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Survival Time

Five top independent footwear retailers share their tips and offer advice on trimming costs and preparing for a post-turnaround market.

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Patti and Stanley Silver

Photo By Courtesy Photo



The Unavoidable Risks

Hassan said retailers can’t totally avoid risks — and playing it too safe is not a game plan for success. “For fall, we’re still bringing in new brands and product, and trying new things,” he said. “You need to take some risks, but focused risks.”

Knowing where to take those risks means getting to know the customer better. Hassan said he’s spending more time on the sales floor and working with his staff to ensure they know the products they’re selling. “The staff needs to be more service [oriented] and more knowledgeable,” he said.

Wasserman said retailers should get a better feel for their customers’ tastes and brand preferences. “It’s time to spend more time on the floor, look at reports, selling patterns, perhaps do vendor reports, color reports, size-run reports, become a little more analytic. People might be doing that analysis already, but it’s time to do it even more.”

Jassem, too, suggested that retailers spend more time working the store floor and connecting with consumers one-on-one. “I’m on the floor more now than I have been in the last 10 years,” he said. “The customers appreciate the attention and service they are getting.”

When store traffic is slow, Fadlon suggested that retailers take the time to plot out strategic growth plans, including new and inventive ways to promote their businesses that don’t require a lot of money. “Think about what you’re going to do once things turn around, because when it does, it’s going to happen fast,” he said.

For example, Fadlon said store owners should consider projects such as working with a local high school or charity, or forming a partnership that will raise awareness and bring in new customers. “There might be opportunities here you hadn’t thought of before,” he said. “This is a chance to get creative. [Now] you have the time to think more about marketing and advertising.”

Fadlon also suggested that retailers make sure they’re taking advantage of all co-op dollars offered by vendors. “Some retailers forget they have co-op money available, and now would be a good time to use it,” he said.

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