New Stride Rite Prez Seeks to Expand Biz

NEW YORK — Sharon John is looking to broaden the reach of the Stride Rite Children’s Group.

The executive, who was most recently GM and SVP of global preschool at Hasbro Inc., will take the reins of the business on Jan. 4.

She succeeds Pam Salkovitz, who left the company earlier this month to head up Zigi, a women’s contemporary company (see story below).

John said connecting to consumers more effectively is one way she plans to build Lexington, Mass.-based Stride Rite’s stable of brands, which includes Stride Rite, Sperry Top-Sider Kids, Keds Kids, Jessica Simpson Kids and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as 350 Stride Rite retail stores.

“I am always there for retailers, but also for creating relationships with parents and kids,” she said. “Parents have memories of wearing [Stride Rite] themselves. [We need to] make sure kids want, enjoy and are attracted to it [as well].”

Also on her agenda is extending the appeal of the flagship brand to the fickle tween market.

“I know tweens quite well,” she said. “I helped pull them back into the toy industry. [I know] the tonality of [the messages] they respond to.”

Because this is John’s first position in the footwear business, she acknowledged that there will be a learning curve. However, executives at Collective Brands Inc. said her prior experience in the children’s market will give her an advantage.

“Sharon has a strong capability for infusing innovation and fun into the products and brands she manages,” said Gregg Ribatt, CEO of Collective Brands Performance and Lifestyle Group. “We are thrilled to have her join our team and to leverage her talents and expertise to continue the Stride Rite Children’s Group mission to be the preeminent footwear company for kids.”

And according to John, her connection with the children’s market goes beyond her professional role. With three children of her own, she often uses them as a mini-focus group.

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