LAS VEGAS — Staying connected to consumers is more important than ever in a challenging economy, and it is also a way for independents to stand out.
That was the message from Chris Quinn, EVP of North American sales at New Balance, who was the keynote speaker at the National Shoe Retailers Association Conference on July 8, the day before the WSA Show opened.
“There’s lots of pressure on consumers today,” Quinn told the crowd. “The sit-and-fit store is the heart and soul of the consumer experience. Let them come to a haven.”
Following the address, a breakout session on passing the torch to the next generation, led by psychotherapist Gary Shunk from Loyola University, noted the challenges of inheriting a business.
“There’s a natural and normal conflict between generations,” he said, adding that younger and older members have different perspectives on taking the business forward. “There are challenges of passing the torch. The next generation has their own vision.”
While many attendees were retail veterans, Maurice Breton, president of Comfort Management Corp., advised newcomers about the importance of maximizing the show experience in another breakout session.
“Don’t fall in love with sizes, categories, lines and silhouettes,” he said, stressing the importance of keeping an open mind when shopping the floor.
He also encouraged fellow buyers to attend regional shows in markets outside of their own areas to get a fresh perspective.
Finally, Bob Schwartz, president and CEO of Eneslow Pedorthic Enterprises, led a session on the opportunities in the rocker-bottom category.
He stressed the potential of educating and connecting with doctors about the trend, noting that since his stores started aggressively reaching out to the medical commmunity, it now receives about five referrals a week, compared with previously obtaining two.