Set against a bleak backdrop of store closings that could top 8,600 this year and tepid store traffic for the footwear industry in the first quarter, Blake Krueger got very blunt: “Burn down the boats.”
The chairman, CEO and president of Wolverine World Wide urged a room packed with top executives at the FN CEO Summit to rethink how they move their businesses forward.
“The tsunami of change will continue to build,” he warned. “So how do you win in this new normal?”
For starters, Krueger said companies must own the path to the consumer by “maniacally” focusing on them. Businesses must also protect their brands, actively engage in direct-to-consumer and e-commerce models, as well as work with successful retailers.
Even better, Krueger said companies that make major shifts in their cultural, operational and process structures would remain standing.
For Wolverine, that meant taking a “big bang” approach.
In particular, Krueger said the multibrand company has embarked on a 12-month transformation path that consists of 1,200 initiatives spanning “four sprint lanes.”
The executive said his team is focused on “what we can control,” such as operational excellence and a more agile business model. Wolverine executives are also refining growth for each of its 12 brands through e-commerce and international segments. In addition, Krueger said he is continually evaluating the company’s brand portfolio.
“Focus on the core brands with strong profitability and growth potential,” he said. “We are going to rewire the company. We are starting from scratch and looking at everything we do.”