Top Athletic Leaders on How To Bring Excitement Back to Retail in 2017

Dick Johnson Foot Locker
Foot Locker president, chairman and CEO Dick Johnson at FN Summit.
George Chinsee.

When it comes to innovation, athletic continues to lead the way. Here, executives from Foot Locker, Adidas, Finish Line and Wolverine World Wide talk about invigorating retail by focusing on great store experiences — and equally great stories.

Dick Johnson
Chairman and CEO,
 Foot Locker Inc.

Looking back at 2016: “We always try to learn from what we’ve done, and we try to make adjustments going forward. But I don’t think there is any one thing you could look back on and say, ‘I wish we would’ve done that [differently].’ That’s just not how I operate. We try to take every day as a learning lesson.”

The opportunity: “To stay completely focused and engaged with our customer. [We want to] move with them and help them understand this great sneaker culture that we’re all part of.”

The challenge: “We’re always weary of macroeconomic events and things that we don’t have much control over. But as it relates to our industry, the casualization of the markets that we operate in is a real thing. 
We’ll continue to be competitive, and we’ll focus on our customer and continue to lead sneaker culture in the U.S. and Western Europe and the markets that we service.”

The investments: “Similarly to what we’ve done with our new flagship on 34th Street [in New York], we’ll be looking to create more big flagship environments in some of our other key markets. We’re also investing significantly in remodels and new stores; that’s important across all of the geographies we do business in. And certainly we’ll invest in our infrastructure — creating a more seamless, frictionless environment for our consumers to engage with our brands is something we always invest in.”

Mark King
President, Adidas Group North America

Key opportunity and top challenge: “To capitalize on the momentum that we’re building, and the way you do that is to continue to bring out fresh new products and do a great job at retail telling the story of the product and the brand. That’s our biggest challenge right now: to continue to take this opportunity to launch more footwear franchises, training apparel and performance gear. Running is a big opportunity for us right now.”

Big investment: “It’s the retail environment, whether it’s our own stores or our partners. We have great momentum with the consumer. We’ve got much better product in the marketplace, and we just have to make sure when consumers walk into retail that they see an interesting environment.”

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Clint Spaulding/FNS/REX/Shutterstock (7527702f) Mark King Footwear News Achievement Awards, Inside, IAC Headquarters, New York, USA - 29 Nov 2016 Photo: Rex/Shutterstock </p> <p>

Blake Krueger
Chairman, CEO and president, Wolverine World Wide Inc.

Looking back/moving forward: “While we don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the past, it can be insightful to think about the critical themes affecting our company and the industry. The industry and the broader retail and consumer soft-goods
sectors are at an important transformative moment as today’s consumer holds enormous leverage and power.”

The opportunities: “Two things: product and speed. More specifically, innovative and trend-right product that can be developed quickly and put in front of our consumers on a fast and more frequent cadence. Although our brands are marketed in 200 countries and territories, the international opportunities for growth remain numerous. Technology has had an unbelievable impact on the industry. Brands that are winning in this new reality are, first and foremost, focused on protecting their brand in the marketplace, and secondly, have a robust pipeline of innovative products [and a steady stream of new introductions] coupled with relevant and impactful storytelling.”

The challenges: “Global macro headwinds remain — the strong U.S. dollar, political instability, some tougher global markets — but fresh and innovative product can overcome these challenges. The onus resides with the brands to develop great products and tell great stories to the consumers. The continuing shift in consumer behavior and the challenges at brick-and-mortar retail in the U.S. will also create some headwinds in 2017.”

The investment: “This month we are opening the company’s first consumer and innovation hub, which will continue to drive the focus on consumer understanding, product development, speed to market and modern demand creation. Over the course of the last few years, we have significantly increased investments to better align our products with our consumers.”

Wolverine World Wide Blake Krueger, chairman, president and CEO of Wolverine World Wide Inc. Courtesy Photo

Sam Sato
CEO, The Finish Line Inc.

The opportunities: “Our primary focus is answering the question of how we can better serve our shoppers. We gather consumer insight and use that to further define what the consumer wants in an ever-changing, competitive and increasingly promotional market. We continue to work with each of our brand partners to ensure we are carrying the right mix. This has included expanding our assortments with more premium materials and seasonal variations of key styles, as well as incremental marketing programs targeting female consumers — such as our #WeAreMore campaign. We also continue to connect with our target consumers via our #ShoesSoFresh campaign.”

The investment: “Our store remodel program is a critical part of our strategy to strengthen the brand position and fortify our customer connections. We rolled out a new store design last year and have 42 stores featuring this concept. We are finalizing plans for additional store remodels in the new year and will continue on the path to update a significant portion of the fleet.”

Sam Sato Finish Line Sam Sato. The Finish Line Inc.