How Famous Footwear Overcame Retail Challenges & Ended Up Having A Great Year

Famous Footwear, like many retailers, entered 2018 facing more competition from digital powerhouses, brands selling straight to consumers and changes in shopping habits. Moreover, the longtime head of the chain, Rick Ausick, retired — all moves that could have thwarted the best-laid corporate plans.

But the family footwear retailer easily beat back those challenges, thanks to the smart pick of successor Molly Adams, who in May became president of the Caleres Inc.-owned entity.

Adams and team kept the retailer rolling by focusing on customer engagement, boosting store productivity and broadening its omnichannel efforts.

That focus has paid off. In the second quarter of 2018, the retailer registered $429.5 million in sales, up 6.1 percent in a tough retail climate. Same-store sales, meanwhile, also rose 2.6 percent, thanks to healthy performances from women’s sandals and athletic-inspired footwear.

“In the few short months I’ve been with Caleres and Famous Footwear, I am more enthusiastic than ever about both the power and the potential of this brand,” said Adams. “We have fantastic product and great people, and we will continue to be absolutely obsessed with connecting with customers who share our passion for shoes.”

Here are five other reasons why Famous Footwear is having a standout year.

1. A fearless focus on e-commerce.

Sensing a lasting shift in consumer behavior, the retail giant made significant improvements across its digital platforms. In particular, it moved to a mobile-first design. According to the firm, that made it “an easy and seamless experience” for people to buy shoes. Sales on Famous’ e-commerce platform were up 15 percent through the end of September 2018.

2. More engaging storytelling.

The chain, long known for connecting with female shoppers, made its messaging more emotional across all platforms: on brand landing pages, in personal social media stories and in all other touch points. “Finding the right pair of shoes is the spark that makes you walk taller and smile wider,” said Adams. “We’ve connected with customers better than ever this year through our storytelling.”

3. Getting their kicks.

The super-hot sneaker trend hasn’t slowed at all this year; it’s simply moved from being performance-based to more lifestyle-oriented. To meet the demand, Famous Footwear called on key vendors to offer shoppers a larger selection of athletic shoes made with knits and textured fabrics. Additionally, it benefited during the all-important back-to-school season from high demand for Vans sneakers.

4. Fulfilling the need for speed.

Famous Footwear has capitalized on trends as fast as the best retailers. Case in point: The chain bought heavily into color trends such as classic black and white, and pinks that ranged from blush to burgundy. “If it was in any shade of pink, we sold it,” said Adams. “We believed in these color trends and invested in them early, and it continues to pay off.”

5. Managing talent.

The company has long prided itself on having a deep roster of personnel. And with more than 1,000 stores in the U.S., Famous banks on well-trained associates who are the chain’s face to the consumer. “Without their expertise and enthusiasm for giving every customer a great experience in our stores, nothing else we do would really matter,” said Adams. “We’re very fortunate to have terrific associates and a fantastic field leadership team.”

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