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CEOs on Coronavirus: Ariat International’s Beth Cross on How Consumers’ Values Are Changing

In a new series, top leaders from across the footwear industry discuss the deep impact of the coronavirus and the challenging road ahead.

Like many in the shoe industry, Beth Cross, co-founder and CEO of Ariat International, is doing her part to keep her workers safe, while continuing to drive business forward. However, she’s realistic about the challenges ahead.

“I hope the industry will be on the road to recovery, the pandemic will be contained and the country will be returning to some semblance of normal,” said Cross. “However, even if we are that fortunate, I don’t think it will be the same road we were on leading into COVID-19.  We expect consumers will value different things — at least for a period of time. They’ll remain focused on essentials and draw a sharper line between what they need versus what they might want with most of their purchases viewed through a lens of practicality.”

While Cross is reevaluating her business strategies going forward, she’s also focused on helping meet the immediate needs of the shoe industry that include support of the Two Ten Footwear Foundation in its work to reach out to those who have found themselves in a financial crisis.

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Here, Cross addresses her roadmap for keeping Ariat up and running and how the industry can pool its resources to continue to support those in need.

How are you keeping business moving?

“Our entire team is working from home. Each department starts the day with a team meeting on Zoom to discuss current projects, share updates and map out the day. For the past month, we have focused on the immediate actions required to support our retail channel and supply chain, while planning out the next three to six months. A number of our retailers are considered essential businesses, so we are doing everything possible to support their needs. Currently, our distribution centers are operating. We have a sharp focus on health and safety, ensuring social distancing and other safety measures.”

What should the industry do to survive during these unusual times?

“First and foremost, this a humanitarian crisis and we need to start there, making sure our teams and their families are safe and empowered to follow the guidelines given by the CDC and respective local authorities. Beyond protecting people’s health and safety, we are monitoring our inventory to ensure we’re in-stock on what the consumers’ need and innovating for what our customer will be looking for going forward.”

How can the industry best unite on common goals?

“There is a lot to be shared today that is completely non-competitive. What steps are people taking to enable work-from-home, in general, and even at a functional level? How are different companies managing social distancing within distribution centers and warehouses? What immediate needs do our healthcare and first responders have – and how could we work together to support them? We are committed to the Two Ten Foundation, and support the great work they do for people in the footwear industry. Right now, the focus at Two Ten is keeping up with a huge spike in demand from individuals that have lost jobs and in need of immediate financial support.”

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