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Retailers and Vendors at FFANY Share Their Challenges and Opportunities in 2020

A new year and decade are just weeks away, and with it come new opportunities and challenges for the footwear industry. While retailers and brands continue to wrestle with online versus brick-and-mortar sales, they agree either way they must deliver an exciting shopping experience in order to remain connected to their customers.

Here, retailers and companies attending this week’s Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) show, weigh in on the issues they face as 2020 approaches.

David Kahan, CEO, Birkenstock Americas

Biggest Challenge: “It’s retailers lacking vision. This isn’t to point fingers, but great brands need great retailers to think creatively about how to present product and how to engage their consumers. For brands, being transactional is just the foundation. Creating a strong emotional connection is key to future success.”

Biggest Opportunity: “The greatest opportunity for the industry lies in out-of-the- box thinking. We have a saying at Birkenstock, ‘We aren’t in the footwear business, we’re in the entertainment business. We aren’t in the shoe business, we’re in the show business. The stars of the show just happen to be the shoes.’ It’s a different way of thinking. Retail is thriving where brands create amazing engagement with their consumers and see them as fans. Creating this experience online, in-stores, and with retail partners is the greatest opportunity.”

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Denise Ajamian, owner, Birkenstock Depot, Huntington, N.Y:

Biggest Challenge: “Buying online, especially when prices are the same in store for brands I carry such as Birkenstock, Vionic, Naot, Dansko, Ugg, and Ecco. It’s also [means] shopping locally.”

Biggest Opportunity: “Customer service. Building relationships with customers and our communities by [initiatives] such as supporting [local] charities.”

Heather Esterline, lead buyer, women’s casual footwear:

Biggest Challenge: “Continuing to stay relevant in a competitive landscape and making sure we give customers what they are looking for at the right time and the right price.”

Biggest Opportunity: “Creating a connection with the customer that’s less transactional and more personal. We need to engage customers. They want information from us — both [about] brands and trends.”

Keith Barnett, president, Emu Australia

Biggest Challenge: “Presenting a point of view with [product] retailers don’t already have in their stores. It’s also about distribution online, whether its our ecommerce business or our partners’ — those with a [strictly] online business or brick-and-mortar stores with an online [presence]. It’s about partnerships and keeping a clean business.”

Biggest Opportunity: “Telling our ‘Ever Natural’ story — our tag line. We’re an Australian brand and our products and materials are authentic. We use Australian sheepskin and merino wool that’s sustainable and biodegradable in six months.”

Shoppers in New York
Shoppers in New York.
CREDIT: JASON SZENES/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

Lisa Mitchell, senior marketing manager, FitFlop:

Biggest Challenge: “Staying on top of the newest technologies. There’s so much noise and competition [especially] in our digital environment. We have to stay true to our brand and who we are as a company, and not try to be everything to everyone.”

Biggest Opportunity: “Continue on our path to develop products that inspire health and wellness to get people to be more active and feel that they’re living their best life. Our technologies and constructions allow people to wear our products all day long and be comfortable.”

Jason Rogowsky, president, Shoe Parlour, New York:

Biggest Challenge: “Getting people to walk into our door. They all want to shop from their homes. We need to create an experience they find unique and products that are only available in-tore and not online. By creating this experience, you create the foot traffic.”

Biggest Opportunity: “At the end of the day, story. They also need to be made in proper factories that are clean.”

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