Retailers Weigh In on Wellness

Bob Schwartz, owner, Eneslow, New York

How to resonate with consumers: “[One of] the most important things is limited distribution. [A brand can’t] be in every store in the U.S. Style, in the long run, is [also] overrated. It’s really about support and comfort, and someone who will train consumers on how to wear them.”

Marketing tactics: “We work with doctors to prescribe the right shoes for foot-related problems.”

Room for new players? “There’s room [if the brands] have some unique performance [technology] and the marketing to differentiate themselves.”

Chris Peake, director for performance and accessories, Zappos.com, Henderson, Nev.

How to resonate with consumers: “We’re having a tough time with toning because of oversaturation. [Product] differences [become] huge. [Brands] should have some [trendier] athletic-fashion looks, not just fitness styles. They must constantly offer fashion-forward colors and materials.”

Marketing tactics: “We’re doing more storytelling on the website, bringing the brand to life so consumers can educate themselves.”

Room for new players? “There’s still a market, and we’ll support it if it has legs. But [there’s not room] for a new brand. I think it’s done.”

Jed Berger, SVP of marketing, Modell’s, New York

How to resonate with consumers: “Female consumers have asked for footwear that helps with their toning and wellness needs. [It’s about] the right brands getting behind [the category] to bring it credibility and offer real results.”

Marketing tactics: “Brands — specifically Reebok and Skechers — have done a phenomenal job telling the story in any space we’ve given them, with graphics, store brochures, etc. Visits by tech experts [providing] demos have seen great results. But the best marketing is positive testimonials from other customers.”

Room for new players? “There’s always room for new players within a new performance technology. The response by female consumers has been too significant to ignore. And although Nike isn’t jumping into the toning market, its Lunar and Free technologies certainly have performance qualities that resonate with men and women looking to enhance their workouts or everyday routines. [But a technology’s] credibility is extremely important to consumer confidence.”

David Sajdak, manager/buyer, Stan’s Fit for Your Feet, Milwaukee

How to resonate with consumers: “It takes lots of ingenuity. Brands need to constantly reinvent themselves to adapt to changing [consumer demands]. Marketing is also key. Partnerships with brands and co-op opportunities are where we find brand growth.”

Marketing tactics: “We’re very involved with the medical community, [participating in] health fairs and working with doctors and patients. [Productwise], the category isn’t limited to rocker bottoms. Athletic shoes could fall into it as well.”

Room for new players? “We think so, but the barriers are great. Product innovation is what the consumer wants. Our [customers] demand something different with good value.”

Carol Crocker-Griggs, certified pedorthist, Laurie’s Shoes, St. Louis

How to resonate with consumers: “The most important thing is to have a product a company gets behind. There are huge marketing splashes out there, but the [technologies] are [often] fads.”

Marketing tactics: “We have MBT trunk shows, an MBT sign out front and [in-store] displays. Also everyone on our staff owns a pair.”

Room for new players? “There’s always room for growth, but a company must do extensive research and find a niche.”

Rick Ravel, president, Karavel Shoes, Austin, Texas

How to resonate with consumers: “Brands need to offer new colors, etc. Women are waiting for the next thing. They’re fashion-conscious.”

Marketing tactics: “We have one [sales] guy who loves New Balance [toning styles]. All you need is one to jump on the bandwagon. He’s probably sold 50 percent to 60 percent of them himself. Shoes don’t sell in the box; you have to get them on the customer. We also have a full MBT display with a video. MBT’s a valid product. It’s the original [rocker-bottom].”

Room for new players? “The business has dropped dramatically. The trend for rockers is over. It’s gone to tone-up styles. There may be room for new toning brands, but [if you] miss a craze, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.”

John Riker, owner, Eurowalk Shoes, Palo Alto, Calif.

How to resonate with consumers: “Brands need to make sure it’s not just about marketing, but that the product is the key [focus]. Consumers need to feel immediate comfort, support and stability. Styling is also important. [Companies must] make sure they’re creating an attractive shoe with nice details. But it has to be functional.”

Marketing tactics: “We have a lot of POP signs with technical information. And we have the Aetrex iStep scanner that shows hot points on the foot. It’s about good service, educated sales associates and presenting the shoes properly.”

Room for new players? “Everyone was trying to jump on [the trend] a year ago. Now I don’t think there’s much room for new players. The category can get diluted if there are too many brands.”


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