The Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) gathered movers and shakers in the industry on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., for the annual FDRA Innovation Summit. With so many major topics facing the industry — such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and the increasing see-now, buy-now consumer — there were plenty of key issues to debate and discuss.
TPP Under Pressure
The topic at the top of the FDRA agenda Tuesday was the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With a delegation of shoe executives headed to Capitol Hill today to lobby in favor of the trade deal, the morning was dedicated to scenarios that the deal could make it through Congress. As more eyes turn to the lame-duck session after the election to get the deal pushed through, the message from Rep. Dave Reichert and Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews was to stay focused on the necessity and urgency of the agreement’s passage. “We need you to share the facts about TPP — not just in Congress but in your communities,” said Andrews. “After all, the best arguments for trade agreements like TPP come from the American businesses and workers that will benefit from it each and every day.”
Executives were also making their TPP case at the Summit, with FDRA chairman of the board Rick Muskat, principle of Deer Stags Concepts Inc., calling the agreement “the right thing to do.” Rack Room Shoes CEO and president Mark Lardie spoke for the retailer perspective, saying, “We hope, and we think what will happen, is that instead of making less-expensive shoes that hopefully the designer finally gets his way and gets to put the leather or the synthetic that they wanted instead of compromising to on something else to get it in a certain price point. We’re not sure it will change the dynamic of margins or price point, but make more interesting product.”
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The Health of Athleisure
Sneakers and yoga pants aren’t going anywhere. Ed Rosenfeld, CEO and president of fashion-focused Steve Madden, said athleisure is less a trend as it is a sizable shift in how people approach fashion. “I don’t see it changing anytime soon. A lot of this is driven in the change in the way people are living,” said Rosenfeld, arguing more young shoppers were more focused on health and wellness. Additionally, FDRA president Matt Preist said that one of the new challenges with the athleisure trend was pushing customs and tariff rules to redefine what makes up a performance athletic shoe versus fashion sneaker.
3-D Printing, VR Get Big Buzz
It’s not new that retailers and brands seek new avenues of engagement with consumers. What is new is the lengths companies are willing to go to get that engagement. Wolverine Worldwide unveiled an early virtual-reality shopping prototype showing how close consumers actually are to being able to use their smartphone and an inexpensive VR headset and be immersed in the world of a brand.
Manufacturing also got its due, with HP 3D Printing lead Lee Dockstader on hand to unveil the brand’s new industrial 3-D printers. Thanks to 3-D scanning and printing, shoe brands highlighted the speed at which prototypes can come together and the reduction in production schedules to give consumers the see-now, buy-now product they want.
Chuck Todd Talks Politics
NBC News’ political director and host of “Meet the Press” delved into the nitty-gritty of the Donald Trump candidacy, offered a bit of insight on the resistance to trade deals and took time to explain why Washington just can’t get its act together.