As president of footwear at UBM, Leslie Gallin has seen Sole Commerce grow into a vital part of the Coterie show. She gives The Daily the exclusive scoop on how she keeps it fresh, season after season.
How long have you been doing Sole Commerce?
I’ve been handling Sole Commerce for a number of years, going back to the WSA [World Shoe Association] days when ENK [now UBM] purchased WSA. For the past eight years, I’ve been involved with Sole Commerce.
What’s been your biggest accomplishment so far?
Negotiating and navigating with the Coterie team for better placement for footwear within the event. We have seen a direct correlation in the return on investment for those footwear exhibitors. That’s been exciting! And as Coterie grows with its activations, it feeds into the excitement of what goes on at Sole Commerce as well.
Tell us what’s interesting and new about this show!
Now, thanks to our association with The Daily, Sole Commerce has an activation in social media, and we’re really excited to be launching it. The Daily is doing a panel with Coterie in the grand lobby on the first day of the show, so that’s exciting as well. This event is more about the people coming in to do their business — they’re serious about looking for new trends and writing orders.
How does Sole Commerce differ from other shoe shows in the country?
It’s a boutique-style event, and a real business driver. The show really focuses on the Eastern Seaboard, which is why it’s completely different from our national shoe show, FN Platform, in Las Vegas. That draws both domestic and international footwear and apparel stores. Sole Commerce and Footwear@Coterie are a bit more specific on the audience that they attract.
What trends are you seeing this season?
A chunky heel! We’re seeing a lot of heels that are quite unique — more artistic, architectural-type structures. And we’re seeing more embellishments on the footwear. We’re also seeing the sneaker trend continuing.
What advice do you have for retailers at the show?
I would really like for the retailers to take the time to look for new trends, because we bring a good deal of new brands. We spend a lot of time curating and looking for product that we feel is ready to do business in the United States. We ask that the retailers really take an interest in them, because if they don’t see what’s new and place an order, the brand is not going to be there next show. Retailers have the tendency to say, “Oh, well, I’ll see you next show.” Well, these brands can’t afford to come back unless they have orders. We ask retailers to participate—we’re all partners in this! If you want to see new and interesting products, you need to support them.
What about brands — any advice for them?
Dedicate yourself to knowing about your competition! Go to their websites and see who they’re selling to. Then reach out to those retail stores, look at their websites, learn about them, and see if your products might fit.
Any tips for getting a retailer’s attention?
Reach out, and not just by e-mail. Send a handwritten note with some photos of your collection and invite them to come meet you personally. At the end of the day, people want to do business with people they like and who they trust. People should be going online and looking at every single city in and around where the show is and finding the retailers in those areas and making a point to reach out to them. Go see them before the show; make appointments after the show. You know where the store is located, you can get their address. We all get way too many e-mails. But if something physically comes across your desk, people are going to take time to look at it.