After recently attending the MRket Show in New York and chatting with Karen Alberg Grossman, I decided to pen a few thoughts while on the train ride back to Albany, and ultimately, The Berkshires.
With the closures of thousands of malls in the United States (over 4,000) and the tens of thousands of satellite stores within each one, there lie great opportunities for us men’s specialty retailers. Let’s face it, most men favor brick-and-mortar stores over e-commerce. They want, and enjoy, being waited on. Whether it’s hardware or sporting goods or clothing they seek and appreciate the attention. Customers love advice, service, and thorough education. We all know that women shop months before an event, giving themselves ample time to make sure everything is perfect. The majority of men however shop days, even hours, before. For example, we had a groom come into our store to purchase a suit for his own wedding at 4 o’clock that afternoon! Only specialty stores like ours could get it done. And we make sure our customers know that we will move mountains for anyone. My point: Tell your customers the things you can do over, and over, and over. They will get the message!
Part of delivering that special expert service that your customer appreciates is observing his wants and needs. Which brings me to why I really wanted to write this article. With each mall that closes it’s easy to say that at least five men’s shoe outlets will vanish (one inside each anchor store and another two or three independents). Our area mall closed in 2019. We lost Macy’s, J.C. Penny, and Sears all with men’s shoe departments. In addition, we waved goodbye to both Payless and Foot Locker. And on top of all that one of our family-owned shoe stores is closing after 73 years. The only other family-owned shoe store discontinued dress shoes in the past few years. Because of these events, we saw a great opportunity, and so did the Florsheim representative. He paid us a courtesy call, introduced himself, and ultimately left with a pretty substantial shoe order. To date, with two years of carrying Florsheim in our store, we have sold over 1,000 pairs!
It’s time to look around you. If you haven’t looked at your shoe department in a while, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your selection. Or maybe you need to invest a little heavier in fragrances. Your community will tell you, both directly and indirectly. There’s so much newness out there! And if you don’t carry footwear maybe it’s time to jump in. Handsome, well-styled footwear is HOT!
Steven Valenti is the president and founder of Steven Valenti’s Clothing, a menswear store in Pittsfield, MA.