EARTHQUAKES, EPIC OIL spills, endless wars, terror attacks, global financial meltdowns… It seems as though the world is just waiting for the next manmade or natural disaster to take over the 24-hour news cycle. Just as viewer fatigue or, worse, indifference sets in, a fresh calamity is sure to occur and trigger an all-new buzz.
While the shoe business may pale in comparison to these all-too-graphic and far-too-frequent catastrophes, our industry is undeniably impacted by these events. Sometimes it’s a direct and brutal blow. For instance, many Gulf Coast retailers are on the brink of extinction now that the flow of tourist traffic critical to their survival has been reduced to a trickle. And it’s not like the beaches will be clean any time soon now that the well has finally stopped leaking. Another factor to consider: Once tourists have been forced to go elsewhere, who’s to say they will return to the Gulf next year or the season after that? Tar ball–free beaches or not, tourists may discover new family destinations, leaving these retailers high and dry.
Just think, what if the Times Square bomber had succeeded? The terrorist’s failure to trigger his car bomb properly is hardly an incentive to shop in Times Square or, for that matter, anywhere else considered a likely target. If, God forbid, a similar plot is successful, I suspect the implications for retailers will go far beyond carnage directly related to the blast.
Then there’s the ongoing financial crisis, with its far-reaching effects and perhaps long-term consumer spending implications. As we all adjust to the so-called new normal, one thing is sure: As long as this remains a jobless recovery, “normal” will be a drag on our industry. Sure, millions of anxious Americans have smartened up about lavish spending, but it’s the fear or reality of unemployment that’s put the tightest tourniquet on shoe buying.
Start adding more names to payrolls and I’m confident that shoe shopping, which is fueled by need as well as desire, will rebound markedly. In fact, we have witnessed significant growth in the wellness category despite tremendous economic obstacles. If that category’s success tells me anything, it’s that some things never change, like the fact that innovative products that deliver on their claims of improving consumers’ lives—be it an iPhone or Vibram FiveFingers—will always grab a meaningful share of shoppers’ discretionary dollars. In essence, they fulfill a basic human desire: the need to be sold something really… neat.
In the ongoing fight for survival—be it the industry or as individuals—we are all in it together. We at Footwear Plus will continue to bridge the communication gap between retailers and wholesalers to the best of our abilities across all media platforms. Now into our 20th year, we’re leveraging our position as a trusted industry voice and successful print product to forge ahead into the digital era under a new corporate banner, 9 Threads. Going forward, we’ll offer path-blazing services such as website design, e-commerce platforms, social media content creation and management, and digital marketing programs for wholesalers and retailers.
Whatever catastrophes this world deals us, we can only hope to be lucky—and as prepared as possible. But it’s a good rule of thumb to remember that the more prepared and proactive one is, the “luckier” one tends to be when it comes to surviving a crisis. —Greg Dutter