The Clarks Cos. N.A. named Jim Salzano president on Monday. And the exec, who has served as interim president of the Upper Newton Falls, Mass.-based company since Bob Infantino stepped down in January, is off to a running start.
In an interview with Footwear News on Monday, Salzano said he’s ready to build on the company’s already-strong U.S. business.
“There are opportunities from running a business to now managing a brand,” said Salzano, a 16-year veteran of the firm who served as EVP before assuming Infantino’s role. “I was selected and encouraged to put my hat in the ring early on. It’s [emotional] for me to lead the team now.”
Melissa Potter, CEO of parent company C&J Clarks Ltd., said Salzano will lead the overall strategic planning process for all the Clarks brands, including Clarks, Indigo, Privo and Bostonian, with a focus on customer service.
Clarks’ retail partners are also enthusiastic about the appointment. “We’re glad it was someone out of the [U.S.] team,” said Jim Sajdak, president and CEO of Stan’s Fit for Your Feet in Milwaukee. Sajdak noted that Salzano’s main challenge will be to keep the firm’s positive direction in place. “They do a great job at the right price point,” he said, referring to the brand’s sweet spot in pricing, which it has maintained during the recent economic downturn.
Dave Levy, owner of Hawley Lane Shoes in Trumbull, Conn., said he’s thrilled about Salzano being given the top spot. “As independent retailers, a lot of us were concerned about the consistency of where the brand was going,” he said. “I had such a great run with it over the years. The partnership has been outstanding.”
According to Salzano, North America is Clarks’ biggest market outside the U.K. To step up the business here, he plans to take advantage of the company’s new global marketing campaign that launched in the U.S. for spring ’11. “It’s an unprecedented investment in marketing in North America, bringing greater awareness to the brand,” he said. “The more people who know about [Clarks] will be helpful to its current retail partners.”
Clarks also will capitalize on the new global store design recently introduced in its U.S. stores. The concept will be carried out at the wholesale level with similar fixtures to create a consistent brand message. “We’re anxious to build on consumer awareness,” Salzano said, noting the change will roll out in the next six to nine months. “Wherever the consumer purchases [Clarks], they’ll get a similar experience.”
Product, however, will continue to take center stage. For spring ’12, said Salzano, the brand is focusing on innovation in comfort technology. “We’re cracking the code between comfort and style,” he said. While Salzano noted that Clarks already has a loyal following among more mature consumers, he aims to capture a younger audience of 30-to 44-year-olds.
Alan Miklofsky, president and CEO of Alan’s Shoe House in Tucson, Ariz., was upbeat about the future of Clarks. “We’re looking for much of the same progress that’s been made over the past several years,” he said. “We hope the business continues to [remain] profitable in the independent channel.”