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Brown Shoe kicks up net income in Q2

BY Dan Berthiaume

St. Louis – Brown Shoe Company increased net income 17% to $18.1 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2014, from $15.4 million in the same period the prior year. Net sales rose 2% to $635.9 million from $621.7 million, while same-store sales at its primary Famous Footwear brand climbed 1.6%.

Brown Shoe credited back-to-school sales at Famous Footwear, supported by a strong omnichannel customer experience, as helping to drive second quarter results. Brown expects positive same-store sales growth at Famous Footwear in the third quarter.

“Our second quarter results reflect the health of both our retail and wholesale businesses, as we continue to benefit from, and expand on, our portfolio realignment efforts,” said Diane Sullivan, CEO, president and chairman of Brown Shoe Company. “At Famous Footwear, our focus on delivering a seamless omnichannel experience to our consumers helped kick off our back-to-school selling season. At our wholesale brands, our trend-right merchandise is resonating with both consumers and retailers.”

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Weather Trends: September 2014

BY CSA STAFF

An increased risk of an emerging El Nino and a continuation of warmer than normal ocean waters in the Atlantic will produce warmer and wetter conditions along the East Coast along with an elevated tropical system risk. The total number of tropical systems will be reduced overall, but should a storm threaten the U.S., the East Coast would be at highest risk. Much cooler weather will be common across the Plains with increased rainfall east of the Rockies. The western third of the nation will trend much drier as the flow of monsoon moisture is cut off earlier than normal, while temperatures are generally similar to last year. Demand for autumn apparel will lag until the end of the month in the East when demand starts to pick up. A warm stretch of weather around mid-month in the East will extend the summer season in the South and provide a final opportunity for summer clearance farther north.

Weather Trends International offers year-ahead business weather forecasts and intelligence to hundreds of major retailers, suppliers, and we also support many commodity/energy traders. We offer an unparalleled competitive advantage by helping our clients proactively plan for the weather up to a year in advance. For more information on what we can do for you, please contact Jack Grum [email protected] or call 610-807-0118.

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Exploring your company’s digital DNA to find the right digital talent

BY CSA STAFF

Digital talent is a hot topic among retail CEOs today — primarily, where to find enough talent to develop the organization’s “digital DNA” at every level and in every area of the business. With digital talent within retail in short supply, we now have to proactively go further afield — whether in travel, finance, the tech industry or elsewhere — to identify and woo the digital experts our companies need to grow.

Following the earlier “Open Letter to Retail CEOs,” the Shop.org Think Tank group recently penned a companion piece: “Open Letter to Digital Professionals: Looking for your next career adventure? Step into digital retail.” In this new article, we explore why retail is vibrant, innovative, full of opportunities to directly impact the lives of potentially millions of customers, and moving quickly on technology investments and practices that want to rival those at well-known tech companies.

All well and good, so the question now is whether you’re ready for the very specific, pointed questions digital professionals will pose as they decide whether your company is where they should start the retail chapter of their careers. Before HR takes their first step, you should prepare to candidly answer questions that strike at the heart of your business strategy, including:

  • Where does ‘digital’ fit into your top three strategic initiatives for your company? Be crystal clear on why you need this talent and specifically how they will contribute to the growth of your company. Is digital one of your company’s explicit top three strategic initiatives? If not, you should likely re-think that, given the crucial role of digital touchpoints in customer interactions with your company — or re-examine why you think you need more digital talent in the first place.
  • What are your three greatest challenges in delivering a seamless experience for your customers? Do in-depth homework on your customers — how they shop with you, what their pain points are, why customers return (or not), what they expect from you. Then ask this same question of each area in the company — the varying perspectives on current obstacles they each see will provide rich food for thought, discussion and priority (re-)setting.
  • How do your customers use mobile devices in your stores – and how to invest to make that experience better? We have research on how consumers say they use mobile devices while in-store, but you should also ask your store associates directly and the customers themselves how and why they use mobile devices in-store. What are the gaps in your current offerings and what should your roadmap include?
  • How much, when and where are you investing in digital technology? What does your capital and expense budget look like this year, next year and beyond? Without adequate budget, any plan is a pipedream, and digital professionals will see that a mile away. Budget is where the rubber meets the road, and in digital retail, that bar is only rising: Kohl’s has invested $600 million in technology since 2013, while Nordstrom is investing $1.2 billion over the next five years
  • What is your company philosophy on failure? Hopefully you threw out the old mantra of “Failure is not an option” along with other vestiges of an old business model. Modern technology development depends heavily on rapid iteration: instead of massive multi-month (or multi-year) initiatives, development happens as an ongoing series of smaller developments that evolve quickly with the business. By design, we know that some (possibly many) of those iterations won’t work – but this process is designed for “fast failure” from which the team learns and quickly moves on to find a solution that ultimately does work.
  • What is the one over-arching goal for everyone in the company — and how is that rewarded? Delivering a truly seamless experience to the customer depends on an organization that has moved culturally and financially away from divisions — of all kinds. Does everyone in your company have a common set of goals and measurements for all that they do? Do you reward employees based on those? Only once your measurements, strategic objectives and incentives are aligned universally is a seamless experience for the customer remotely possible.

Only you can answer these and other questions for your own company, of course. However, their nature suggests that you and your counterparts may well have some soul-searching to do long before HR sets forth on the mission to find that top flight digital talent you need. I encourage you read the “Open Letter to Digital Professionals” on the NRF website.


Vicki Cantrell works with members of the Shop.org Think Tank and is senior vice president for communities at the National Retail Federation and executive director of NRF’s Shop.org division.

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