NSRA Attendees Look for Opportunity

Moving past the downturn in the economy, footwear retailers at the biannual National Shoe Retailers Association conference, held Feb. 1 in Las Vegas, a day before the WSA Show, turned their attention to getting back on the path to growth.

“Growth means different things to different people,” said Ray Margiano, founder and CEO of Foot Solutions Inc. and NSRA conference chairman, speaking before a crowd of about 400 independent retailers. “Growth may mean just betting back to where you were before [the downturn]. Or it may mean just surviving.”

During a breakout session on multichannel retailing, Michael Lowenstein, SVP and senior consultant at Harris Interactive Stakeholder Relationship Consulting, told attendees that the Internet has helped to level the playing field with big-box players because size is largely irrelevant in the online realm. “From a multichannel perspective, scale is not an issue. Any company can do this,” he said.

Lowenstein encouraged attendees to create customer databases; enhance Websites with community functions, fresh content, reward programs, surveys and contests; and engage in two-way market strategies with consumers. “We’ve evolved past the era of push marketing,” he said. “We’re not even doing pull marketing. We’re in the era of dialogue.”

During a panel discussion about fresh ideas to increase business, Todd Lewis, treasurer of Shoe Fly Shoe Inc. in Tyrone, Pa., said he recently found success with a Soles4Souls shoe drive that rewarded consumers with a $5 gift certificate for each pair of worn shoes they donated to the charity. “It did make a big impact,” he said. “It’s good for business, good for the community and good for the world.”

Similarly, Jill Hathaway, owner of Hathaway Shoes, said she recently organized a charity promotion with other businesses in her community that garnered free publicity.

“Charities give you a great opportunity to get free marketing and free press,” she said.

Helping to illustrate that success can be found even in the worst of economic climates, the association named Tom Luck, president of Fairlawn, Ohio-based Lucky Shoes, as its Retailer of the Year.

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