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Sperry Sails into retail

BY Marianne Wilson

Collective Brands Inc. has taken its nautical-inspired brand to a new level. The footwear giant unveiled the first-ever freestanding Sperry Top-Side store in February, in International Plaza, Tampa, Fla. Four additional sites have since opened.

For the 75-year-old Sperry, best known as the inventor of the boat shoe, the move to brick-and-mortar is part of an evolution that began a few years back. A longtime leader in the boat footwear category, the company is now casting a wider net, appealing to younger, style-savvy women and men in their late 20s and early 30s, with an expanded and more trend-right product line. It has positioned itself as a global nautical lifestyle brand with a passion for enjoying the good life not just on the water, but in and around it as well.

“We were founded in performance, about being on the water, and that’s what we had been communicating to the consumer,” said Craig Reingold, president, Sperry Top-Sider, Lexington, Mass. “As a lifestyle brand, we are able to offer a broader range of products not just for performance, but for a leisure lifestyle around the water, as well.”

In 2007, Sperry was acquired by Topeka, Kan.-based Collective Brands, whose other banners include Payless Shoe Source, Stride Rite and Keds.

“Collective was able to infuse a lot of resources and talent into building out our vision of being a global nautical lifestyle brand,” Reingold said.

Sperry has expanded its merchandise selection significantly during the past three years to include fashion footwear collections for women, enhanced casuals for men and women, apparel and accessories, and kids products.

“Even though we have expanded into other categories, all the products retain our brand DNA,” Reingold added.

Sperry’s transformation is reflected in its sales. The company used to sell about 70% of its products in the spring, but now sales are almost evenly split throughout the year.

“We’ve evolved into a four-season brand,” Reingold said. “And our women’s business has grown to about 54% of our sales, up from about 30% three years ago.”

The decision to open stores grew out of the overall strategy to create an aspirational nautical lifestyle brand and communicate it to consumers. Along with serving as a marketing vehicle, the physical locations allow the company to showcase the full breadth of its assortment. In contrast, the department stores and other outlets that carry Sperry typically buy 20% to 30% of its total line.

“Our stores allow us to dimensionalize and articulate our passion for the sea to the end consumer,” Reingold said.

Ranging from 1,000 sq. ft. to 2,000 sq. ft., Sperry stores are designed with nautical accents. The floors in the front section are made of a wide-plank porcelain tile that captures the look of a painted, weathered floor reminiscent of a seaside cottage. The laminates on the finishes range from Nepal Teak—commonly used in yachts—to silver, blue and while hues that echo the brand’s signature colors. (The prototype was designed by Collective Brands Design Studio, an inhouse team of creative talent.)

Footwear is sold through the traditional assisted-sales mode upfront. In an interesting twist, the back of the store has a shopper-accessible stock room—called the Boathouse—where customers can help themselves to the shoe stock via the self-service mode. The area features benches and nautical props and lighting fixtures.

“It’s been a big hit, particularly with female consumers who love finding their size, trying it on right there and not waiting for a salesperson,” Reingold said.

Currently, footwear accounts for about 85% of the merchandise mix. But apparel and accessories are likely to be expanded over time, Reingold said.

In addition to Tampa, Sperry has opened stores in Orlando and Boca Raton, Fla., Kansas City and Dallas.

“We’ve found that consumers relate to the Sperry aspirational lifestyle of passion for the sea regardless of the location,” Reingold added.

Sperry is looking to open a couple of other locations in the second half of the year, but it is in no rush to expand.

“The initial feeling we’re getting is good,” Reingold added, “but we will continue to evaluate it.”

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Sears unveils new Kenmore products

BY CSA STAFF

CHICAGO Sears Holdings announced that it is introducing 450 Kenmore-branded products in refrigeration, dish, laundry, cooking and small kitchen appliances.

“As America’s leading appliance brand, we recognize that even iconic brands, like Kenmore, need to reinvent themselves periodically to meet the changing needs of our customers,” said Guenther Trieb, president of Kenmore brand business unit for Sears Holdings. “During the development process, we listened carefully to consumer feedback on what they want from their Kenmore and Kenmore Elite appliances. The new Kenmore products feature eye-catching designs, new innovations, and when applicable, energy efficient capabilities to fit our customers’ lifestyles.”

The new Kenmore and Kenmore Elite products will roll out from May through November.

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New leader takes over at AAFES

BY CSA STAFF

DALLAS The Army & Air Force Exchange Service announced that it welcomed its new commander/COO in a ceremony at its headquarters in Dallas.

Maj. Gen. Bruce Casella took command of the $10 billion military retailer from Maj. Gen. Keith Thurgood. General Casella comes to AAFES from the Army Reserves where he served as the Commander of the 63rd Regional Support Command in Moffett Field, Calif.

 

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to lead this highly professional AAFES team in supporting our 12 million-plus military, retired veterans and their Families,” said Casella. “As AAFES’ commander, my goal will be to leverage my newly acquired knowledge of the organization and take it to the next level of excellence.”

During Casella’s 35 years of service, he has been assigned to a variety of command and staff positions including command at company, battalion and group levels.  His overseas assignments included tours in Korea and Germany as well as a deployment in support of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom in 2005, where he served as the Commanding General for the 377th Theater Support Command.

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