Footwear Players Debate Hot Issues at FN Platform

Barack Obama and Mitt Romney aren’t the only ones battling it out for votes this week.

Key footwear players gathered in Las Vegas on Monday, the day before FN Platform kicked off, to discuss burning topics ranging from staff training and vendor/retailer relationships to the impact of technology and sourcing challenges. The event, dubbed “The Shoe’Nited States Debate” was sponsored by the United States Retailer Association and set up as a mock candidate debate.

Panelists included Earth Inc. President Gary Champion; New Balance EVP Chris Quinn; and independent retailers Gary Hauss, president of J. Stephens Shoes; and Perry Miroballi, owner of Miroballi Shoe Stores Inc.

With an uncertain economy and pricing challenges in China, panelists stressed that retailers and vendors need to focus on forging closer relationships.

“Retailers shouldn’t just ask for more favorable terms,” Champion said. “Instead, they should work to [more effectively] partner with their vendors [to address major issues].”

Hauss and Miroballi also emphasized the importance of sales training and regular staff reviews.

“Your managers need to know your mission,” Miroballi said, adding that his store dedicates significant time to employee reviews and making sure everyone is on the same page in terms of service.

“We shop our own stores and work the floor,” said Hauss, noting that he made staffing changes after “secret shopping” his own locations. “That has made a big difference.”

On the vendor side, Quinn said the New Balance team has always worked to provide top-notch service to its independent retail accounts.

“We provide robust, regular service to our retailers,” he said. “The future for independent reps is great.”

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