Brands have stepped up their focus on women sneaker consumers in recent years, coming to market with both female-focused silhouettes and needle-moving collaborations. And yet, representation within the industry — most notably in the ownership ranks — is scarce.
Despite being a rarity, Wish ATL owner and founder Lauren Amos believes her store’s story could offer others hope.
“It is a man’s world, and it’s frustrating and sad that there are not more women involved,” Amos said. “But I’m hopeful that because of us and other people, and as more and more women get involved, that there will be women that will step up and want to run their own sneaker store. One of these days, hopefully this will be an old story and nobody will be talking about women run sneaker stores. It will just be a store.”
Julie Hogg, partner and CEO of Wish ATL, believes the boutique’s success in today’s male-dominated retail climate is already offering encouragement to some.
“We take time to develop our staff and to show them pathways that they may not have been exposed to before,” Hogg said. “When people find out that we are women owned and run, it’s like, ‘Oh, wow.’ And you can tell that a young lady’s wheels are starting to turn and sees this is something she could get involved in as well, because look at the success.”
Some of Wish ATL’s highest profile brand partners have recently partnered with the retailer on attention-grabbing initiatives that shine a spotlight on female creatives. For instance, the retailer teamed up with Jordan Brand in April for a women’s-focused event for the latest Aleali May collaboration, which was highlighted by the acclaimed Air Jordan 1 Zoom Comfort shoe.
“Being women-owned, Jordan looked for us to take the lead on it, they reached out to us with the opportunity to do an early release specifically geared toward women,” Hogg said. “The collection shows how streetwear is evolving to include women in a big way, in a much bigger way than in the past. And what Aleali’s done for the business has been phenomenal for the industry as a whole.”
For May’s collaborative Jordan Brand effort, Wish ATL invited members of Mahogany-N-Motion — the dance team of nearby Spelman College — to the store for early access to shop the collection, get custom nail art inspired by the line and more.
“We’re ready to hear from our own gender. For years, we’ve heard stories from men, but now it’s time to hear from ourselves, to share stories that are relevant to other women,” Amos said. “It’s important [to shine the light on] women-run, women-owned to give hope and encouragement.”
However, even with introducing women-led storytelling and activations, you won’t find a separation of male-and female-focused product in store.
“It’s all out there because we don’t feel that there should be women’s and men’s,” Hogg explained. “We mix shoes, even women’s sizing, and sometimes they come in extended women’s sizing so a man can be offered them as well. We’ve had women’s sections in the past, but the way that we’re buying from the brands we’re bringing in, women like them as much as men, so it doesn’t make sense to segment women over to the side because they shop the entire space.”
Amos added, “Women don’t want to have a women’s-only section. They want to be one among many. Having it all out there together gives them the ability to shop the whole store rather than one little curated section.”
Hogg believes extended sizing is a great way for brands in the space to better communicate with women.
“It starts with extended sizes — or full-family sizing, as some brands call it — is a great start because it gives the woman an equal playing field, it gives everybody the opportunity to get a shoe,” Hogg said. “The women’s exclusives, I think is more of a [major] release catch where it can make it seem like it’s just packaged up for the girl and then the guy wants it.”
She said that Nike and Adidas have led the charge with offering extended sizing, and other brands are making them available to Wish. And having extended sizing in store has proven successful.
“We’re seeing 4-14 come in our doors, and it’s just out on the floor so whoever wants it has access to it,” Hogg said. “And when we see that the 5, 6 and 7 is selling stronger, we’ll react to that because we know the shoe is turning toward a woman customer over the male customer.”
She continued, “I have seen much improvement in the last two strong seasons of offering almost all in-line product from 4-14, and then [major] releases are coming in more for women than they have in the past, or they’re letting us get smaller sizes.”
Looking ahead, Wish ATL has several efforts planned for this year and early into 2022 that should further elevate its stature.
For starters, the retailer will deliver a new in-house apparel collection in Q4, with a target date of September. The fresh line will launch via the Wish ATL website. “We want the brand to grow to be our main apparel offering. The Wish brand is a very important growth opportunity for us, so you will see more focus on apparel collaborations, as well as our apparel brand,” Hogg said.
Also, Wish will introduce a loyalty program in early Q4 that will offer perks and rewards to repeat customers. Lastly, it will redesign its website in Q4, and launch an app shortly after in 2022.