NEW YORK — National Shoe Travelers is making a bigger push to support sales reps.
After donating $1.5 million to the Two Ten Footwear Foundation to establish a special fund for independent salesmen earlier this summer, NST aims to better aid struggling representatives, as well as boost membership in its organization.
“Everyone has an agenda, and ours is very simple: We want to help shoe reps,” NST President Mark Pecoraro said. “But to do that, we need to get our membership up so we can create more benefits for our people.”
The idea to partner with Two Ten came about when NST saw a decline in membership renewals. The group at one time had well over 1,000 members nationwide, but is now down to about 250 people. “Our industry got hit really hard with the consolidation of brands, jobs moving and lines being dropped,” said NST VP Terry Bastis. “Several of our members called and said they wanted to renew, but they didn’t have the money.”
With more funds earmarked specifically for reps, Two Ten director of development Kate Kaplan said the organization is in a better position to serve that sector of the industry. “There are special needs unique to shoe reps that don’t necessarily fall within our normal criteria,” she said.
With the demands of being on the road, independent salespeople typically require more financial assistance than retail associates or those at the factory level, she added. The most common needs among reps are funds for mortgages, rent and car payments.
“Shoe reps typically have to carry large amounts of credit on their cards to do business,” said Kate Alley, social services program manager for Two Ten. “Reps are having to cover greater territories and are taking on more of the debt personally.”
Through the new financial partnership with Two Ten, qualifying footwear sales reps can receive up to $5,000 in financial assistance per year. All recipients of the funds remain anonymous. Now that the resources are available for use, NST’s Pecoraro is hoping the Two Ten endowment will raise awareness among members.
“We had a spike in membership within a week of the announcement,” he said. “We’re headed in the right direction and we’re going to grow leaps and bounds over the next 12 to 18 months.”
Leading up to Two Ten’s 75th anniversary, President Neal Newman said this alliance with NST is part of a broader goal. “It’s one of the many partnerships we’re working on,” Newman said. “As we look for innovative ways to evolve our industry, we’re seeking out additional partnerships beyond NST.”