I recently came across this story on Footwear News about how malls in America are being reinvented in an effort to bring back customers. After working for a couple of years for FInish Line (which I still need to add to my portfolio!), I have a pretty strong stance on retail in America: Malls Aren’t Dying Creativity Is.
I am beyond passionate about the footwear business and I love a good challenge, so working for Finish Line to help give them a digital presence that they had struggled to identify before my team began shaping the direction of the brand was what I considered to be at the time, a dream job. Over the course of a couple years, I realized that my passion for the business wasn’t matched by the ‘old guard’ of leadership at Finish Line. I chose to write about it for Sole Collector, knowing that it could potentially hurt some of my relationships with people who might take my thoughts and feelings personally. But I chose to write my story for the thousands of kids that would read it and rethink how they approached getting a job in the footwear business.
I bring this up because 5 years later, the challenges that face all retailers, not just Finish Line and not just the footwear business, are the same as they were then. You can’t rely on the people that have been doing the same job for decades to shape the future of a business that is so rapidly changing that at any given moment, your competitors and neighbors in the malls around the country are going out of business. I don’t say this to offend any of the ‘shoe dogs’ as Nike Founder and former CEO Phil Knight would call them. In fact, I learned much of what I know from the previous generation. I’m grateful to them for creating a footwear business that allowed a kid like me who couldn’t afford brand name shoes as a kid, the opportunity to work with the brands I admire so much.
That said, as we see more and more of the traditional retail segment crumble, I don’t believe that it is the business itself that is failing. It’s actually the suppression of challenging ideas and the silencing of voices that question the status quo that is ultimately hurting the malls and retailers in America.
At some point in everyone’s career, or life as a retail business owner or employee, numbers were down and you forced to think outside the box in order to make ends meet and keep the lights on. In order to survive these changes in consumer habits, thinking outside the box needs to become the new norm for doing business. It’s no longer easy. The system that was put in place that made it easy is no longer working but that doesn’t mean that young consumers aren’t eager to spend their money on sneakers. On the contrary, they are actually spending significantly more than they ever have on footwear.
According to this report, global footwear market was valued at approximately USD 246.07 billion in 2017 and is expected to generate revenue of around USD 320.44 billion by the end of 2023, growing at about 4.5% between 2017 and 2023. That means there is actually A LOT more money to be made in the business.
My suggestion to those afraid of the changing of the times? Find the youngest consumer around you, buy them a coffee, and ask them about how they spend their money. My guess is that they respond with three things: things that matter, things that create memories with friends, and things they can share with their friends on social media.
Malls aren’t dying, creativity is. The new way that consumers spend isn’t not spending at all, it’s spending on things that provide more indelible value.