Footwear Insiders Sound Off on Economic Woes

Footwear Insiders Sound Off on Economic
Ronald Fromm, chairman of Brown Shoe Co.

The economy was the hot topic at this week’s FFANY event in New York. As stocks tumbled on Thursday, executives at the trade show and across the country weighed in on the economic forecast and the potential impact on the industry.

Ronald Fromm, chairman, Brown Shoe Co.:
“It’s concerning. We’re all really waiting to see how things will turn out. Consumers are very nervous, and anytime that happens it’s a concern [as a vendor].”

John Florsheim, president and COO, Weyco Group:
“Similar to everyone, we were hoping that at this point the recovery would be more robust. That is certainly not the case, and we are more concerned about the mindset of the American consumer than we were a few months back. The momentum we had earlier in the year seems to have dissipated, and most retailers are being more cautious about their projections for the back half of 2011. … Our biggest concern is jobs. The employment picture is clearly critical to the entire economic picture. It’s hard to imagine a housing recovery until we get a pickup in employment, [but] the beginning of a housing recovery will go a long way to boosting consumer confidence.”

Jeff Van Sinderen, analyst, B. Riley & Co.:
“Macro data hasn’t been great, but the numbers that companies have been putting up are really not bad. Worries are not practically driven at this point; it’s just fear. Unemployment and housing are the two biggest, most pivotal issues. Unemployment has to go down and housing needs to recover. There’s just a lot of bad news in the headlines, which, if consumers believe, they will make them spend less.”

Steven Marotta, analyst, CL King & Associates:
“I’m marginally more concerned about the economy. Long-term underpinnings such as employment and income growth are not showing material signs of improvement. Housing — and the subsequent ‘wealth effect’ — was a major driver that probably will not return for years.”

Mark Goldstein, owner and CEO, Madison boutiques and Diavolina:
“I think the cat is out of the bag a bit more now in regard to the nation’s debt, and that will make people feel a bit uneasy, which most likely will slow down spending.”

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