How This Former JC Penney Exec Plans to Make a Mark at Footwear Unlimited

In our new column, Hire Up, FN checks in with new execs from companies across the industry to talk about leadership, strategy and burning industry issues.

Jodie Johnson is comfortable wearing many hats. The EVP of merchandising, digital and strategy for Footwear Unlimited, who joined the Fenton, Mo.,-based company in April, will be overseeing everything from product to developing retail partnerships for its stable of brands that include Andrew Geller, Lucca Lane, Baretraps and Wear Ever.

“I focused my entire career on things that interested me — people, analytics, and fashion,” said Johnson, who prior to joining the company served as GMM at JCPenney over multiple businesses including apparel, family footwear, accessories, cosmetics and salon. But it was footwear that turned out to be her passion, from product to its people.

Here, the executive talks about her career path and her commitment to learning every day.

How I Got Here:

“I was a small-town girl from South Louisiana who was open to new ideas and experiences. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a degree in marketing, I took a job in retail with Maison Blanche. From there, I went to work for Dillard’s in both its stores and buying office. I stayed in retail working for McRae’s, Proffitt/McRae’s, JCPenney and Belk. As a buyer, I led teams at both the DMM and GMM level across multiple categories including cosmetics, apparel, accessories and footwear.”

Big Goals:

“My goal is to stay passionate, curious and energized by what I do.  I want to be able to learn every day and add to the journey of others. These things are critical to delivering on the financial and people goals that are expected at Footwear Unlimited.”

Major Challenges:

“Keeping the balance in my life is my biggest challenge.  I’m most effective when I can equally balance my family, faith and company.”

Career Mentors:

“John Rimmer of Footwear Unlimited, who for the last 25 years believed in me; Mike Willhite, currently with Steve Madden, who taught me how to be a true servant leader; Carol Rountree, now retired, who taught me how to always be myself; Val Harris, with JCPenney, who taught me the art of listening.”

The Best Decision I Ever Made: “Getting into the footwear business 20 years ago.”

The Worst Decision I Ever made:

“Trying to become someone else’s definition of Jodie Johnson as my career advanced.  Early in my leadership development, I had a coach that wanted to temper and change my approach.  It was a highly unsuccessful year in both my effectiveness as a leader and the results of the team.  I decided I was fine being authentic and not advancing if this is what it took.”

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