What’s in Store for the Footwear Industry? Experts Say Innovation

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The Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America just hosted a footwear materials and development innovation summit at N.C. State’s College of Textiles in Raleigh, and the consensus was unanimous — in order to thrive, the footwear industry needs to take some big steps forward in regard to innovation and technology-based advancements.

Among discussions of new innovations in materials and futuristic predictions about what’s to come (think everything from 3-D printing to designerless retail platforms, where the consumer takes the reins), there was also a call for turning attention back toward innovating with the basics.

Case in point: At the leather summit, Jeff Dougherty, director of materials at Wolverine World Wide Inc., urged brands and retailers to challenge themselves and their suppliers to create and develop new material, explaining that iterating on leather was lagging.

“The material itself doesn’t lend itself to a whole lot of innovation,” he commented. “But I still think we must challenge the industry — and ourselves — to keep looking for something that could change that.” Dougherty explained that Ecco’s new translucent leather represents that type of necessary innovation, offering a forward-thinking design solution.

Matt Priest, FDRA CEO and president, noted that while things like 3-D printing are exciting, inspiring thought on how to actually implement these types of technologies to shorten lead times and get innovative product to consumers at an accelerated rate remains critical.

“Looking toward the future with an eye on the past is how you always have to approach these things,” summed up Priest. “There is plenty of room for all of us to find a way — no matter what kind of content you use in your product.”

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