Eye on 2009

Matt Rubel, CEO of Collective Brands Inc.
“We believe the consumer will be cautious in the early part of 2009, but as things even out, we should see a solid second half. Consumer sentiment is as low as it can go.”

Connie Rishwain, president of Ugg and Simple, Deckers Outdoor Corp.
“I’m optimistically cautious. We experienced a good year for our company in a very tough economic time, and we hope that can continue. We’re very careful about our strategies and not wavering from our vision. I believe we’re on the right path. You’ve got to give customers a reason to buy and give them freshness every season, and we’re doing that.”

Larry Tarica, president and COO of Jimlar
“We expect policies to be crafted that will help the overall economy and help consumers feel better about footwear. Right now, there’s a pricing paradigm —there is a significantly higher supply than demand, so the price is driven down. Hopefully there will be some price stabilization. Overall demand [in 2009] should be flat or probably shrink. When business is good, we try to increase market share. When business is bad, we try to increase market share. We believe companies that are financially strong ought to be able to perform well, even in difficult times. We had double-digit growth in 2008, and we expect double-digit growth in 2009.

Tom Nelson, president of Ecco’s U.S. division
“The No. 1 word is unpredictable. This is the most unpredictable marketplace that any of us have ever faced. In 2009, flat is the new up. If you’re flat, you’re a hero. Companies that were struggling will continue to struggle. Stable companies will be able to ride it out. You have to offer retailers an exciting assortment.”

Tom Florsheim, CEO of Weyco Group
“The first half of 2009 is going to be tougher than that period in 2008. I don’t see consumers coming back in the first half of 2009. The challenge is that the consumer isn’t in the mood or doesn’t have the capacity to shop. The opportunity is in further consolidation. For a company with a good balance sheet, there is opportunity for an acquisition.”
Steve Hill, VP of merchandising at Zappos.com
“We’re expecting 2009 to be better than 2008. We’re seeing growth in our business and expect that to continue. The biggest challenge in the shoe industry and retail in general will be inspiring customers to purchase without [promotions], given the overall economic climate. The industry needs to give customers compelling reasons to buy regular-price merchandise. We will continue to offer an exceptional customer experience to keep our customers returning.”

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