5 Questions for Clarks’ Jim Salzano

Jim Salzano, newly appointed president of The Clarks Cos. N.A., is ready to take the company to a new level. Already one of the biggest privately held footwear firms in the world, Clarks is developing a new concept for all its stores and courting some new consumers.

1. Why was it important to develop a new concept for the Clarks stores?
JS: It’s an updated fixturing package globally, with participation from people from all over the Clarks world, in wholesale and retail. And the whole idea is for us to give a store experience that’s consistent for consumers all around the world. It’s updated and lighter and brighter. It’s much more appealing to the women’s consumer than our other store [concept] and tells a brand story rather than just a product story.

2. How are you telling the brand story?
JS: Through heritage. We’ve been around for 180 years. We have some great iconic product that speaks to [that history]. In these times, when there’s so much uncertainty, people want something that they know has been around and something they can rely on.

3. Does that also mean you have to guard your rights to the Desert Boot style name?
JS: We have people who do that. It’s interesting to see everyone’s version. In one way, we’re flattered [by the copies], but we are always careful to make sure our trademarks are used properly — or not used. Fortunately, we are the ones with the real Desert Boot, and it’s a great introduction to the brand for younger consumers.

4. Is targeting a younger consumer a focus for the brand right now?
JS: Yes, and we are using the [new store concept] to bring in younger customers. We’re continuing to do what we do, but targeting a younger consumer. And we’re spending a lot of time researching them and speaking to them, and developing new product for [them]. But this is a growth part of the business, not a shift.

5. What else is next for Clarks?
JS: We are developing a children’s business in North America that will have a very soft relaunch for fall ’12. That business is more established and proven in the U.K. We’ve demonstrated our capabilities in other parts of the world, and we’re just scratching the surface here.

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