Nothing these days is a slam-dunk, as an infamous former CIA director once guaranteed. Even the surest of potential home runs can hook foul at the last second and can’t-miss prospects fall short of ever breaking into the big leagues. Far too many variables exist, be they competition, injuries, failure to fulfill expectations or just plain bad luck. Fortunately, what never vanishes in sports or, thankfully, in the shoe business is the opportunity to hit it big. The endless stream of ideas and innovations is boundless, season after season. And the crowds, i.e. consumers, keep coming back for more. As long as such opportunity exists, there’s hope at the onset of every new season.
Every page of our Spring ’16 preview issue presents opportunities. While not all are guaranteed home runs, sometimes the secret to a winning season is putting together a line-up of potential singles and doubles. It could be selecting a particular style featured on one of our numerous Trend Spotting pages (beginning on page 30). Or perhaps it involves delving further into one of the many spring trends highlighted in this series to turn an item into a meaningful segment. Then again, it could mean giving one of the brands in our feature about the growing popularity of custom art designs (“Blank Canvas,” page 58), our outdoor market preview (“Urban Renewal,” page 64) or our Upclose Comfort section (page 94) a chance to break into a store line-up. Often such rookie call-ups, when given their opportunity to shine, prove to be all-stars in the making. How else do the Mike Trouts of the world (2012 Rookie of the Year) get their shot?
Next up could be inspiration and insights gleaned from our retail profile of Tops for Shoes (“Destination: Shoes,” page 52) in Asheville, NC. A sit-and-fit heavy hitter at 35,000 square feet with 300 brands on display, it draws customers by the busload from six surrounding states. Those are some solid shoe retailing sabermetrics. Tops, opened in 1952 and run by third-generation family member Alex Carr, is a throwback brick-and-mortar retailer proving that it can still be done—and quite successfully.
Not everything featured in our pages requires a direct buy. A profile of a store or brand can often spark a wealth of ideas or, at the very least, points to contemplate when putting together a game plan. Take this month’s Q&A with Tracy Smith, the new president of U.S. operations for Geox (“American Accent,” page 20). The former Cole Haan exec is spearheading the stateside re-launch of the Italian lifestyle brand known for its breathable and waterproof comfort technologies. In discussing the strategy, an industry trend came into play: consumers’ growing desire for smart products. A key element is that they must be subtle, user-friendly designs of the sort Apple has made famous—and of the sort Smith says Geox offers. It’s just one reason why the seasoned industry veteran believes Geox, a $1 billion global brand, presents a tremendous yet largely untapped opportunity for U.S. retailers.
When rounding out an issue, I also like to mix in a few items that might have flown under the radar of industry scouts but that deserve an opportunity to take the field. Often it’s an upstart brand, a quirky style or an out-there concept. In some cases, it involves all three. Take this month’s Last Word (page 96) about the birth of Redneck Boot Sandals, for example. Missouri-based entrepreneur Scotty Franklin has been kicking up a heated debate in certain fashion circles about whether his cowboy boot and sandal mash-up is the next big thing or a fashion don’t on the scale of MC Hammer pants. Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but our industry’s long track record of ugly duckling smash hits cannot be overlooked. Beyond that, I say our industry should welcome all entrepreneurs. If we don’t, we’ll be left with a line-up of creaky old veterans unwilling and unable to adapt on the fly.
There are plenty of potential stars in this issue’s line-up, and I hope you enjoy reading about them. Until next time, our team of Footwear Plus editors will be patrolling the show aisles here and abroad in search of our next roster of hot topics, solid prospects and, we all hope, a home run or two. So let’s play ball!