Fila North America President Jennifer Estabrook Soon Joins FN’s ‘Leading in a Crisis’ Webinar Series With Head of Klarna US

FN’s “Leading in a Crisis” webinar series will next explore leadership strategy in the athletic  industry, which has been challenged by the massive disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

On April 22 at 11 a.m., Jennifer Estabrook, president of Fila North America, and David Sykes, head of Klarna US, will join FN Editorial Director Michael Atmore to discuss “Athletic Sales in the Pandemic.”

Register for the event here.

The current environment has impacted U.S. businesses on all sides, with the earliest hits to supply chain elements in China escalating to the closure of stores across the country. During such times, leadership can be instrumental in navigating a path out the other side.

FN’s webinar series has been examining how footwear executives are addressing their new circumstances and implementing fresh strategies, from working remotely to pivoting their e-commerce strategies.

In this next installment, Estabrook, who is the company’s first female president, will draw on her experience leading a global brand that has undergone a recent resurgence. No stranger to introducing new ideas and finding success in a new retail landscape, Estabrook had been helping to strengthen the brand’s position prior to the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. The Fila Disruptor 2, for instance, won the FNAA Shoe of the Year award in 2018.

“Before the crisis hit, we were redoubling our efforts to have a greater share of voice in a noisy marketplace,” Estabrook told FN.

Jennifer Estabrook Fila
Fila’s first woman president, Jennifer Estabrook.

Klarna, too, expanded into new markets prior to COVID-19, counting 7 million users in the U.S. and 4,000 retail partners in 2020. The service’s “buy now, pay later” feature provided a new way for customers to try on items at home before completing the purchase; this created a virtual dressing room experience.

Now Fila faces a new playing field and it is shifting strategy again. There is an emphasis on encouraging customers to stay home and take care of themselves, while also establishing the brand as a source of optimism and levity.

“We are working with our sponsored athletes to amplify the stay at home message, we have put the spotlight on FILA fans with UGC content and we are shifting e-commerce efforts to focus on storytelling and to address changing consumer needs,” said Estabrook.

Communication is a priority both externally and internally. Measures that Estabrook will expand on during the FN webinar include initiating daily calls with her COVID-19 task force; organizing a digital town hall for employees; and sharing regular, transparent updates about the company’s position.

“Keeping everyone informed about what we are doing, why we are doing it and what the next steps are is critical,” said Estabrook.

After assuming the title in 2019, following the death of president Jon Epstein, Estabrook now faces the challenge of leading Fila North America through the pandemic.

“What makes this crisis so challenging is that none of us knows when this is going to end and what it is going to be like when ‘normal’ life resumes,” said Estabrook. “We are not used to living in such an extended state of uncertainty, both in our business lives and, even more so, in our personal lives.”

Sykes, who leads the US division of payment solution Klarna, will provide additional insight into the radical changes in spending trends, the importance of payment plans and new, generational shopping patterns.

David Sykes, head of Klarna US.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Klarna

As shoppers prioritize essential goods and practice more restrained purchasing habits, Klarna has been helping retailers extend solutions like “buy now, pay later” and pay-in-installments to their customers. This can help improve conversion while reducing immediate financial strain on shoppers.

Earlier webinars in the series featured Atmore in conversation with Foot Locker president and CEO Dick Johnson and Deckers president and CEO Dave Powers.

Johnson believes there will be a return to normal spending for the retail industry but that the landscape will continue to evolve. The physical store experience, in particular, will undergo a transformation, the executive said. Foot Locker currently counts 3,129 retail stores in 27 countries.

In the second episode, Powers shared his perspective on leading a portfolio of brands through the pandemic and the importance of maintaining a connection with the consumer – without pushing for sales.

The value of Ugg and Teva in customers’ lives has enabled Deckers to remain confident that it will not only survive this moment but emerge in a strong position. Powers recommended that other brands prepare for how they will hit the ground running, once stores are back in operation.

Tune in on April 22 at 11 a.m. to get insights into the new retail spending reality from Fila’s Estabrook and Klarna’s Sykes. To register, click here.

For sponsorship opportunities, contact advertising director Deborah Baron at dbaron@footwearnews.com.

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