Top Shoe Industry Leaders on the Biggest Issues Facing the Business in 2019

From U.S.-China trade policies to new social movements, there were many issues that impacted the industry in 2018. And many of these ramp up even more this year.

Here, FN talks to the founders, CEOs and designers behind many of the biggest companies in the business on what they think will continue to be the most pressing topics this year.

“The thing that will most define 2019 will be the speed of disruption and the pace of our consumers — they’re going faster and faster. As retailers, as businesspeople, we have to keep up with them.” – Dick Johnson, President and CEO, Foot Locker

“While global trade policy will likely capture a lot of the headlines, the ongoing transformation of the consumer and the digital marketplace is one of the huge issues that will impact our industry. Brand owners and retailers need
to continue to invest in the tools, talent and skillsets to effectively connect with the consumer. This ‘new normal’ environment is spreading to the global consumer in virtually all markets, and global brands will have to
be nimble and ready to take advantage of this evolution.” – Blake Krueger, CEO and President, Wolverine Worldwide Inc. 

“I see innovation and disruption from small, emerging brands still being an important retail trend. Customers have a growing appetite for newness and are always on the hunt for the new ‘hot’ brand. I also envision more and more brands committing to sustainability. Regarding footwear, shoes are going back to being more of a complement to the outfit and not overpowering it. Think about nude sandals or seemingly minimal pumps. The focus is on details, especially on the heel.” – Federica Montelli, Head of Fashion, La Rinascente

“The economy.” – Bob Campbell, Chairman and CEO, BBC International

“Tar is create a level of uncertainty for our industry, but the biggest issue of the coming year and beyond continues to be the changing retail landscape. Digital business continues to grow, and as brands have gone direct- to-consumer, it’s created challenges for traditional retailers. But brick- and-mortar is still vital, especially in footwear, and DSW is working to create differentiating services and experiences that give the customer a compelling reason to visit, creating emotional loyalty.” – Roger Rawlings, CEO, DSW Inc.

“Brexit.” – Neil Clifford, CEO, Kurt Geiger

No one can ignore the U.S. and China trade tensions. The question is how we’ll navigate it and what it will mean for our industry. We’ll have to work harder at more production diversification within our factory base and look for other innovative practices to bring the best price/value to the consumer.” – Jimmy Gabriel, President of Footwear, North America, Global Brands Group

“Brands will need to pay attention
to three things: 1. Invest
in your current and future employees instead of waiting for them to be ready to contribute or be hired when you need them; 2. Focus on defining ways to talk to your consumers di erently so you can make emotional connections to increase consumer loyalty; 3. Be innovative in how you control your revenue destiny. If you continue to rely on a product to help you grow, you won’t.” – D’Wayne Edwards, Founder, Pensole Footwear Design Academy

“We are going to see luxury brands begin to re-examine the digital landscape and pivot from a once-product-centric model to one that is consumer-centric.” – Paul Andrew, CEO & Chief Creative Officer, Paul Andrew; Creative Director of Women’s Collections, Salvatore Ferragamo

“The trade war with China, a possible recession looming and the question of whether brands can achieve a clean market- place where there is brand and price integrity.” – Evan Cagner, President and CEO, Synclaire Brands

“Scaling internationally. We’re for- tunate to be gaining global awareness, but as a startup, being able to create a great customer experience inter- nationally is a challenge.” – Michael Schaffer, Co-founder, Nobull

“The biggest issue I see for brands relates to how they manage their distribution. Brands that chase trends and that do not practice discipline
will continue to lose share to those who methodically man- age their points of distribu- tion. Heritage brands that stay true to their DNA yet innovate in creative ways and maintain their equity will gain consumer confidence and demand.” – David Kahan, CEO, Birkenstock Americas

“Trade is still a huge issue that we’re tracking closely and expect the industry will continue to deal with in 2019. While the current administration’s additional 25 percent [tariff] increase on top of the existing tax on running shoes seems to be on pause for the moment, we understand that there is no total resolution to trade disputes between the U.S. and China — where we manufacture many of our products. The trade war is incredibly disruptive to our business and our partners. We are actively assessing our options.” – Dan Sheridan, EVP, GM of Global Sales, Brooks Running Co.

will always be the burning issue. We’re working hard to develop styles that appeal to a younger consumer, while continuing to bring quality comfort shoes to the tradi- tional Mephisto consumer and remaining true to the DNA of our brand.” – James Rowley, Mephisto USA

“We’re tempted to say tariffs, but it’s bigger than that. We need stronger leadership that’s willing to reach across the aisle and to move forward on the many issues that this country faces, including trade.” – John Florsheim, President and COO, Weyco Group

We’re tempted to say tariffs, but it’s bigger than that. We need stronger leadership that’s willing to reach across the aisle and to move forward on the many issues that this country faces, including trade.” – John Florsheim, President and COO, Weyco Group

“My concern is the [new] Congress and the political climate it will cause, [and the] potential effect on trade deals and the consumer psychology. Hopefully, there won’t be too much disruption in the current economic climate that’s pretty strong. There’s the old saying, ‘Peace brings profit, and profit brings peace.’” – Michael DeVirgilio, President, Marquee Brands

“The tariffs on shoes. I kept positive all these times, but if they really happen, we will have a lot of juggling to do.” – Joe Ouaknine, Chairman, Titan Industries

“2019 is going to come with a renewed sense of hope for a lot of the creative community. The political situation in America has weighed heavy on a lot of us, and I believe we will collec- tively breathe a sigh of relief to see some great Democratic nominees step up to the plate for 2020. It’s wild how much the climate has impacted the design landscape, whether people chose to acknowledge it or not.” – Aurora James, Creative Director and Founder, Brother Vellies

“Helping to end gun violence through passing legislation for universal background checks.” – Blake Mycoskie, Founder, Toms

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