WSA Show Preview

Main Event

The WSA Show is unveiling a more compact format — all under one roof at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas, Feb. 2-4. Elyse Kroll, founder and chairwoman of the show’s parent organization, ENK International, has high expectations for February, as the Collections at WSA and The Box will both be incorporated into the main show. Notable exhibitors include Reebok, BBC International, H.H. Brown, Chinese Laundry and Sperry Top-Sider.

The event will once again support the National Shoe Retailers Association’s seminars, held the day before the show, including “Step Inside the Mind of Today’s Footwear Consumer” with Marshal Cohen of The NPD Group and “From Runway to Retail: Must-Have Fashion Trends for Fall/Winter ’10 and ’11” with Renee Labbe of Stylesight.

Here, Kroll discusses getting the show in one place, recent marketing efforts and buyer sentiment.

FN: What are the new features of WSA?
EK: The show will be under one roof; we will no longer be in two venues. The Collections, which is typically in a hotel and separated from the main show, has an area created for it and it will be with everyone else. Naturally, it’s more efficient. It will certainly be more financially responsible for everyone and it will save people travel time. I can’t imagine that it’s anything but good.

FN: Are buyers feeling better or worse right now?
EK: Buyers are buying; the mood is really upbeat. This is [ENK’s] fourth show since January, and probably the biggest surprise was at Children’s Club — the traffic was nonstop. The whole mood has really changed, and I’m hoping to continue to see that in Vegas. We’re seeing a lot of traffic in our shows, so as long as we continue to provide the buyers with the right product, they will be happy. We’re pretty excited about [WSA]. It’s smaller, but you can do a lot more with a smaller show. Everybody gets a little more attention; there are more retailers to go around. It becomes more of a community, more of a family, and the show begins to have a personality.

FN: How can retailers and brands stand out with shoppers?
EK: With the economy the way it has been, it’s necessary for the designer to have good product to make [consumers] want to buy it. Good price, good product and you’re in business. This whole year was a terrific wake-up call, and everyone learned to do business in a different way. We’ve learned to trim the unnecessary, and we’re smarter for it.

FN: What segments are performing the best right now?
EK: I don’t think you can choose a category. People are paying attention to their footwear, and you own some kind of footwear for your workouts, for your leisure [activities]. You’re required to have a footwear wardrobe. It’s a bright spot right across the board — boots, heels, outerwear, business, comfort, rugged — everything is doing well.

FN: Which brands are you most excited about showcasing?
EK: We’re very excited that Reebok is with us because that means our timing is right. We listened to retailers and we listened to brands, but the footwear industry has learned that those are preferable dates, and so we’re trying it. We have Red Wing and K-Swiss, and we’re excited about that whole genre of footwear — rugged and athletic. Obviously the buyers are coming, and so we’re expecting good things.

FN: What is WSA doing in terms of marketing to motivate brands and buyers to attend?
EK: One of the things we like to do is a countdown. We’re really strong telemarketers, and we are sending a lot of blasts out about our brands. Even some of the brands we’ve had in the past are changing their looks, and we’re showing just how fresh [WSA is as a result]. We’ll be doing a lot of calling and a lot of e-mailing. We’re just picking up the phone and talking to our retailers.

Sounding Off

The industry weighs in on fall trends, WSA and going to Las Vegas.

Scott Sessa, president, Minnetonka Moccasin Co.
On trends: “The Americana trend bodes well for us, with mocs as the quintessential footnote. Boots will still be strong, and customers we’ve worked with early have already committed to fringe.”

Alan Miklofsky, president and CEO, The Shoe House Inc., Tucson and Mesa, Ariz.
On Vegas: “You meet with vendor execs, network with other retailers and get [an education] at the NSRA seminars. Unfortunately, with the show down to two and three-quarter days, and too many lines to get to, business is done at dinner, breakfast and late into the night.”

Dave Aznavorian, VP of marketing, Earth
On WSA: “[Last year] had everyone sharpening their pencils and getting more focused. Anticipating this will translate into smarter bets placed with key buys set up to succeed before they land in market.”

Rick Ravel, president, Karavel Shoes, Austin, Texas
On trends: “We sold out of low-heeled boots [for fall ’09]. Rocker soles will still be strong, but they are starting to trend down. Colors will be basic, filling a need, not a want. Most of the vendors did not have back-up inventory [last season] for fill-ins. Vendors willing to take a stand this fall will have a leg up on those who only want futures.”

Avi Ben-Zikry, VP, Spring Footwear

On Vegas: “It’s great for international influence. There are people there from all over the world, so we can get ideas [about style] from around the globe.”

Jeff Langner, CEO, Morgan’s Shoes, Madison, Wis.
On trends: “I see wellness continuing, coming off rocker bottoms to [include Vibram’s] Five Fingers. Also key is interest in bottoms, wood and units that are shaped.”

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