Why the Top Women in Shoes Are Focusing on Digital First in 2017

The footwear industry is undergoing seismic change and tremendous challenges, but savvy power players see plenty of opportunity. Here, three leading women talk about their priorities for the year ahead. At the top of their list? Digital initiatives and consumer-centric initiatives. Read on for more from Diane Sullivan, Liz Rodbell and Kristina Blahnik.

Diane Sullivan, CEO, president and chairman, Caleres Inc.

The opportunity: “To take this fantastic [Allen Edmonds] acquisition we just made and integrate it with our company — and grow it and meet the targets that we set. In our Famous Footwear business, we’re focusing on our high-value customer and trying to engage her.”

The challenge: “It’s about reading and reacting to the market at the right pace. It always comes back to the consumer and building that emotional connection.”

The investments: “We’ve spent about $32 million over the last two years so that we can respond to customers faster. All of the work around omnichannel and mobile — and allowing our customers to shop when and how they want — has been a tremendous investment. And we’ve invested in talent and our people, which we think is critical. At the end of the day, it’s the people that make the difference in the company. Continuing to work on store expansion has also been a pretty significant expenditure.”


Two Ten Fundraising Event
Liz Rodbell
CREDIT: George Chinsee.

Liz Rodbell, president, Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor

The opportunities: “The biggest one in footwear continues to be newness. [We want] to ensure that designers continue to utilize their creativity and offer great fashion for our customers. As we think about our world moving so quickly, the other opportunity for us is our speed to market and how quickly we respond to emerging ideas. It’s an exciting time because fashion is working. Another opportunity we are focused on is exclusive and differentiated product.”

The challenges: “Whenever there is an opportunity, there’s a challenge to make sure you deliver. So to just make sure we are on top of those big ideas and delivering it to our customer. So far every indication is that we are on the right direction.”

The investments: “We continue to evolve our storytelling in the digital space, and we want to make sure we are maximizing all the marketing channels.”

Kristina Blahnik
Kristina Blahnik

Kristina Blahnik, CEO, Manolo Blahnik International

The opportunities: “It’s about telling the story of Manolo and the whole legacy that he has built alongside my mother and the team around him. Part of that is ‘The Art of Shoes in Residence’ [retrospective] starting in Milan. We want to use that as a platform to tell the story of Manolo’s creativity and his passion for shoes. We also want to tell stories through new stores: There’s one opening in Japan in the Ginza area [this spring]. We want to bring more people into the world of Manolo and get them to understand who he is, what we’re about and what our core values are.”

The challenges: “Managing all of our diaries in terms of travel and preparing for the exhibitions. Manolo is very hands-on.”

The investment: “We want to invest in people, both internally and also externally, with our partners, our wholesale accounts, our franchisees. I see it more as a community. We all have a passion that drives us. It’s all about nurturing the people we work with.”

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