The industry is kicking off the new year with a bang.
But after a mixed 2014 — defined by weather woes, sourcing concerns and a lack of must-have trends — the pressure is on.
Everyone agrees: More revolutionary change is on tap. For one thing, the tech-obsessed consumer is moving faster than ever. That’s why every company is putting digital at the top of their agenda.
Executives are also busy tweaking product strategies to capitalize on must-have footwear.
With athletic still on fire, retailers and vendors alike are betting even bigger on sneakers. But they’re aggressively pursuing new trends, too.
It remains to be seen what items will emerge as winners.
No matter what happens, it will clearly be another year to remember. Here, 15 execs sound off on the burning issues that will define 2015.
Chairman and CEO, Adidas
Top opportunity: “Building on the global brand momentum of both Adidas and Reebok.”
Big challenge: “The political uncertainty in Russia and Ukraine and its business ramifications, including the devaluation of the Russian ruble and shrinking consumer confidence in Russia. Russia is our third-largest market globally.”
Overall outlook: “We [expect] mid-single-digit sales growth and earnings to grow faster than sales.”
Chairman, president and CEO, Brown Shoe Co.
Top opportunity: “Building on the strong foundation of our brand portfolio and continuing to produce trend-right product that speaks to our consumers.”
Big challenge: “Keeping pace with the ever-changing shopping patterns and responding appropriately.”
Overall outlook: “We’re cautiously optimistic, but we also realize that everyone in the industry is going to need to work harder to capture share in footwear, while competing against new threats from outside our space, such as mobile devices, which are gaining consumer share of the wallet.”
Chairman, president and CEO, Deckers Brands
Top opportunities: “Ugg has continued to successfully diversify its business, so we are positioned to compete in all four seasons. Teva, Sanuk and Hoka are all doing well. We’re also excited about the growth potential of our Ahnu brand, which is bringing some very innovative products to the yoga space. We’re a much different company than we were a couple of years ago. We believe that we are benefiting from the diversification and expansion of our portfolio, our consumer-centric emphasis and our commitment to innovation.”
Big challenge: “The retail world is undergoing rapid change, and the consumer is in charge. We can’t forget that. We know we have great product, and that’s been our hallmark. But we have to stay ahead of the curve in terms of delivering the shopping experiences that consumers demand.”
Overall outlook: “We believe that our brands have never been stronger, and we’re seeing tangible benefits from the investments we are making in our omnichannel offerings. We’re focused on driving innovation across our business and delivering a seamless shopping experience to consumers. Our future is bright.”
President, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor
Top opportunity: “For us, it’s about creating a seamless experience for our customers — enhancing our e-commerce business and driving the connectivity between in-store and online. We want to be there for [our customer] whenever, wherever and however she wants to shop.”
Overall outlook: “Footwear will continue to be a key and critical business for us. We are energized by the opportunity in sport-inspired and active.”
CEO, New Balance
Top opportunity: “New innovative performance running styles, such as the Fresh Foam platform, as well as new lifestyle product will drive sales around the world.”
Big challenge: “Meeting the needs of young athletes around the world. From running to baseball to tennis, we are always looking for new ways to excite and change the game of competitors.”
Overall outlook: “Very optimistic. We expect solid growth in the U.S. market, but also around the globe.”
Designer and founder, Vicini SpA
Top opportunity: “As a designer, my focus is always projected into the future. My purpose for the new year is to create exclusive and smashing designs, creations that make my clients feel unique. My goal is to keep doing what I love and to stay true to my DNA.”
Big challenge: “My next collection is always my greatest challenge and requires all of my attention. The hope for the new year is to keep this focus.”
Designer and founder, Paul Andrew
Top opportunity: “The focus of the brand will remain women’s, but I have a clear vision of where Paul Andrew could fit into the men’s market.”
Big challenge: “Managing business logistics without compromising time for my true passion of design.”
Overall outlook: “2014 brought much change for the brand, the most recent being the announcement of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. We are seeing immense top-line growth, and the potential for pushing the limits in 2015 is exciting.”
Designer and founder, Sophia Webster
Top opportunity: “Retail. [We want to] build on the successful launch of our U.S. e-commerce site and have plans for our first brick-and-mortar flagship store. You heard it here first!”
Overall outlook: “I’m looking forward to seeing the response to my new flat styles, as this is not an area I’m known for. 2014 was such an amazing and exciting year for me. I became a mum to my baby girl, Bibi Blossom, so 2015 has a lot to live up to. With my mini collection growing every season, I can’t wait for Bibi to be able to wear them.”
Founder, chairman and CEO, BBC International
Top opportunity: “Our new exciting brands for our future are Madison Nicole, Feiyue and Heelys. Of course, we still have great opportunity in our Polo.”
Big challenge: “China sourcing and compliance issues related to children’s shoes.”
Overall outlook: “Our business will be extremely healthy for the future, as the younger consumers are buying without considering the economy. Customers are definitely changing. Our online business is growing in leaps and bounds, faster than anyone ever had thought.”
COO and CFO, Skechers USA Inc.
Top opportunity: “While we believe there [is still growth potential] in the United States, we believe the biggest opportunity is our continued international wholesale and retail expansion. The demand for our product is high across regions around the world, with double-digit growth in nearly every market.”
Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge is developing product that will continue to resonate with consumers in the United States and markets worldwide as well as to build our infrastructure and logistics to fuel our strong growth.”
Overall outlook: “Our outlook is very, very positive. We are ending the year with our third fourth quarter of double-digit growth, and we will start the year off very strong with 15 to 20 percent growth in the first quarter. We feel very positive about the balance of the year.”
President, Stride Rite
Top opportunity/Big challenge: “Our biggest opportunity and challenge is providing the millennial consumer with the right product mix while also ensuring that the shopping experience — whether in-store or online — is easy, enjoyable, consistent and fun. We have gone to great lengths to better understand the ‘Millennial Mom.’ The success of our Stride Rite Loyalty Program and Rewards app, as well as our RiteFit app, which allows moms to size their child’s foot from the comforts of home, are two prime examples of how we are embracing and utilizing technology for a consumer audience that spends significant time on smartphones and with technology overall.”
Overall outlook: “With a range of exciting new products, an improved retail experience and our ongoing communication with consumers through online shopping enhancements and social media, we are truly excited and energized as we look forward to 2015 and beyond.”
Founder and executive chairman, Dune London
Top opportunity: “The U.S. market. We opened our first store in New York in September. There are lots to follow.”
Biggest challenge: “The [obstacle] we can’t do anything about is the weather. Otherwise, our biggest challenge is establishing Dune London as a leading affordable luxury brand in the biggest and most exciting market in the world.”
Overall outlook: “We are looking for double-digit growth in 2015. I’m optimistic about the retail market. There will be bumps along the road, but if you’ve got the right product and have successfully embraced multichannel retailing, the prospects are bright.”
Designer and founder, Louis Leeman
Top opportunity: “We have been seeing opportunity in men’s for a while now, and it has been very successful. We want to focus even more on growth and on more stand-alone retail to reach an even bigger male audience.”
Big challenge: “Balancing my crazy travel schedule and managing all the wonderful new projects we are working on all over the world, the opening of the New York store and adding new accessories to Louis Leeman.”
Overall outlook: “I see 2015 as a year of expansion, with our first flagship on Madison Avenue in New York and the addition of men’s accessories.”
President, Synclaire Brands
Top opportunity: “Global selling. The United States is saturated from a retail perspective, and pricing, along with discounting, is getting out of control. The rest of the world has not had access to all the product available in the U.S., and the world wants our brands, making international an opportunity.”
Biggest challenge: “Understanding and mastering the new world of omnichannel selling to consumers between retail, e-tail and TV, as the number of physical locations continue to shrink.”
Overall outlook: “I am upbeat. In the kids’ footwear space, lifestyle branding should be even more important than it has been in the past years, as character footwear trends down.”
VP and men’s fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue
Top opportunity: “Although sneakers continue to be strong, we are now looking for innovative dress [looks] and denim-friendly leather shoes.”
Big challenge: “After many seasons of embellished sneakers, we are entering a ‘palette cleansing’ phase. So the question is: What’s next for the sneaker guy?”