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No. 1-20: Phil Knight, Tony Hsieh, Manolo…

A look at what made their year great — or not so great.

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1
Phil Knight, Mark Parker
Chairman; President, CEO; Nike Inc.
2008 Rank: 1

Even the mighty swoosh felt the chill of 2009’s economic winter. In February, Knight, 71, and Parker, 53, announced the athletic giant would restructure, laying off 4 percent of its global workforce — revising the tally even higher in May, to 5 percent. Sales in apparel, footwear and the Umbro and Cole Haan brands slumped, as did future orders across the board. But the company is hoping for stronger and more profitable times ahead. With a leaner and meaner staff, Parker said on the company’s first-quarter earnings call that for 2010, Nike would be even more focused on product innovation, with the upcoming World Cup providing opportunities for development. And with longtime CEO Jack Boys out at Converse and former North American President Michael Spillane in, could changes be afoot for that brand as well?

Power Players: Charlie Denson, president, Nike brand; James Seuss, CEO, Cole Haan; Spillane, CEO, Converse

 

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2
Blake Nordstrom, Peter Nordstrom
President; President, merchandising; Nordstrom Inc.
2008 Rank: 2

Like many of the top luxury retailers, Nordstrom has been double-punched this year by consumers’ drastic spending cuts and vicious price wars in the department store channel. In the second quarter, same-store sales at full-line Nordstrom stores fell 12.3 percent compared with the same period in 2008, and net earnings dropped 27 percent. However, Blake, 48, and Peter, 47, did see some reassuring traction with Nordstrom Rack stores, up 0.8 percent in the second quarter, and the Nordstrom Direct division, which jumped 3.5 percent from last year. With that in mind, the retailer is barreling ahead with expansion plans, under the direction of the third brother, Erik Nordstrom, 45, president of stores. This fall, the company opened one Nordstrom store in Cincinnati and six Nordstrom Rack locations across the country, bringing the total to 181. In 2010, it will bow three full-line stores and 12 new Nordstrom Racks (including its first in Manhattan).

Power Players: Erik Nordstrom, president of stores; Jack Minuk, EVP, GMM, shoe division; Jeffrey Kalinsky, EVP, designer merchandising

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3
Matt Rubel
Chairman, President, CEO; Collective Brands Inc.
2008 Rank: 3

Collective Brands Inc. is reaping the benefits of a diverse business model. While the firm took a financial hit this year, there were several notable bright spots, including a healthy kids’ business and continued momentum for the Saucony and Sperry Top-Sider brands. Rubel, 51, is also capitalizing on international opportunities within the Performance and Lifestyle Group (the umbrella for the former Stride Rite brands) and the Payless ShoeSource division. This year, through a franchising program, Payless opened its first Middle Eastern stores and revealed plans to enter Russia. Expect the CEO to tap into more overseas deals in the year ahead. At home, though, Rubel will continue to evaluate the Payless chain’s massive, and costly, store roster. So far, he’s done that through an emphasis on expense management that has helped protect profitability — a smart move, according to analysts.

Power Players: LuAnn Via, president, CEO, Payless ShoeSource; Gregg Ribatt, president, CEO, Collective Brands Performance and Lifestyle Group; Bruce Pettet, president, CEO, Collective Licensing

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4
Ron Fromm, Diane Sullivan
CEO, Chairman; President, COO; Brown Shoe Co.
2008 Rank: 4

For most of the year, Fromm, 58, and Sullivan, 54, built on the basics. They focused on big revenue drivers — most notably Famous Footwear — as part of a corporate strategy to weather the economic crisis. The company made a big ad splash with its multiplatform “Make Today Famous” campaign during back-to-school. And while sales slid 3.7 percent across the 1,167-door chain during the second quarter, the execs are more hopeful heading into the end of the year. In the wholesale division, the duo continued to expand Naturalizer and launched Naya, an eco-friendly collection, and they made a bigger investment in Via Spiga with the addition of Creative Director Paola Venturi. Outside of the established brands, the firm is quickly growing its newer labels. Its two-year-old investment in Sam Edelman continues to pay big dividends, as the brand remains a star performer. Going into 2010, Brown Shoe will mark two big anniversaries: Famous Footwear’s 50th and Via Spiga’s 25th.

Power Players: Joe Wood, president, Famous Footwear, Brown Shoe retail; Rick Ausick, president, Brown New York wholesale; Gary Rich, president, Brown St. Louis wholesale

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5
Christian Louboutin
Designer, Principal; Christian Louboutin
2008 Rank: 6

Louboutin continued to reign supreme with the Hollywood crowd this year, and with sales to date up double digits over 2008, there doesn’t seem to be a slowdown in sight. The red-sole king bowed four new stores in 2009, including a hotly anticipated Robertson Avenue space in Los Angeles, bringing his boutique count to 19. And he is poised to unveil nine more shops across the globe in the coming year. Despite a shaky economy that rocked the world’s luxury segment, Louboutin, 45, is forging ahead with regional offices in Japan and the Middle East in 2010. The redesign of the brand’s Website also drew attention, prompting Louboutin to start work on an e-commerce site debuting next year. Though some projects, such as a collaboration with Mattel Inc. on shoes for Barbie, brought some lighthearted fun in 2009, the designer isn’t getting soft. He’s upped his fight against counterfeiting with a special budget reserved for legal battles against those seeking to imitate his trademark red sole.

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6
Terry Lundgren
Chairman, President, CEO; Macy’s Inc.
2008 Rank: 5

Macy’s started the year on a down note by saying it would close 11 underperforming stores. Then in February, the company embarked on a massive restructuring, disbanding its Macy’s West, Central and Florida divisions and consolidating to centralized headquarters in New York and Cincinnati — all in the interest of cost cutting. The company did open a few stores this year — notably two in California and one in Dallas (bringing its total to 840 locations). And in April, Lundgren, 57, inked a deal with designer Rachel Roy for a diffusion line of exclusive footwear, apparel and accessories. While company sales are starting to rebound, they are still down from previous highs. And on the Bloomingdale’s front, the division will open its first door outside the U.S. — in Dubai — next February.

Power Player: Michael Gould, chairman, CEO, Bloomingdale’s

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Tony Hsieh CEO, Director; Zappos.com

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7
Tony Hsieh
CEO, Director; Zappos.com
2008 Rank: 16

Without question, Hsieh, 35, surprised the industry earlier this year with his sale of Zappos.com to rival Amazon.com — a major reason he jumped nine spots on FN’s list. Though it’s still pending regulatory approval, the deal came about in one of the harshest business climates in a century. In July, Amazon announced its plans to buy Zappos for 10 million shares of Amazon stock, or roughly $979 million, $214 million of which is rumored to be Hsieh’s take. According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, 2008 sales for the Henderson, Nev.-based e-tailer were $635 million, up from $527 million in 2007. First-quarter sales for this year were also up in the solid single digits. Looking ahead, Hsieh is putting apparel sales into overdrive, hoping to grow the company’s burgeoning clothing business, which currently makes up just 7 percent of revenue. No word yet on how the Amazon infusion of cash and resources will speed up growth once the deal is closed, but it’s safe to say it will be significant. Still, many are wondering how the two different cultures will work together, and whether Hsieh, who’s prone to tweeting, will find personal happiness in the more bureaucratic public-company space.

Power Players: Alfred Lin, COO, CFO; Fred Mossler, SVP, merchandising

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Matt Serra, Chairman; Foot Locker Inc.

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8
Matt Serra, Ken Hicks
Chairman; President, CEO; Foot Locker Inc.
2008 Rank: 8

Though not entirely unexpected, the changing of the guard in Foot Locker’s executive suite was the athletic retailer’s biggest news of 2009. Serra, 65, announced his retirement in June and handed over the CEO reins to Hicks, 56, in August. The former president and chief merchandising officer of JCPenney is inheriting a strong company, thanks to the leadership of Serra, who is staying on as chairman through January to ensure a smooth transition. This year, the firm, which operates more than 3,600 doors, weathered the economic storm by focusing on expense reduction and inventory management. The strategy paid off in the second quarter, when Foot Locker posted a break-even profit, despite a 16 percent sales decline. Hicks will be charged with refueling top-line growth and continuing to differentiate the firm’s nameplates in a challenging athletic climate.

Power Players: Keith Daly, president, CEO, Foot Locker U.S., Kids Foot Locker, Footaction; Ron Halls, president, CEO, Foot Locker International

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9
Mike Duke
President, CEO; Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
NEW

While none are immune to the economy’s woes, Wal-Mart is clearly faring better than most. The company, which scored partnerships with Steven Madden Ltd. and Iconix Brand Group, has profited tidily, as consumers turned to the discounter’s 4,300 U.S. retail units for lower prices. Wal-Mart saw second-quarter earnings from continuing operations inch up to $3.56 billion from $3.53 billion. The firm estimates that sales for the fiscal year will jump more than 7 percent to $401.2 billion. Duke, 59, who in February took the helm from longtime CEO Lee Scott Jr. (No. 11 on FN’s ranking last year), wants to grow the firm’s international presence. He also has emphasized Wal-Mart’s commitment to sustainability, including the opening of its first environmentally friendly store in Canada, expected to be 30 percent more energy efficient. And he’ll lead the way on the company’s massive green labeling program, which will require suppliers to assess and divulge the environmental impact of their products.

Power Players: Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman; Marshal Cohen, president, CEO, Wal-Mart U.S.

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10
Robert Greenberg, Michael Greenberg
Chairman, CEO; President; Skechers USA Inc.
2008 Rank: 12

The U.S. economy may be down, but it hasn’t slowed the father-son team’s zeal to make Skechers a powerhouse name across the globe. Already, Robert, 67, and Michael, 46, have inked deals to expand into India, Chile, Malaysia and Brazil. More recently, the company announced plans to enter Mexico via a license and distribution agreement to manufacture men’s, women’s and kids’ shoes. The deal also includes plans to debut at least 10 Skechers-branded stores in the country by 2014. Stateside, the execs scored big this year with the wildly successful Shape-Ups fitness walking shoe. That translated into a third-quarter profit of $24.5 million, down slightly from last year, but still well ahead of analyst expectations. Sales increased to $405.4 million, which also trounced analyst expectations of $384.8 million.

Power Player: David Weinberg, COO, CFO

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11
Herbert Hainer
Chairman, CEO; Adidas Group
2008 Rank: 7

It’s not been an altogether happy 60th anniversary for Adidas Group this year. Net profits fell 93 percent in the first half on currency troubles and tumbling worldwide demand. Then, Hainer, 55, announced a reshuffling that cut 1,000 jobs, closed some offices and gave him direct responsibility for global sales. But the company has said the worst is behind it, with cost-cutting measures expected to bear financial fruit and the 2010 World Cup likely to boost sales, at least in Europe, South America and Africa. And in Canton, Mass., the Rockport label has embarked on an ambitious rebranding under Michael Rupp, and though Reebok continues to struggle, strong sales in its EasyTone product and women’s fitness programs seem to hint at better things to come.

Power Players: Erich Stamminger, president, CEO, Adidas; Uli Becker, president, CEO, Reebok; Rupp, president, CEO, Rockport

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12
Jim Davis, Robert DeMartini
Chairman; CEO; New Balance
2008 Rank: 9

Davis, 66, built New Balance on running, but the Boston-based brand had a tough year in that field, losing some market share to upstart players Saucony and Brooks in the specialty channel, despite an applauded new last and solid tech advances coming from its new research and development lab. The lifestyle push that DeMartini, 48, announced last year seems to have had better luck, with solid sales for the New Balance for Nine West partnership, as well as the PF Flyers brand and campaigns touting the company’s “Made in America” story and new 574 shoe. For 2010, New Balance is looking ahead by looking back: A major ad campaign for the reissue of the 790 James Worthy high-top will debut for spring.

Power Player: Anne Davis, vice chairman

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13
Wes Card, Andrew Cohen
President, CEO; CEO, footwear, accessories, retail; Jones Apparel Group Inc.
2008 Rank: 14

Card, 61, and Cohen, 59, are making brand expansion a top priority this year. Mid-year, Jones revealed an agreement between its Nine West division and European retailer Kurt Geiger to license and distribute Nine West and Easy Spirit in the U.K. and Ireland. Then in October, the firm fêted the New York opening of its latest multibrand concept store, Shoe Woo, which is expected to have five locations by year-end. Jones also bowed a Rachel Roy footwear line at Macy’s this fall and launched the Nine West Vintage America collection. What’s more, the firm’s New Balance for Nine West line is expanding internationally and to department stores. But the company is also in the middle of refining its overall store count and plans to shutter 265 stores by the end of 2010. The tough macro environment has affected Jones’ financials, but the firm cut costs and reined in inventories to boost third-quarter profits, which were up 11 percent.

Power Players: Jay Friedman, CEO, company-owned retail footwear, apparel; Rick Paterno, president, wholesale better footwear brands, Nine West; Fred Allard, creative director, Nine West

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14
Blake Krueger
President, CEO; Wolverine World Wide Inc.
2008 Rank: 15

Krueger, 55, started off 2009 in a major way, buying two smaller footwear brands and slashing company staff by 10 percent. The firm first snatched up Cushe, a comfort footwear brand based in the U.K., and has since tried to build a following for it. Several weeks later, Wolverine acquired outdoor performance brand Chaco. Following the layoffs, the company has focused on restructuring its supply chain. And as with many footwear players, the firm’s financials have been hit. Third-quarter earnings fell, and revenues slipped to $286.8 million, down 10 percent. The company, however, lifted its full-year earnings predictions, thanks to some bright spots. Merrell has remained the firm’s market-leading brand in the outdoor space, and Wolverine now operates more than 90 stores in the U.S., U.K. and Canada under several retail banners.

Power Player: James Zwiers, SVP, president, Outdoor Group

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15
Manolo Blahnik, George Malkemus
Designer; President; Manolo Blahnik USA
2008 Rank: 13

Though Blahnik spent much of 2009 largely out of the spotlight, the designer, 66, has been quietly looking to the future. Last month, he tapped architect niece Kristina Blahnik to take a leading role at the company, and he is steadily growing the Blahnik brand in Asia, beginning with the January opening of a Singapore boutique. Another door, in a yet-to-be-named location, also is expected to bow in 2010, bringing the franchised store count to 17. Additionally, Malkemus, 55, and Blahnik — who has kept his place on the must-have list of luxury retailers across the globe — are working with Bergdorf Goodman to replicate the designer’s in-store space online. But the hush of 2009 isn’t expected to last long: The sequel to the blockbuster “Sex and the City” movie is slated to hit the big screen in May 2010 and will surely reignite Manolo Mania.

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16
Steve Madden, Ed Rosenfeld
Creative Director; Chairman, CEO;
Steven Madden Ltd.
2008 Rank: 32

Some good foresight in 2008 set up Steven Madden for good fortunes in 2009. Rosenfeld, 33, and Madden, 52, last year put together a string of deals — including a collaboration with the Olsen twins for Elizabeth & James footwear, and shoes for the L.E.I. label exclusive to Wal-Mart — that are now paying off big. They’ve also focused heavily on improving their test-and-react tactics and getting product into the market faster. Both the executive suite and Wall Street appear to be happy with the results: Weeks before its third-quarter report, the company, which last week inked an apparel deal with L’Koral Industries, said it expected a 57 percent jump in earnings per share because of a solid jump in sales. It also upped full-year EPS, with sales rising 7 percent to 8 percent over the prior year. But not all is well: A legal skirmish could unfold in the coming months, as Alexander McQueen has accused the company of knocking off his Faithful bootie, alleging that the Steven Madden version is a “studied imitation.”

Power Player: Robert Schmertz, brand director

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Giuseppe Zanotti President; Vicini SpA

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17
Giuseppe Zanotti
President; Vicini SpA
2008 Rank: 17

A celebrity and runway favorite, Zanotti continued to watch his star rise in 2009. The Italian designer, whose sky-high heels have graced the feet of trendsetting stars such as Blake Lively, Sarah Jessica Parker and Madonna, boasts a retail presence of about 1,000 doors worldwide and has maintained accounts with Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue. Now the designer is out to make his name even more pervasive. Plans for expansion include doubling his own store count in Hong Kong and Shanghai, and opening a new boutique at the Bloomingdale’s in the Dubai Mall, his fourth in the Middle Eastern city. In 2009, Zanotti, 52, bowed five new stores — one in Cannes, France; Moscow; Singapore; and two in Paris — and in the coming year is set to unveil another six across the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East, bringing his total to 61. While he did see a dip in revenues during the rocky year, Zanotti — whose business also includes licenses with Balmain and Proenza Schouler — is on track to bring in nearly 70 million euros in sales for 2009.

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18
Burt Tansky
President, CEO; Neiman Marcus Group
2008 Rank: 10

Under Tansky, 71, the Neiman Marcus Group reorganized its business this year. Hit hard by the economy, the group — which includes Neiman Marcus Stores, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus Direct and the clearance centers — is trying to balance out designer collections with less-pricey merchandise. For starters, 40 percent of all items in the Neiman Marcus Christmas Book will be less than $250, a dramatic shift for the luxe firm. Tansky also is slashing internal costs, cutting the previous year’s spending by 25 percent. For its fourth quarter ended Aug. 1, the company reported a net loss of $668 million and a $1 billion drop in sales, bringing year-end sales to $3.64 billion. Regardless, in September the company bowed its first location in the Pacific Northwest, the first of five new Neiman Marcus locations to open within the next few years.

Power Players: Karen Katz, president, CEO, Neiman Marcus Stores; Jim Gold, president, CEO, Bergdorf Goodman

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Vince Camuto CEO; Camuto Group

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19
Vince Camuto
CEO; Camuto Group
2008 Rank: 21

While firms across the industry took a cautious approach to introducing new lines this year, Camuto didn’t hold back. Instead, the footwear powerhouse unleashed three licenses with Kensie Girl, Macy’s Inc. and Lucky Brand, expanded his firm’s existing collections and focused on growing retail partnerships. In 2009, Camuto, 73, bolstered his namesake brand by adding handbags, pushed the collection into the e-commerce arena with the November launch of Vincecamuto.com and opened three freestanding Vince Camuto shops in Asia. And he’s showing no signs of slowing in 2010, with plans to bow more shops in the U.S., Middle East and Europe and to expand into additional accessories licenses. The Jessica Simpson brand, too, has thrived, as Camuto has broadened its lifestyle offerings to luggage, tween outerwear and slippers.

Power Players: Bob Galvin, president; Jeff Howald, CFO; Louise Camuto, president, marketing, communications

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20
Tamara Mellon, Joshua Schulman
Founder, President; CEO; Jimmy Choo
2008 Rank: 18

A year ago, fast-fashion would’ve been at odds with luxury labels such as Jimmy Choo. But tough times and slowing sales for the brand called for new ways to build buzz — and, hopefully, some business. Under Mellon, 42, and Schulman, 38, Jimmy Choo has tried to rekindle its hotness, thanks to a smart partnership with H&M that will give younger customers high-quality pieces at palatable prices. The limited-edition collab includes women’s and men’s shoes and accessories, as well as a capsule ready-to-wear line, hitting 200 stores later this month. Additionally, the execs continue to play down any signs of excess, moving ahead with a collection called Choo 24/7 — with updates of Mellon’s favorite styles in different heel heights, colors and materials — and more shoes that can appeal to a wider range of budgets, such as entry-level jellies. But it’s not all about the shoes. Mellon, who has longed to expand into fragrances, inked a 12-year licensing deal with Inter Parfums SA.

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