Footwear CEO Summit on Miami Beach

Footwear CEO Summit on Miami Beach

Wednesday marked the conclusion of Footwear News’ two-day CEO Summit 2013, held at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach, attended by about 200 designers and executives from top brands in the international footwear industry.

Insert: FDRA’s President Matt Priest spoke at the conference about how tariffs on footwear are taking almost $2.5 Billion a year from the industry; almost its entire profit margin. Priest explained that FDRA is the only footwear association focused on completely eliminating tariffs and lowering all trade barriers so the industry can use the savings to increase innovation and create jobs in America.  Priest stated, “We can’t control the rising costs of energy, labor and raw materials, but we can ask our government to help control the prices of goods coming across our borders. Our companies are being hit in a much more dramatic way with regard to duties than any other industry.” To learn more about how tariffs are impacting your business, please email  

The world’s love affair with shoes is growing, as celebrities and consumers express their affection via social media, and footwear designers connect to customers’ soles across the globe.

So said footwear leaders — including international designers to the stars like Rupert Sanderson, Nicholas Kirkwood and Alexandre Birman — who stepped into Miami Beach this week to mix, mingle, and share thoughts on an industry that is becoming increasingly fashionable, global and accessible to customers via social media channels.

“Consumers’ fascination with shoes escalated during the Sex and the City era, and has not stopped since then,” said Michael Atmore, editorial director of Footwear News, and director of brand development for Fairchild Fashion Media. “And what is really fascinating is that men, particularly young men, are joining in that fascination level, like the women who led them. Men are shopping more and caring more about what they wear, and so we see men as a growing opportunity.”

This year’s theme was transformation, Atmore said, as multi-brand footwear companies’ brand portfolios are becoming more diversified, the lines between sport and fashion are changing, businesses are extending their reach globally and social media is driving brands’ messages, Atmore said.

Attendees represented a cross-section of the footwear fashion industry, from the mass marketers to the luxury designer brands.

Among the speakers was high-end designer Kirkwood, who planned to visit sites in Miami’s Design District and Bal Harbour Shops on Wednesday, with hopes of opening a retail store here by the end of next year. So far, he has one store in the United States, in New York, and plans to open a second, in Las Vegas, later this month.

“We have a great customer here, with a lot of South Americans,” said London-based Kirkwood, who launched his brand in 2005 at the age of 24, and whose shoes range from $600 to $1,000. “They like style; they like color. Miami is a fun city, and people like to dress up.”

For Sanderson, who is also based in London, the summit marked his first visit to Miami. He said that he, too is considering opening a store here within the next three years, in the Design District or Bal Harbour, after he opens a first in the United States, in New York.

Sanderson launched his company 12 years ago, and has built up a loyal celebrity fan base, as his shoes grace the arches of stars like Kate Moss, Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley — as well as Kate Middleton.

When Victoria Beckham tweeted a photo of herself to her 5 million followers, wearing a dress of her own design and Sanderson’s multi-colored pumps, Sanderson said the heels were sold out overnight, and he realized the power of social media.

Indeed, because of the strength of social media and the Internet, “consumers are more equipped than five years ago in terms of knowledge of products, availability and pricing,” said James R. Salzano, president of Clarks Americas.

“It’s increasingly challenging, but it’s an opportunity for brands to connect with consumers and build that trust with consumers,” said Salzano, during a panel discussion on “How to Create — and Maintain Killer Brands.”

In fact, it’s essential for shoe designers to listen to what their customers are saying on the Web, said Libby Edelman, senior vice president of Sam Edelman, who was also on the panel.

“She wants to talk to you, and that is what social media is all about,” Edelman said of her female customers. “You’d better design for her and respond to her.”

Reaching out can even go a step further, added Steven Tiller, co-founder and chief executive of SeaVees, which makes men’s and women’s shoes that “fulfill the California dream.”

“Everybody who buys a shoe, within a few days, will get a postcard in the mail, handwritten, thanking them for the purchase,” Tiller said. “I think people appreciate that personal touch.”