Wolverine Worldwide – owner of Caterpillar Footwear, Chaco, Keds, Saucony, and Wolverine itself – made news a few days ago when it announced plans to shutter 140 stores over the next 18 months. Most of the affected will be Stride Rite stores. The company announced that it will also consolidate operations, restructure field support teams, and find ways to “realize further synergies.” Wolverine isn’t making those changes because of falling profits. In fact, the company reported a second-quarter 2014 revenue of $613.5 million, an increase of 4.4% from last year. And Wolverine was already operating efficiently. Operating expenses in the quarter were $196.7 million, 3.6% less than last year. So what we have in Wolverine is a company that is behaving proactively, by looking ahead and making changes today that will benefit the company and its brands tomorrow.
Because brands and selling are issues that always come first at Promoboxx, the changes at Wolverine make me wonder, “what about the brands?” When customers walk into a Stride Rite store today, they find Stride Rite products there. If they go into a store that carries lots of different brands next year, how will the Stride-Rite brand differentiate itself, make sales, and succeed and survive? That question is important for retailers that carry their own brands exclusively or almost exclusively – stores as diverse as Penzeys Spices, Brooks Brothers, and Trader Joe’s. But it is also important for every brand that wants to differentiate itself and grow in today’s complex retail world.
“2014 Outlook on Retail,” an interview with Alison Kenney Paul on the Deloitte website, provides forward-thinking answers to the question of how brands can stand out and succeed in an increasingly complex and cluttered retail world. Here is a summary of only a few of the insights from Paul, who is vice chairman and U.S. Retail and Distribution leader at Deloitte LLP:
That’s the bottom line. When a shopper is in a store and your products are there too, it is tragic if they do not connect and no purchase is made. Thankfully, we live in a time when new digital tools are arriving almost daily that can help assure that that connection and that sale really happen.