AAFA Panel: What Keeps Execs Awake at Night?

Footwear executives face a host of challenges, from changing consumer behavior and the impact of social media to counterfeiting and compliance.

During a wide-ranging panel discussion on Tuesday, Steve Lamar, EVP of the American Apparel & Footwear Association, quizzed two execs on their biggest concerns now and in the future.

David Miller, CEO of Minnetonka Moccasin, noted that one of his main focuses is operating his family-owned company. “What keeps me up at night is the responsibility of keeping this engine we built going,” he said. “It’s about the employees and making sure that their best interests are looked after.”

He also shared the social media strategy for his firm, which was slow to jump in but is now working hard to engage authentically with its fans. However, Miller pointed out the online space can be a double-edged sword. “It’s given people a platform they didn’t have before, so someone who’s unhappy can make a lot of noise,” he said. To address any issues, Minnetonka responds quickly, and Miller himself will contact perhaps five people per week.

His firm also has struggled with the issue of knockoffs and has found success by working with countries like Japan to block imports from questionable factories. “And online, there are companies that will monitor your brand,” Miller said. “It’s costly, but we can’t afford not to do it.”

Josue Solano, EVP and COO of BBC International, said the end user is top of mind for him. “The consumer is changing and their shopping patterns. What’s driving that is technology,” he said. “They have a lot of choices in where they can go to shop. And as they become more demanding, it adds up to a complex set of problems for us as provider.”

Solano pointed out that BBC also spends a great deal of time thinking about compliance, in terms of social as well as environmental and chemical. “As a company that makes a lot of children’s shoes, that’s very important to us,” he said. “As things get tough, factories will look to cut corners, so it’s important to maintain control over your entire supply chain.” BBC has an internal team dedicated to the subject, according to Solano, and has standardized the company’s policies.

Looking ahead, Solano predicted that the changing climate in China will be an increasingly big concern for the industry. “We have to get ahead of it in the next 24 months, or we’re going to run into problems,” he said.

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