Shoes and candy make strange bedfellows for most people, but not for Dylan Lauren, founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar.
Speaking at the American Apparel & Footwear Association annual executive summit at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Lauren said both the footwear and candy industries lend themselves to a lot of innovation in product and retail experiences.
As with footwear, the candy industry is SKU-intensive, and each product takes up very little space. “That [creates the opportunity] to take merchandising the product to a new level, by making it art,” said Lauren, who was once inspired by a Converse store that merchandised shoes in the shape and color of a giant American flag.
Dylan’s Candy Bar has also collaborated with Rockport on a candy shoe design competition, and displayed the results in the store window during New York Fashion Week.
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Lauren said the success of her candy empire today would not have come about without gleaning inspiration from such diverse retail brands as Tommy Bahama, Sephora, Barbour, Converse and Ralph Lauren — and more than 30 trips to Disneyland.
From stores such as Uniqlo and J.Crew, Lauren learned that “color makes you buy more because if you like something, you want it in many different colors.”
From retailers like Toys ’R’ Us and the M&Ms store, she took pointers on how to make retail a fun, immersive experience.
And from her father, Ralph Lauren, she learned never to pay too much attention to the competition, “or it will make you sick.”
The effervescent Lauren charmed the executives in attendance, who wanted to know everything, from how she effectively manages perishable inventory to what her metabolic rate and fitness regimes were.
“Who’s your dentist?” inquired Kevin Burke, president of AAFA, to laughter in the room.
Lauren, who admits to tasting candy 24-7 and being especially partial to gummies, quipped to ensuing applause: “He told me anything could cause cavities, not just candy, and I like him for that.”