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For better or worse, what changes in the department store business stand out the most?
JM: I love what's happening right now in department stores. They are giving the category a lot more floor space and showing the necessary interest in the shoes. When I was a buyer at Neiman Marcus, shoes were respected, but at most department stores in that era, shoes were secondary. For some reason, Stanley Marcus liked them. He made it important and would invest in the shoe business. Today, with the better footwear category and after all the retail consolidations, everybody works from a matrix and has margin guarantees with vendors. That didn't exist in my time. If you couldn't sell it, you didn't buy it.
Are there certain brands no longer in existence you'd like to see someone bring back?
JM: Yes. There are certain American brands. David Evins was a very important brand at Neiman Marcus. Herbert Levine was also important, as was Erica Shoes. They were made here in New York.
During your 13 years at the helm, what's been the toughest part about running FFANY?
JM: Dates are always the biggest challenge. FFANY has the four best dates today, which accommodate the needs of the manufacturing calendar. That is always subject to movement. It hasn't moved in a few years, but that is always a challenge.
How have trade shows changed over the years?
JM: The biggest change was the rise and fall of WSA. It became an ego trip, with all the big booths and huge expenditures. When WSA reached its peak, it was costing everybody a fortune to show their shoes. It was like a show-and-tell, but not many people were buying shoes there. Brands were basically image building. Now they can show the image of their companies at their showrooms in New York. Just look at what the Jimlar, H.H. Brown and Schwartz & Benjamin companies have done in New York.
What's the future of FFANY?
JM: FFANY will be alive, healthy and continue doing what it does. And depending on who's running it, it will have a bigger philanthropic side to it. I hope the education piece with Ars Sutoria also develops. [For more on Ars Sutoria, see page 30.]
You've said you will officially step down from FFANY in 2014. What's your retirement plan?
JM: I have five children and six grandchildren. My oldest son is 55 and my youngest son is 17. I've designed my retirement so that I keep working until my 17-year-old graduates from high school. I've worked for many years, and I'm anxious to get to know my children again.
What's your best trait as a boss?
JM: I try to be a creative leader. I'm always striving to add value to what we do. I have the luxury of not being beaten up for the bottom line, therefore, I can think freely about looking for new ideas to improve the industry as a whole.
Who have you admired in footwear?
JM: Without question, I've admired Stanley Marcus and Roland Jourdan. I even introduced them to each other in 1968. I've been very fortunate, having worked with a lot of independents, Bullock's, Stanley Marcus, Phil Miller at Saks, Byron Franklin back in Tulsa, Okla., and Ron Fromm — these are all very successful, personable people who cared for their people and educated me a lot. I've had the luxury of working with some great heads of companies in this industry over the years.
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
JM: Each stage was so different because of my age and the responsibilities I was given at the time. In terms of where I had the most influence, it would be at Off 5th. That was a business built from scratch. The roots came from Saks' two clearance stores. But that was a business plan we executed well, and other people kept it going even better. I think I've [shown] more of Joe Moore at FFANY; it's been a feel good thing. We've tried to give added value and keep a shoe show in New York City. It's the best place for the industry. The most important people are here, the showrooms are here and you see fashion here.