Why Shoe Executives Are Feeling Optimistic About Business in 2018

Footwear industry players attending FN Platform trade show in Las Vegas last week sounded off on the tax cut impact, the international game and the tricky year ahead.

Here is what they had to say:

CEO, Clarks

Opportunities ahead: “We have a representation across the globe in over 100 countries. We’re moving forward with the attitude of one brand, one team, one voice — and creating a global organization. We want to be agile, but you can only do that if you have the right systems, the right communication and the right culture. So we’re in the process of modifying our culture.”

Retail strategy: “From a global perspective, we can’t decide where the consumer wants to shop, so we just need to make sure we’re available [wherever they are]. It’s about understanding which of our sub-brands are appropriate for the various channels. We don’t care whether we sell through our own stores, a digital platform, independents or department stores. It really doesn’t matter.”

Sari Ratsula
Sari Ratsula
CREDIT: Courtesy photo.

President, Seychelles and BC Footwear

Business outlook: “I’m excited about the balance of 2018. Our spring shoes have started to sell well, which gives retailers extra confidence. And we had fantastic FFANY and Magic shows for both brands. We were pretty much jam-packed the first two days [in Vegas] and had a steady flow of customers on the last day.”

Tax cut impact: “My gut feeling is that the tax cuts will not have a significant impact on our business as there are so many other areas where people need to spend their money.”

Opportunities ahead: “To start talking more about what our brands are about and what makes us who we are. There are so many things we do to add value to our consumers’ lives and our retailers’ businesses. We have taken them for granted and assumed that people know about them, but they do not.”

Evan Cagner Synclaire
Evan Cagner
CREDIT: Joshua Scott

President & CEO, Synclaire Brands

Business outlook: “It’s not business as usual. There’s a new normal, and you have to be aware of it, you have to be able to react quickly, and you have to add value. If you don’t bring value, it’s really easy for the customer today to see that and not want what you have. I think the retail/wholesale engine of the past hid a lot of that.”

The retail reality: “The elephant in the room is that retailers are closing stores, not opening them. But they still have stores, and there are still customers who are shopping. And more business is being done in those stores than not. But looking five, 10, 15 years out, if current trends continue, we’re in a different place. We all have to be prepared for that.”

Tax cut impact: “The tax plan is really a tax plan for the corporations; it’s not a tax plan for the general public. The good news is that public markets won’t allow public companies to sit on the cash. They have to put that cash into action, which means more acquisitions or investments back into businesses.”

Don Weiss, co-owner, president; Blowfish

Co-owner, Blowfish Malibu

Opportunities ahead: “We are concentrating on two main areas: Europe and the kids’ market. The next step for us, which might not happen in 2018, is licensing.”

Tax cut impact: “It’s funny how that’s offset by Chinese currency going the wrong way. All the shoes that we buy now cost more. So there’s a tangled web in that tax cut equation. But a $39 shoe is a $39 shoe whether you get a good tax return or not. So [because of our prices], it doesn’t [affect us in the same way].”

Areas of growth: “We are seeing more sales this year because of sneakers. We’ve shipped over 1.4 million pairs in a year. It’s a similar scenario with kids’ product. This year, we will triple our sales [in the category].”

President, Coolway/Musse & Cloud

Business outlook: “That’s a tough question. We are always best in fall. We’ve diversified our product and our collection, and it’s going to be strong. We are trying to make [Musse & Cloud] a sophisticated juniors’ brand. We’ve added flats as well for additional business. I’ve also made a change in our sales department. I had six reps, and now I’m handling the whole country with my brother. Our focus is more narrowed on the right group of shoes.”

Consumer confidence: “I don’t think people are spending more. But as long as the shoes are special, the quality is good and the design is right, people will still buy.”

FFANY 2016 Cocktail Party
Andrew Kiernan
CREDIT: George Chinsee.

COO, United Nude

Business outlook: “I’m positive — if we can keep [rolling out] high-quality product and be sensitive with our price points.”

Tax cut impact: “It’s primordial economics. If people have more money in their paychecks, they will be open to consuming. Big-name conglomerates should not be getting as much glad-handing as they are. I’m all for tax breaks for the consuming masses.”

Trade show conundrum: “[Our goal] is to influence the [fashion players] around the world to sit down to dinner and work out a calendar that helps, not hinders, our troubled industry. Putting Micam in Milan, Pure London, Platform in Las Vegas and New York Fashion Week on the same days in February 2018 lacks all kinds of vision or understanding of their members/clients. Our industry needs cohesion and strategy — not further self-inflicted wounds.”

CEO, Aetrex Worldwide

Overall mood: “More optimistic. For the first time in a while, the wind is at our back instead of in front of us. We’re sensing that the economy is getting better and that people are back a little more investing in their business.”

Areas of growth: “Our shoe business is way up for spring, and early indicators for fall ’18 are strong too. We’re up over 20 percent in footwear, so that’s encouraging. In our technology business, we grew last year, but a little less. We had a delay in our hardware product, so it hurt the numbers a little bit. But right now, we’re off to a great start.”

Tax cut impact: “I think you’ll see companies investing more because they want to grow, they want to get better. It might take a year or two to feel the impact, but I believe it’s going to be very positive for the country.”

President, J/Slides

Overall mood: “Very positive. We had a great 2017 season, and I think 2018 is going to be even better.”

Opportunities ahead: “We’re revamping our whole website, tying in social media. That’s been a growth area for this business. We started [e-comm] in 2016, but 2017 was very strong, and we’re planning to double our website business in 2018. Just last month, we put some spring shoes up on the site, and we doubled our business from last January.”

Retail strategy: “I held off on delivering [spring ’18] shoes to stores in December and January because they sit around. The stores, they’re not ready for spring or resort then. I wanted to start delivering in February. In my analysis, right after President’s Day weekend, that’s when customers start shopping.”

Want More?

January Retail Sales Show Biggest Monthly Decline in Nearly a Year

Did Pensole Just Produce the Next Great Sneaker Designer?

Why the Winter Olympics Don’t Move the Needle for Shoe Sales

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content