Infantino Keynotes NSRA Conference

Bob Infantino, who was recently tapped as president of New Balance’s DryDock Footwear group, opened the first session of the National Shoe Retailers Assocation’s annual leadership conference Tuesday in New Orleans, by encouraging retailers to reflect on the dramatic changes the business world has experienced over the years.

He singled out the story of Shirley Polykoff, an advertising executive who devised the tagline “Does She or Doesn’t She?” for Clairol. The catch phrase revamped the way society viewed women who died their hair at the time — largely as taboo — and consequently galvanized sales for the company and ushered in a new era of consumer products for women.

Infantino also noted how the jeans category used to be simple, with two major players offering basic looks, but today has evolved to include better materials, cut and fit, and brands that offer superior selection.

The point, he said, is that such changes came as a result of people knowing what the consumer would want and their willingness to embrace it. “Change doesn’t wait for anybody,” he said, “and we have to be prepared for it.”

Infantino said the roughly 150 independent retailers in attendance were experts at adapting to change. After all, they survived the recent recession, the slowdown in consumer spending and increases in products sold.

But there are still ways to get even better, he said, because “seventy percent of purchasing decisions are made at point of sale.”

He advised, “What are you doing about it? How are you presenting the store and the product to the consumer? Are you looking at things through their eyes? Show product to consumers in a way that will excite them, like Apple stores do. There are ways to tell stories and get people to think more about what’s in the shoes even before they try them on.”

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