FN Platform Preview

Magic International’s upcoming FN PLATFORM trade show, debuting Feb. 16-18 in Las Vegas, will bring together the footwear industry in a way the show has never done before.

“This is the tipping point [where everything will] be at the same place at the same time in a way that’s convenient for buyers,” said Leslie Gallin, VP of footwear for MAGIC. “From a buyer’s standpoint, you should be able to see that entire marketplace sitting together.”

More than 500 brands have already signed on to exhibit at the event, covering approximately 60,000 square feet of space.

A number of special events are also slated to take place during FN PLATFORM. On Tuesday night, show organizers have teamed up with YP for 210, a networking group of young professionals created by Two Ten Footwear Foundation, for a bowling benefit at The Orleans Hotel. A men’s buyer’s breakfast is scheduled for the second morning of the show to encourage men’s buyers to see the breadth of product available for male consumers. Later that same day, at 2 p.m., 29 companies celebrating milestone anniversaries will be honored in the FN PLATFORM lounge.

On Feb. 16, NPD Group Chief Industry Analyst Marshal Cohen will host an educational session titled “Welcome to the New World.” And Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh will deliver the keynote address on Feb. 17, titled “Delivering Happiness.”

Here, Gallin discusses footwear trends, what brands need to do to stand out in today’s difficult retail market and how buyers can best make use of the show.

FN: How are buyers feeling going into fall ’10?
LG: People are optimistic. If you have product that makes people go “ooh” and “ah,” it will get attention, and that’s what the buyers are looking for. The economy is starting to ease up a little bit. There is starting to be a little rosier picture, and people are looking to move forward, but cautiously.

FN:  What do brands need to do to stand out right now?
LG: They have to be different, grab somebody’s attention. In tough economic times, people are going to replace what they need. Quality is also important, as is price. We all need to go back to the old values that made these historic companies successful. Salvatore Ferragamo was successful in the beginning because he delivered a fashionable, quality product.

FN: What footwear segments are performing best right now?
LG: Boots are going to continue. When you look at the clothing, the jeans are straight-legged. Those are comfortable for women to wear, and the shoes are going to be compatible. Distressed-looking product is good for these times, as well. And platforms are here to stay for a while.

FN: What advice would you give to buyers as they prepare for the show?
LG:  Walk the floor. Buyers: Do your job and your cash register will ring. Look in every single booth. The booth you pass by may be the one that has the hottest, newest thing. Make the time to be there.

Sounding Off
Vendors and buyers weigh in on the upcoming FN PLATFORM show at MAGIC.
Darin Kraetsch, CEO, Flip Flop Shops
Expectations: “We are anxious to discover some new and exciting fashion brands that might fit for Flip Flop Shops.”
Trends: “We are anticipating a lot of color this year, a lot of different shades of color, and we think that less is more. We think we’re going to see a lot of the brands focusing on more classic styles.”

Matt Bernson, designer and owner, Matt Bernson Shoes
Expectations: “Our expectations are very high. A lot has gone into coming up with new concepts for FN PLATFORM, and great brands are participating, so we are preparing very heavily for it.”
On Vegas: “It’s an extremely exciting place because everybody converges from around the country for this one event, and there are options for those working and then for after-hours. There are so many events going on; there’s nonstop excitement.”

Fraser Ross, owner, Kitson
Trends: “Boots, really just a lot of boots. And clogs, as well.”
On Vegas: “[I like] seeing all the international buyers and what they’re buying because that’s the only place you get to see them. Also, it’s only a 40-minute plane ride from Los Angeles.”

Cindy Traub, president, Cindy Says
Trends: “I’m continuing to see over-the-knee boots. We’re going to do them a little bit differently — a lot of cutouts and laser work. I continue to see heels dominate. We’re trying to make them very wearable and appealing to a broader spectrum of customers. We’re also trying to add as many comfort features as possible. I think this tribal influence is going to continue, mostly in color — the tans and neutrals.”
On Vegas: “From our perspective, it’s a pretty easy show to participate in. It’s easy to navigate, easy to get around. For us, we’re going to go where our customers are putting the emphasis.”

Jim Bosco, president, Bos & Co.
Expectations: “People are much more upbeat. [We] heard that the MAGIC show was going to have a fresh presentation. People are looking for different companies and more products. We’re very excited about it.”
Trends: “Footwear with a story — and especially the eco-friendly footwear — is getting a very positive consumer reaction. There have been a lot of innovations in materials, [such as] boiled wool, [which is] environmentally friendly. There’s a lot of excitement about that material being used in boots.”

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