When Joe Moore took his first job in the shoe business, he wasn’t thinking of a long-term career. He was simply looking to pay his way through college. But the footwear industry has a way of drawing you in, he said.
“In the beginning, it was [just] a job for me, but I quickly came to love it, and I never left,” said the 77-year-old, who retired as head of FFANY earlier this year, capping a storied career during which he made an indelible mark on both the business and philanthropy worlds.
Moore, who was raised in small-town Indiana, got that first job at 19, selling children’s footwear at Trippets Shoes in Tulsa, Okla., before moving to Los Angeles in 1957 and landing a position at the now-defunct Bullock’s department store. After six months on the selling floor, where he waited on some of the biggest movie stars of the day, Moore was promoted to buyer, the youngest in the retailer’s ranks.
He eventually caught the eye of the legendary Stanley Marcus, who was looking for someone to pump up the salon business at Neiman Marcus. Moore enjoyed the job’s jet-set lifestyle and the freedom that was afforded him. “At most department stores at the time, footwear was not a very prestigious category. But Stanley happened to like shoes and gave us a lot of leeway to experiment,” Moore said. Among the brands Moore brought to Neiman were Salvatore Ferragamo and Charles Jourdan. Jourdan recognized Moore’s talent and tapped him to run his U.S. business in 1972.
Moore spent 19 years with the French fashion label, building annual sales to $100 million. Under the direction of son Roland Jourdan, he adapted the collection for an American audience and collaborated with legendary photographer Guy Bourdin on avant-garde ad campaigns. “We had a great run. The footwear was beautiful, and demand for it just grew and grew,” Moore recalled.
After the company was sold and sales began to decline, Moore headed to Saks Fifth Avenue to consult on special projects. His biggest success came when then-boss Phil Miller asked him to make something of the retailer’s two clearance stores. Under the Off Fifth moniker, Moore grew Saks’ outlet business to nearly 50 stores and a staggering $300 million in revenue within just three years. “Off Fifth met with a lot of criticism, particularly internally, because there was concern it would damage the [core] Saks brand. But it turned out to be a big win for Saks and something that remains a huge growth vehicle for the company today,” he said.
In 1999, the second act of Moore’s long career began when FFANY tapped him to replace retiring chairman Dick Jacobson. In his new role, Moore quickly homed in on the fledgling Shoes on Sale charity, believing it could be much bigger. But even he didn’t imagine just how big: To date, the annual fundraiser, heading into its 22nd year, has contributed more than $45 million to the fight against breast cancer.
Mike George, CEO of QVC Inc., which has partnered on Shoes on Sale for two decades, said much of that success is owed to Moore’s singular vision and steadfast commitment. “He has been an inspiration to everyone involved over the years, as he was able to rally an entire industry [around the] cause,” George said.
While at FFANY, Moore also made the savvy move to include retailers on the organization’s board. “It changed the dynamic,” Moore said. “FFANY had always been driven by the wholesalers, but I thought, ‘Why not involve the customers and give them a chance to speak up?'” In addition, he spearheaded initiatives such as FFANY365, the trade show’s virtual platform, and a shoemaking workshop series in partnership with Italy’s Ars Sutoria school.
Designer Vince Camuto said Moore stands out for his passionate championing of the shoe business. “Joe’s commitment to the industry has been inspiring,” Camuto said. “He [helped] transform the business and give greater visibility to footwear within department stores. His legacy will live on through his work and charitable initiatives.”