Market Watchers Talk Big Moves, Weather Woes

The footwear market is poised for a solid year despite facing some complex challenges during the next 10 months, according to panelists who kicked off FN Platform at the seminar “Footwear News Presents: Tracking the Footwear Market – What’s Ahead in 2014.”

SportsOneSource analyst Matt Powell, Threadstone Partners founder William Susman and Canaccord Genuity managing director Camilo Lyon joined the conversation moderated by FN’s global news director, Katie Abel.

Weather was top of mind when it came to immediate issues affecting overall business, the panelists said.  “A year or two ago, we were all wishing for snow and now that we’ve gotten it, we’re wishing for it to go away,” Lyon said, noting that if temperatures don’t trend toward spring soon, it might not bode well for the first quarter of 2014. “But it was great for the fourth quarter if you were levered to that category. If you were making boots [like] Hunter, Sorel or even Ugg Australia, you did really well. If you were in the fashion business, you probably didn’t do as well [because] a lot of consumers’ disposable income shifted over to those colder weather boots.”

Going forward, Susman emphasized a nimble approach. “Weather is going to continue to happen and change,” he said. “Footwear and apparel companies have to think about [the] long term.” 

And Powell said footwear labels could take a cue from athletic brands, which are creating more multifunctional products. “They aren’t boots that you are going to hike a mountain in, but you can walk through snow in them,” he said. “And they also are comfortable and fashionable enough to wear as streetwear.”

The panel also highlighted several standout brands, shoe firms and retailers, with Nike, Brown Shoe Co. (especially Sam Edelman and Famous Footwear), Steve Madden and Foot Locker on the list of companies that should continue to prosper.

Another big topic was mergers and acquisitions, with panelists highlighting the rise of nontraditional buys. Smart strategies include snapping up smaller, lesser-known brands with untapped potential, as well as looking at ways to “acquire” communities through buying outside-the-box assets. “Very, very large private equity firms are starting to look at even small companies because they don’t want to be in another bidding war [for a high-profile name],” Lyon said.