Schwartz & Benjamin Fine-Tunes Its Brand Focus

Schwartz & Benjamin is hoping the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as it hones its plans for spring ’13.

Inspired by late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, company CEO Danny Schwartz and President Steve Shapiro said they have been streamlining their existing labels to focus on essential styles and colorways.

“Some of this goes back to Steve Jobs,” Schwartz said of the company’s evolving strategy. “We read his [biography] and we marveled at his genius and focus. Our business is a lot different from Apple’s, but we looked at ourselves and said, ‘What can we take from [Jobs’] genius?’ We decided we needed to focus on what we do best: We are trying to sell more units on less styles — fewer colors and fewer materials.”

As a result, the company decided to discontinue its 7-year-old, in-house contemporary label Daniblack, effective spring ’13 — a decision Schwartz said was painful but necessary. “Daniblack was something we wanted to do because it was our own, but we weren’t able to concentrate on it because it wasn’t our priority,” the CEO said. “Our priority was our licensed brands, so we decided to eliminate things we were struggling with.”

Like the rest of the industry, Schwartz & Benjamin has had to face some outside struggles in recent seasons.

“The biggest challenge is the uncertain geopolitical climate that we are living in today,” Schwartz said. “The unrest that is occurring in the Middle East, the economic situation in Europe, the potential of an economic slowdown in China — all those things can affect our business, and they are things we can’t control.”

Added Shapiro, “We also are focusing on sourcing. Sourcing is a challenge for the industry. We can’t control the socioeconomic part of it, although we can control what we do within it. We are looking to expand our Italian footprint. We make a lot of shoes in Italy. We also have great partnerships in Brazil and China, but we want to make sure we are using top sourcing partners in those places.”

Schwartz said the company’s general outlook is optimistic, with plans to expand its licensors’ categories and larger international wholesale presence. “Our business is good overall,” he said. “We weathered the storm of 2008 to 2009 and positioned ourselves for growth. We’re starting to see that now.”