The coronavirus pandemic created unprecedented challenges for the greater footwear industry — and both emerging companies and major players were in search of answers.
With the business landscape in unrest, FN created a series where top brand and retail leaders discussed the deep impact of the COVID-19 crisis and the challenging road ahead.
Below is a glimpse into what executives from Foot Locker, Brooks, Concepts, StockX and K-Swiss had to say.
Chairman, President and CEO; Foot Locker
As retailers began to close stores due to the coronavirus crisis, Dick Johnson of Foot Locker spoke with FN on March 16, who at the time explained that the company was “evaluating the [coronavirus] situation daily.” The executive shared how he planned to manage its 3,129 retail stores in 27 countries across North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand through the complex situation.
The pandemic created seemingly endless challenges for the sneaker industry before FN spoke with Scott Cutler of StockX in April, but he explained that the resale market had still been in good health. The “stock market of things” confirmed with FN at the start of the month that sneaker prices have been relatively stable, and with the exception of some high-priced silhouettes sitting for longer than usual, there have been no major dips. During the conversation, Cutler explained to FN how he planned to lean on his experience navigating an organization during economic uncertainty to ensure StockX remained healthy. (He was a member of the New York Stock Exchange senior management team during the Great Recession in 2008.)
With the coronavirus crisis now controlling the country at the end of March, Jim Weber of Brooks spoke with FN about how more people have turned to running, whether its for fitness or a mental break. He also shared thoughts on how this offered an opportunity to connect with consumers during a very challenging time, but employing the right messaging was critical. “We have to be very careful with our brand and our voice right now. Running has become an important part of people’s day because of this environment we’re in. They’re finding us and we’re finding them — but it’s not a megaphone right now,” Weber explained at the time. “We’re trying to be sensitive of how people are going through their day right now, because some of them are struggling.”
As the coronavirus crippled business in the US market, Barney Waters of K-Swiss told FN in early April that having China-based Xtep as its parent company was a benefit. “We don’t have to explain to our Chinese owners what’s happening over here because they already know and they’ve done quarantining and shutting down retail and experienced the e-com dip,” Waters said. “We can follow a little bit of their path since they’re the few months ahead of us, we’re able to look at their recovery and map it to ours.” During the conversation, Waters shared insights on what he’s learned from Xtep and offered predictions of what the next six months will look like. Also, he offered a tip to other footwear business leaders: “The keyword is empathy.”
Founder and CEO, Concepts
Tarek Hassan shared with FN in April how the Concepts team, without being able to visit the office or the store, was getting creative — which continuously paid dividends. For instance, Hassan’s staff created the “#StayHomeThrowDown” campaign, which asked followers to share how they’re making the most of their time in isolation, and also found local health-care facilities where its two U.S. stores are located — Boston and New York City — to donate to. The donations included sending sneakers from its inventory to Boston organizations and partnering with its apparel vendor’s factory to shift production from private label clothing to CDC-approved masks for New York City health-care institutions.