Q&A: Antonio Lopez

Spanish footwear brand Pura Lopez, with roots dating back to 1956, is getting aggressive. The family company — started by Antonio Lopez Moreno and now controlled by brother-and-sister team Pura and Antonio Lopez — is turning to retail and the U.S. market to give the brand a boost and add to its worldwide list of nearly 1,500 accounts. Footwear News recently caught up with CEO Antonio Lopez during a visit to New York, where he scouted real estate for a potential U.S. shop, to discuss plans for making a push into branded retail, growing the Pura Lopez name and the impact of celebrity customers.

FN: What is in the works for retail growth at Pura Lopez?
AL: We are experimenting with shops with retail spaces and have started in Paris with a 350-sq.-ft. corner shop in Galleries Lafayette, which opened in July…. It’s our first self-managed retail space, and it’s working very well. [Beyond that,] we are looking for more spaces in New York, Madrid and other European capitals.

FN: Do you plan to open a certain number of shops in the coming year?
AL: No, I don’t have a goal. This is our first experience, and I want to [approach it carefully] because it’s expensive. But the response is very promising, and I am very enthusiastic about it. Having a shop in New York is a good opening into the U.S. market and getting the brand to become more important in the U.S.

FN: Why are you putting more emphasis on growing the U.S. market?
AL: A shop in the right place in New York will help people in the business know the product better and transmit the image of the product better. Normally, retailers don’t show the whole spirit of the brand and just pick a few items that get lost in the shop. Having a broader collection in our own shops, like we have in Paris, makes a big difference.
FN: Beyond opening Pura Lopez stores, what are you doing to draw attention to the brand?
AL: Reaching celebrities is very important. In the U.S., people seem to [see] themselves in celebrities. It’s a common phenomenon that happens everywhere, but it is most evident [in the U.S.]. Celebrities are probably one of the best ways to get the brand known. [Editorial attention] is also important, but it’s difficult and our company is not a big company.

FN: How are you taking what you’ve learned over the rough economic year and applying it to make the business stronger?
AL: We’re not relying 100 percent on third-party clients, and our retail efforts will be an important part of the strategy…. Having a mixture of our own retail distribution and third-party clients is much better. It’s difficult and expensive [to branch out beyond wholesale], but I think it will pay off in the end…. The collection looks very different when you see our showroom with the whole atmosphere and how we present [the whole line], compared to seeing just six or seven styles in a little shop. It’s very different.

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