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Focus on Footwear: How Can You Kick Challenges to the Curb?


Can traditional retailing and distribution models survive in today’s competitive footwear market? Footwear companies have unprecedented opportunities to take advantage of trends in innovation and consumer relationships, but businesses need the right platforms to support progress.

Controlling Distribution

The first thing footwear companies need to consider now is where to distribute products. Retail is struggling, while Amazon has taken over. To grow, you need to carefully examine what your distribution channels look like. From a product perspective, how do you line up your product to match those distribution channels? For example, if you’re going into Nordstrom, you have to develop new products to suit their particular consumer.

As a result, footwear companies are developing their own distribution channels, which presents another challenge. If your company has its own retail stores or e-commerce site, you need ways to listen to the consumer and develop what they are looking for as quickly as possible. Big players like Adidas and Nike have become very skilled in catering to their consumer set, and that’s what you’re competing against. Extremely strong consumer insights, ideation and trend-spotting should be the priority for footwear companies, so they can give consumers the products they want without getting stuck with excess inventory.

What does your Consumer Want?

However, unprecedented control over distribution also represents a massive opportunity. A business starting up today can determine a new consumer set – within running for instance – that’s looking for a type of shoe they can’t get anywhere else, and speak directly to them through social media and targeted online advertising.

The traditional model is to make some shoes, try to find a retailer, hope they sell it to the consumer and eventually get paid some day. That model is struggling, and most new businesses in the footwear market shouldn’t even entertain it any more. You have the chance to communicate directly with consumers, create a consumer base, and draw on their feedback and desires for future designs.

Respond Rapidly with PLM

A PLM solution is extremely useful in responding rapidly to consumer feedback and increasing speed to market. Looking specifically at Centric PLM™, the merchandising module makes it possible to collect data about what has been selling in different distribution channels, what colors are popular and so on. That information is critical for making smart decisions and informs product developers and designers, giving them a clear focus and product brief based on what the market wants.

On the development work side, there’s a prioritization system and clear information. You can pull from a materials library to create BOMs, which speeds everything up as you don’t have to start from scratch each time. PLM provides a foundation of information that allows you to make quicker decisions and have more visibility into your operations.

Walk, Then Run

It’s not just startups that can benefit from PLM. If you have a bigger brand and you’re trying to scale but your tools and systems aren’t effective, you’re at a competitive disadvantage. Getting products to market quickly and in styles consumers want requires a ton of data, well-organized and structured in a way that allows you to act on it.

PLM gives footwear businesses that backbone of actionable data. Rather than spinning your wheels making prototypes and samples, going back and forth, wasting time and money, PLM can help you make decisions, ship products and truly get in the game.