Some Good News

It’s high time I showcased some good news in this space. We can start with the ongoing vaccine rollout and hope it gathers momentum in the coming months, leaving no demographic groups behind. Let’s hope we will soon stop being paralyzed by Covid-19 statistics and start being spurred by rising employment and retail sales figures instead. We can look to The Atlanta Shoe Market’s recent in-person event and rejoice that our industry met face mask-to-face mask to conduct business for the first time in over a year! Attendees saw living colors—not Zoom-filtered misrepresentations—and actually flexed shoes and smelled the leather again! Hats off to show director Laura O’Brien, the ultimate Mama Bear, who always makes sure her attendees are well-fed, cared for and safe. Hopefully more in-person events will take place as the year progresses. Teleconferencing has its perks, but as the only option…not so much.

More good news: Stores continue to ramp up. Even better, retailers and wholesalers are rapidly adapting to the new normal, getting better at meeting the changing ways that consumers shop. Terms like BOPIS, contactless payment and curbside pick-up are already part of the consumer vernacular.

Even better news, millions of consumers are eager to return to in-store shopping, proving that the desire to get out and interact with fellow human beings is innate. The fact that their purchases support a locally owned business adds incentive for many. Some more potential good news: retailers have a golden opportunity to welcome shoppers back with convenient, safe and entertaining shopping experiences. For those that had been cutting back on selection and service leading up to the pandemic, this is an opportunity to put a best foot forward with a stellar selection and great service. Carpe diem!

There’s plenty of good news in this issue, too, starting with our Profiles in Excellence section (p. 8) that honors the winners of our 22nd annual Plus Awards for design and retail excellence. In the face of unprecedented obstacles, the class of 2020 found innovative ways to adapt and thrive. They met the shock of the lockdown head-on, repositioning and, in some cases, reimagining their business models for the new normal. Their teams pressed forward in whatever ways they could. Every exec interviewed praised the team efforts involved in overcoming the enormous challenges, noting that their employees have been working longer, harder and often acquiring new skills on the fly. What’s more, they’ve dealt with tremendous added demands on the home front. Their enduring efforts and loyalty are truly appreciated.

Our Profiles in Excellence are about the people behind the logos and storefronts. Their stories of perseverance and ingenuity are inspirational—like this year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree,
Danny Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes in New York. The pandemic is not just the latest, but also the greatest, challenge he and his children, Lester and Margot, (representing the fourth generation of Wasserman shoe retailers) have overcome. For more than 57 years, Wasserman has found ways to survive on the mean streets of Manhattan, his store serving as an incubator for the latest lifestyle brands, many of which have gone on to starring roles across the country and worldwide. He has a keen eye for product and a passion for pursuing the next big find. It’s a great “shoe life” story, with plenty of Wasserman wit and New Yorker frankness.

This issue’s focus on the latest slipper trends for Fall ’21—
Trend Spotting (p. 34-35), our main feature (p. 36), Editor’s Picks
(p. 46) and Last Shot (p. 48)—celebrates one of the few good news stories of 2020. Home is where the office, school and sanctuary are, and a range of enticing slippers, from indoor/outdoor versions to cozy slipper socks, are increasingly the go-to, everyday shoe. The category is having a moment, one that shows no signs of abating in the new normal. The good news? Our industry is, once again, ready to meet the wants and needs of consumers.

Last but not least on the good news front: A few months down the road, life may resume enough normalcy that we won’t have to think twice about catching a movie, gathering with loved ones, meeting friends for dinner, shopping the local mall, enjoying ball games and concerts, hitting the gym, touring a museum, attending services, etc. In the meantime, there’s plenty of positivity on the streaming front. I highly recommend Ted Lasso. It’s more than a laugh-out-loud series about an American who moves to England to coach a Premier League soccer club despite knowing nil about futbol; each episode is like a 30-minute inspirational “Ted talk” with management lessons woven in. The show is funny, with a heartfelt story arc that’s like a beautiful cross pass acrobatically bicycle-kicked for a gooooaaaallll!

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