: None. 12. (For Nonprofit Organizations - Does Not Apply) 13. Publication Name: Footwear Plus. 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: September 2011 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation. Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months/Actual No. Copies of Single

when the brand is built around such a tactile shopping experience? A lot of it is just proportionate to your overall sales. If you are selling a lot of shoes, an increasing portion of it is being done online today, no question. There’s also the fact that some of those online companies have done a great job providing service. Most people today have bought a pair of shoes online—even those that work in shoe stores. It’s part of the new reality. But that doesn’t mean it’s doom-and-gloom for traditional retailers. They just have to do business differently than maybe 10 or 15 years ago. And there’s still a giant amount of business being done in brick and mortar. Most women and many men still love to shop. For example, if you walk the Garden State Plaza mall near our headquarters on an average Saturday you will feel pretty good about the prospects of retail. There’s a lot of retail still being done, but you have to deliver terrific experiences and service in order to be successful. As you mentioned before, there are worse industries one could be in. Shoes are a lot of people’s favorite clothing item. And shoes give us a lot of places to innovate, which makes us a unique industry in that regard. For example, you can do more to help people in providing comfort than in other aspects of clothing that are more strictly about fashion. Shoes have impact on your health and your overall well-being. Shoes are not only are an important fashion item; they can make a difference in people’s lives. What do you love most about your job? I’ve been in this industry almost 20 years and the most rewarding aspect is watching something go from the idea and dream phase to actual product—and then become a success story. I love seeing that evolution. •

Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: a. Total No. Copies: 16,532/17,749 b. Legitimate paid and/or requested distribution: (1) Paid/ Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions: 9,722/10,613 (2) Paid/Requested In-County Subscriptions:0/0 (3) Sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, and counter sales:0/0 (4) Requested copies distributed by other USPS mail classes:0/0 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation:. 9,722/10,613 d. Nonrequested distribution: (1). Outside county nonrequested copies:.3,738/5,086 (2) In County nonrequested copies:. 0/0 (3) Nonrequested copies distributed through other USPS mail classes:0/0 (4). Nonrequested copies distributed outside the mail: 2,723/1,800 e. Total nonrequested distribution: 6,461/6,886 f. Total Distribution:16,183/17,499 g. Copies not distributed:349/250 h. Total:16,532/17,749 i: Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 60%/61% 16. This Statement of Ownership will be printed in the Oct./Nov. 2011 issue of this publication. 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form or who omits material or information requested on the form may be subject to criminal sanctions and/or civil sanctions. Caroline Diaco, Publisher



From Stiletto Stampedes to Boob Camp A non-profit goes beyond awareness to give breast cancer survivors a hand in physical and mental recovery.

A day at the races: Stiletto Stampede participants run in high heels to lift spirits and raise funds for breast cancer awareness.

48 • october/november 2011

MOST WOULD AGREE: Running is hard enough in sneakers. Add a four-inch stiletto heel and there’s sure to be a spill or two. But the Stiletto Stampede for the Cure in Austin, TX, has welcomed the challenge since October 2009, when founder Michelle Patterson orchestrated the non-profit’s first 100-yard high heel dash. Runners (and stumblers) don pink boas, customize T-shirts and even bring out their dogs for a “pooch scooch.” It’s all a part of Austin Stiletto Stampede’s efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer through not only the runs, but also pre-race happy hours, spa nights and “get screened” events. “We reach out to the under 40 crowd with hopes of empowering young men and women to know their personal risk, family history, and to really get to know their bodies and take care of them before it’s too late,” says Jenny Sparks, Stiletto Stampede’s director of operations. Beginning this fall the Austin branch is addressing what happens after the big “C” with its newly launched Boob Camp program. Hosted at the fitness club Pure Austin, Boob Camp provides previvors (those who tested positive for the carrier gene and opt to voluntarily have a mastectomy) and survivors with comprehensive postoperative rehab exercise programs that not only focus on the physical concerns related to recovery, but the social and emotional aspects to healing as well—all for only $10 per session. Boob Camp instructors are trained breast cancer rehabilitation specialists and certified physical therapists with an extensive background in physical rehabilitation services and kinesiology. First Aid, CPR and AED certified, the instructors share a passion for helping breast cancer survivors heal properly with dignity and support. “After surgery, patients need to get their flexibility and range of motion back,” Sparks explains. “Doctors cure the cancer, we help them come back.” Patterson hopes it won’t be long before the program will have a regional or national underwriting. “We don’t have any retail sponsorship for the program right now,” Patterson says. “For Boob Camp in particular, we hope to spread nationally.” —Meagan Walker

You Won’t believe Heels Can Feel So Great Built-in Lynco® arch support | Soft, padded linings with Aegis® anti-microbial treatment Advanced memory foam cushioning | Gentle metatarsal cushion to relieve forefoot pressure