FDRA Shakes Up Leadership Team, Appoints Shoe Carnival CEO Cliff Sifford as Chairman

A new executive leadership has been put in place at the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America.

Today, the trade group announced the unanimous appointment of Shoe Carnival vice chairman and CEO Cliff Sifford as chairman of the FDRA. In addition, Nike VP of government and public affairs Jennifer Bendall has been selected to serve as vice chairman, leaving her post as treasurer — a role that now belongs to BBC International CEO Josue Solano.

According to the FDRA, the team was approved at its virtual board meeting on March 24 and took effect yesterday.

“I am honored to take the helm of our industry’s most effective, innovative and collaborative organization,” Sifford said in a statement. “There has been no greater tool to serve the industry during these unprecedented times than FDRA. Our industry is changing dramatically, and FDRA continues to be the platform by which companies get vital information and can work together to solve common issues and challenges.

He added, “We will continue to find new ways to engage and educate the industry on a variety of issues to increase efficiencies — driving our members tremendous value from design to retail.”

Former Wolverine Worldwide president of global operations Mike Jeppesen previously held the post of chairman at the FDRA. After more than 33 years in the footwear industry, and nine at the Merrell and Sperry parent, he announced his retirement at the start of this year and remained in an advisory role for a few months to assist with the transition. (Jim Zwiers, who has been with Wolverine Worldwide for 23 years, has stepped into the position.) Moving forward, Jeppesen will serve as an ex-officio member of the FDRA’s executive committee.

“From the onset of the Trump tariffs to the acquisition of the Fashion Footwear Association of New York to the challenges of navigating a pandemic, Mike led FDRA through some of our most challenging and transformational times,” added FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest.

The executive shakeup comes at a time when shoe leaders are contending with a return to the new normal amid the COVID-19 health crisis. Just yesterday, the FDRA — which represents more than 95% of the footwear industry — released its second-quarter Shoe Business Outlook survey, which revealed that close to half of industry executives reported production or supply chain costs as their greatest concern over the next six months.

Rounding out the top three issues facing footwear companies this year are the shifts in consumer behavior, as well as labor costs, quality and shortages. In addition, executives have expressed concerns over inventory and retail pricing; access to capital; and government taxes and regulations.

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