When deciding to sell your company, timing is everything.

Three top executives, who all recently sold their respective companies, shared their stories at the 2011 FN CEO Summit in Miami on Friday. Tina Aldatz, Founder and President of Foot Petals, who recently sold to R.G. Barry Corp., Sam Edelman, President of the Sam Edelman Division at Brown Shoe Co. and Jim Tarica, Co-President of Footwear for LF USA covered topics ranging from reasons for the sale, to finding the right partner and adjusting to the change of reporting to someone else.

Edelman discussed that for him and his wife Libby, it was important to have a succession plan in place. "I wanted to see the brand have a real future," he said. "When I was introduced to Brown Shoe it was the perfect match at the time."

Meanwhile Aldatz said it was important for her to find a partner that allowed for her to still be heavily involved in the business. "My objective was not just to sell, but to create a strategic partnership, I wanted to do something that would leave a legacy," she said, adding that after 10 years in business it has been a rocky transition at times. "I'm a very dominant personality and there is a whole language barrier when it comes to working with a corporation, but it's exciting because I'm learning."

And Tarica said that while the deal was four years in the making, the timing finally felt right when LF discussed the option to keep all of their employees and asked both Tarica and his brother Larry Tarica to stay on board for another 10 years. "[The company] made it very clear they wanted Larry and I [involved]," he said. "We gave him our vision of where the company was going and he agreed."

Karen Goodman, Managing Director at Financo Inc. also weighed in on the M & A activity within the industry and the importance of timing. "You have to be emotionally ready," she said.

Posted by Footwear News, The Editorial Staff

Emerging celeb designer Nicole Richie said she decided to enter the fashion world when she knew she could give it her all - and it's clear she's doing just that.

At the FN CEO Summit second night’s address, Richie, who designs House of Harlow 1960 and Winter Kate, described her customer as "a woman who wants to have fun with fashion and wears everything with ease and comfort."

Between working and being a mom, Richie said she has to find styles that can work for all day wear, although she loves high heels. "Comfort is the number one factor for me—I have great shoes that I don't ever wear."

Comparing her role as designer to her former experience singing, acting, or working on TV, she said it's been challenging in ways she hadn't expected. "In those other areas you can just be an artist but when it comes to design, you're forced to know everything from shipping to linesheets to pricing."

As for top trends, Richie declined to list of-the-moment styles, opting for a style mantra that says "It's important to know your body and what looks good on you."

Richie highlighted the importance of press in growing a young brand, but said she hasn't yet tackled a strong push with stylists and celebrities. Instead, she has focused her efforts on connecting directly with consumers on Twitter, Facebook and at Personal Appearances, which she feels are the best opportunity to have face time with her customers. "PAs are great and I see them as my chance to see what [the customers] are drawn to, what they want me to do and get feedback."

Richie confirmed she does all her own tweeting to her two million plus followers. "I love talking to people directly to keep them in the loop and get their feedback." Although she started off tweeting about her business to share the process and get feedback, Richie said she can't resist the occasional cheesy ‘knock knock’ joke or personal post. "For me, it's very important to know my customer and connect with them directly. I love that," Richie said.

Posted by Footwear News, The Footwear Editorial Staff

Getting TV viewers to buy something they can’t readily touch, taste or smell isn’t easy. And when you’re selling, say, footwear or perfume, the challenge is even more daunting.

But HSN has found a formula that works.

Mindy Grossman, its CEO, earlier today told a crowd of footwear and executives at the 2011 FN CEO Summit in Miami that consumers will splurge if retailers create experiences that go well beyond just selling product.

Merchants must deliver the “joy and excitement of new product everyday,” she said.

One simple way to do that, she suggested, is by creating experiences that come to life for the potential buyer.

For instance, when legendary crooner Rod Stewart was set to release a new album last fall, the giant TV retailer partnered with his record label to present a live on-air concert. The end result? More than 30,000 CDs were sold in an hour.

It proved, Grossman said, the music business wasn’t dead; it just needed fresh thinking. It also gave HSN a 20 percent spike in new customers.

“We need to create appointments to view,” she said.

HSN will take a similar approach next month when it debuts new music from Randy Travis.

Posted by Footwear News, The Editorial Staff

Three of the industry’s rising design stars and one celebrity footwear newcomer opened up about their growing businesses at the 2011 FN CEO Summit during a special panel this afternoon.

Nicholas Kirkwood, Jerome Rousseau, Alejandro Ingelmo and Yeardley Smith (the voice of Lisa Simpson from the “Simpson” series) talked about everything from their first big break in the business to the things that frustrate them most about the industry, including knockoffs.

It’s clear these four are determined to take their brands to the next level.

Ingelmo, who is nominated for a CFDA award this year, talked about opening his first store in New York last year, and how that has helped his brand become instantly more recognizable. Similarly, Kirkwood is debuting a London boutique, his first location, next month, and has plans for retail in New York, Asia and the Middle East.

Rousseau, who lives in Los Angeles, sounded off on the power of celebrity. “Early on, I got in with two young stars, Kristen Stewart and January Jones, and that really helped me at the beginning,” Rousseau said.

And Smith weighed in on leaping from Hollywood to footwear.

“I like to do things that people tell me I can’t do,” Smith said, of her new footwear venture, Marchez Vous YS. “I started acting at 17, and people told me I wouldn’t make it. Well here I am [all these years later].”

Posted by Footwear News, The Editorial Staff

Men’s designer John Varvatos kicked off the 2011 Footwear News CEO Summit on Wednesday night with a message of innovation.

As he recounted his childhood in Detroit and rise at Ralph Lauren — first in sales and later in design — Varvatos said he decided to be a designer at 29. After a stint at Cole Haan, a longer run at Calvin Klein and a return to Ralph Lauren, he started his label in 2000 with a focus on originality.

“[Back then] there was a lot of sameness,” he said. “And I thought, ‘This is the time for someone to do something different.’ I wanted to create a lifestyle brand, something with personality.”

And Varvatos said innovation continues to be important. “Our mantra is to create new designs and never copy,” he said.

The designer said 2010 was a record year for the company in revenue and profits. He just renewed his contract five more years for his collaboration with Converse.

And the company is looking at new ways to market, including streaming new music on its website and offering tickets to concerts before they are available anywhere else.

“We are hell bent on creating an experience,” he said. “In our 11th year, we kind of feel like we are just getting started.”

Posted by Footwear News, Editorial Staff

[cross-posted on the Google Mobile Ads Blog]

71% of smartphone users search because of an ad they’ve seen either online or offline; 82% of smartphone users notice mobile ads, 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase as a result of using their smartphones to help with shopping, and 88% of those who look for local information on their smartphones take action within a day.

These are some of the key findings from “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users,” a study from Google and conducted by Ipsos OTX, an independent market research firm, among 5,013 US adult smartphone Internet users at the end of 2010. Join us in tomorrow’s webinar where we’ll present the full research findings. In the meantime, enjoy this research highlights video and read on for a summary of our main section findings:

General Smartphone Usage: Smartphones have become an integral part of users’ daily lives. Consumers use smartphones as an extension of their desktop computers and use it as they multi-task and consume other media.
  • 81% browse the Internet, 77% search, 68% use an app, and 48% watch videos on their smartphone
  • 72% use their smartphones while consuming other media, with a third while watching TV
  • 93% of smartphone owners use their smartphones while at home
Action-Oriented Searchers: Mobile search is heavily used to find a wide variety of information and to navigate the mobile Internet.
  • Search engine websites are the most visited websites with 77% of smartphone users citing this, followed by social networking, retail and video sharing websites
  • Nine out of ten smartphone searches results in an action (purchasing, visiting a business, etc.)
  • 24% recommended a brand or product to others as a result of a smartphone search
Local Information Seekers: Looking for local information is done by virtually all smartphone users and consumers are ready to act on the information they find.
  • 95% of smartphone users have looked for local information
  • 88% of these users take action within a day, indicating these are immediate information needs
  • 77% have contacted a business, with 61% calling and 59% visiting the local business
Purchase-driven Shoppers: Smartphones have become an indispensable shopping tool and are used across channels and throughout the research and decision-making process.
  • 79% of smartphone consumers use their phones to help with shopping, from comparing prices, finding more product info to locating a retailer
  • 74% of smartphone shoppers make a purchase, whether online, in-store, or on their phones
  • 70% use their smartphones while in the store, reflecting varied purchase paths that often begin online or on their phones and brings consumers to the store
Reaching Mobile Consumers: Cross-media exposure influences smartphone user behavior and a majority notice mobile ads which leads to taking action on it.
  • 71% search on their phones because of an ad exposure, whether from traditional media (68%) to online ads (18%) to mobile ads (27%)
  • 82% notice mobile ads, especially mobile display ads and a third notice mobile search ads
  • Half of those who see a mobile ad take action, with 35% visiting a website and 49% making a purchase
The findings of the study have strong implications for businesses and mobile advertisers. Make sure you can be found via mobile search as consumers regularly use their phones to find and act on information. Incorporate location based products and services and make it easy for mobile customers to reach you because local information seeking is common among smartphone users. Develop a comprehensive cross-channel strategy as mobile shoppers use their phones in-store, online and via mobile website and apps to research and make purchase decisions. Last, implement an integrated marketing strategy with mobile advertising that takes advantage of the knowledge that people are using their smartphones while consuming other media and are influenced by it.

Learn More
To learn more about the study, please join us in a webinar tomorrow where we will present and discuss the research findings in-depth. Register for “The Mobile Movement: Understanding Smartphone Users” webinar on Wednesday, April 27th at 11am PST/ 2pm EST. To receive the research report, please visit the Google Mobile Ads blog after April 27th to download a complimentary copy of the study.

Posted by Dai Pham, Google Mobile Ads Marketing Team

It is wedding season again! Many brides-to-be are planning their big day. For anyone that has planned a wedding or been a part of a wedding party, you know how many details must be executed flawlessly. Some less fortunate bridesmaids have witnessed what can happen if any details fall apart. Good thing Google has created a way for brides-to-be to keep organized through!

As a retailer, you connect with budding brides (and grooms) early in wedding planning process, and have the opportunity to keep brides from becoming bridezillas – starting with her gift registry.

How do you get the newly engaged couple to choose your store for their wedding registry needs when there are so many competitors? Here are some tips on how to stand out.

Build brand awareness
First and foremost, your brand must be a part of the engaged couple’s consideration set. Build brand recognition by advertising on generic wedding terms such as [wedding ideas] and [gift registry]. Get the word out that you have a competitive offering!

Promote national presence
Registry gift purchasers are often not local to the bride’s location. If you have a national footprint or have a large shipping capability, evangelize your favorable consumer reach.

Provide quality navigation
Time is money. If the couple can’t find what they need on your site easily, the money isn’t going into your pocket! Coordinate product-level landing pages with ad copy. Make their lives easier by providing reporting on gifts purchased and pending shipments.

Highlight favorable return policies
Let’s face it, we all have one eccentric aunt that found her way to the right store, but couldn’t remember to check the registry. Or a creative friend that wouldn’t dream of purchasing exactly what you picked out (they, of course, have a better idea). Whatever the case, no one likes to be stuck with items that they don’t want. If you have a great exchange or return policy, this is your target consumer.

Tout inventory selection at various price ranges
Wedding guests have varying wallet sizes. Dazzle wedding gift registry candidates with your large selection at multiple price ranges. Consider providing bundling suggestions on lower priced items for guests who would like to spend more on the bride, but can’t afford premium items on the list.

Be mobile
Unlike previous generations, more often than not, both partners have busy work schedules. They also can connect with their friends instantly when considering a purchase or service provider. Target both genders on the go and provide rich mobile experiences that are easy to navigate and incorporate a social component.

Offer incentives
Weddings can be quite costly, so brides-to-be are looking for any cost-cutting tips. Although gift purchasers are the target audience for conversion purposes, the bride and groom ultimately guide where the purchases will occur. Leverage their influence on wedding attendees by giving loyalty rewards, cash back programs a discount on remaining registry items.

Offer relevant advice
If you have any information that can make her big day run smoothly – tell her about it! Advertise against your own wedding content, but don’t forget to also be present next to valuable wedding content across the Google Display Network with Contextual Targeting.

Hopefully activating the aforementioned tips will not only make engaged couples everywhere say “I do” to your store, but will keep them loyal to your brand and live happily ever after… Forever!

Posted by Keri Overman, The Google Retail Team

It seems turf wars no longer just apply to the long standing East Coast vs West Coast rivalry. It is now about actual turf! Is it time to think about lawn care already? Wasn't it just snowing throughout most of the country? It seems people have Spring fever. People are eager to shed their winter clothing for their shorts, t-shirts & bathing suits.

Searches for [Spring] started rising in early-February with a tremendous spike the first week of April. People desperate for Spring to arrive are growing in number - fast!

What is everyone hoping to do when Spring arrives? Well I'll tell you - BBQ! [Gas grills] are top of mind. A rise in queries in early-February and another spike the first week of April prove just how anxious people are to start grilling.

[Gardening] follows suit at a more consistent upward pace. Consumers are ready to get going on their neglected gardens. Well I suppose the early bird catches the worm...

Who will claim the turf war championship in the neighborhood? Hopefully your customer!

We all like a win-win scenario. So which retailer will claim their turf in the lawn cares pace? My money is on all of you. Showing a relevant message to consumers when they just can't take the cold weather anymore will be key. Gain a few bonus points with consumers by suggesting they make the most of their freshly tended lawn. A new patio set? Maybe add a new deck? Get creative with your ad copy and snag valuable customers this season. We don't want you to lose any of your hard-earned turf.

Posted by Keri Overman, The Google Retail Team

Have you ever had the dreaded moment of wearing the same outfit as your frenemy? You are not alone! Luckily there’s a new online solution to help solve this teenage fashion dilemma by letting girls reserve a look for the most important day of their high school years -- prom.

Now that we have avoided that travesty and the dream dress is reserved, let’s focus on being the belle of the ball. How can you ensure your consumer feels like Cinderella at her prom?

Stay on trend. Be there or be square.
Searches for prom dresses have steadily increased since January and will peak in late April according to 2010 prom dress search volume.

Advertisers can reach prom dress seekers this month by emphasizing unique styles and one-of–a-kind looks.

Go short or go home.
Short dresses are in demand according to the top searched items associated with [prom dresses]. Feature shorter dresses on landing pages to reduce bounce rates.

Accessorize their look.
Feature accessories that will give personal flare to the chosen dresses. Offer pairing suggestions and deals to increase cart size. If you sell the perfect shoes, jewelry or hair accessories, say so!

Offer deals.
Every perfect look has its price, and in this case it better be cheap! Top searches for [prom dresses] include several bargain-hunting terms such as [cheap prom dresses] and [cheap dresses].

If you have a look for less, capitalize on this by investing in key deal terms and leveraging bargain language in your creative.

This is an important day for teens everywhere. It is a great opportunity to have them experience your brand while building an emotional connection. By making your customers prom dreams come true, you can build a loyal customer for life!

Posted by Keri Overman, The Google Retail Team

Lately it seems that Mother Nature has been sending us a message. With recent natural disasters happening around the world, consumers are heading her warning signs and switching to environmentally friendly products. Consumers of every nationality will be united in the quest to give back to the environment on Earth Day. Advertisers are scrambling to get their “green” inventory into the limelight. How can you stand out? Here are a few tricks to help you shine.

Position inventory
Build unique landing pages for environmentally friendly products and tout inventory in ad creative.

Capture procrastinators
Searches for green and environmentally friendly products reach their peak on Earth Day. Give consumers last minute ideas to participate in the holiday and keep budgets open to avoid missing valuable traffic on the most revenue-bearing day for green items.

Highlight a cause
Since you can’t reach Mother Nature, your best bet is reaching your consumers. Now is a good time to position your brand as environmentally conscientious. By educating your consumers on how you participate in Earth Day, you can reap the benefits of positive brand association.

Even if you don’t offer green products, let consumers know proceeds from your sales go to an environmental or relief cause during the weeks leading up to Earth Day if that is the case.

Happy Earth Day from Google Retail!

Posted by Keri Overman, Google Retail Team

[Cross-posted from the Google Merchant Blog]

If you've ever spent your Saturday calling different stores or driving around town in search of one specific product, then it probably occurred to you that there must be a better way. Today we're announcing Local Product Availability on Google Place Pages - a new feature that automatically brings your offline catalog to the web, letting customers view your products and search your local inventory on your Place Page before visiting your store.

When you provide Google with local product availability data, your Google Place Page will now automatically include a new section, ‘Popular products available at this store’, featuring five popular products along with price and local availability. For shoppers unfamiliar with your business, this section shows the types of products available in your store.

If shoppers are looking for a specific item, they can click ‘Search within this store’ to search your product inventory to see if a particular item is in stock nearby.

Getting started
To automatically display local product availability on your Google Place page, you’ll need to first share local availability data with Google through a Merchant Center account and claim your a Google Place page. For instructions on sharing local product availability with Google, read this Help Center article. Learn how to claim your Google Place page here.

Posted by Paul Lee, Senior Product Manager, Google Product Search

April is National Poetry Month in the US. Two of the best-known poems in the English language famously begin by invoking April — casting the month in two very different lights. With a little shift of historical context and original meaning, these two attitudes might very well describe the two main views of the future of poetry — and books and recreational reading at large — in modern American society.

T.S. Eliot begins The Waste Land: “April is the cruelest month, breeding/ Lilacs out the dead land, mixing/ Memory and desire, stirring/ Dull roots with spring rain.”

Geoffrey Chaucer, writing nearly six centuries before, starts The Canterbury Tales with these lines: “When in April the sweet showers fall/ That pierce March’s drought to the root and all/ And bathed every vein in liquor that has power/ To generate therein and sire the flower...”

Eliot’s April looks away from the future, afraid, and pining for another age. This type of April is not the arrival of a welcome spring, but the destruction of beloved winter. In this view, genre and the culture built around that genre are inextricably tied to the medium of delivery. When that medium — poetry reviews and paper books, for example —dies, so does the genre and culture.

It is easy, at first glance, to agree with Eliot when it comes to the state of poetry consumption in the US: April is the cruelest month (for poetry lovers) in serves as reminder that poetry has long been on the decline in Western culture — at least in the conventional Chaucer-and-Eliot-are-Poets-with-a-Capital-P sense.

Google Insights for Search shows a general year-over-year decline in searches for [poetry], [poems], and [poets] 2004 to the present. Likewise, searches for [poetry bookstores] have been in decline year-over-year. None of this should come as a surprise. A National Endowment for the Arts 2008 report shows only 8.3% of American adults read any poetry at all in the previous 12 months.

Yet, poetry’s history has been one of constant change, breaking boundaries set by older generations, and experimentation—in content, form, and media of delivery. All these facts might point not to a death of poetry and reading, but toward a transformation whose contours are yet to fully emerge.

This hypothesis fits more with Chaucer’s themes of April — exuberant, bounding forward, full of surprising growth, embarking on adventure. We can easily imagine Chaucer himself delighting (and finding ample material) in the hyper-share culture of social media streams--in what other age has the drama (romantic and otherwise) of so many people been so assiduously and so openly recorded? Beyond this, the restrictions of Twitter could be seen as parallels to the restrictions of earlier poetic forms, like varieties of sonnet or haiku. The complex of technologies that make up the digital age — like the rise of mass printing before it — is shaping language, spoken and written, in unexpected ways.

Concrete facts support this view of the future of poetry and reading. Around the middle of last year, Amazon announced that Kindle books had outpaced the sale of hardcover books by a ratio of 143:100. A decade of rising text-dependent technologies--SMS, Twitter, and the adoption of smartphones have given rise to world where teachers must demand that students stop reading and writing — rather than begging them to read and write. Google has scanned and cataloged about 15 million of the estimated 146 million unique books in the world. A significant number of these texts are in the public domain--including many works of world literature and landmark poetry.

Additionally, Americans continue to turn to a diverse choir of poet's voices in times of delight, sorrow, love, hope, despair, and wonder. Some of the most searched poets in the US in recent weeks include:
  • Maya Angelou
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Edgar Allen Poe
  • Kobayashi Issa
  • Robert Frost
  • Emily Dickinson
  • Dante Alighieri
  • Langston Hughes
  • Taylor Mali
  • John Keats
And these are some of the most searched themes related to poetry:
  • Love poems
  • Rhyming dictinonary
  • Poemas de amor
  • Haiku
  • Poems about life
  • Metaphor
  • Dicton
  • Nursery ryhmes
  • Sad poems
  • Funny poems
Google’s Wonder Wheel displaying popular related themes and queries around [American poetry]

As National Poetry month unfolds — and as people buy books for spring and summer vacations — booksellers online and offline might take some of these themes into account into their marketing and some of these authors into their inventories. Meanwhile, and more broadly, they would do well to approach this new era with a sense of opportunity and delight. The sale and consumption of verse and literature may not remain what we think them to be today. But, this fits with the history of reading and writing — which began as an oral culture tradition and moved through papyrus, illuminated manuscript, movable type printing press, and LED screen.

Signs and models of such reinvention of reading culture already exist across America. For example, in St. Louis, the major independent bookstores have collaborated to form an “indie alliance”. A vibrant Twitter group promotes independent bookstores as a group travel destination from coast-to-coast. At the larger retailer end of the spectrum, free downloads of poetry direct to Kindles, Nooks, and other eReader devices will introduce classics to those who may not have paid for (or carried around in paper form) a copy of The Odyssey or The Divine Comedy.

Whether on an eReader, browsing in a bookstore, or looking for used volumes on an online book reseller’s website, the culture and economy of poetry and reading is, without doubt, in a state of ferment. Yet, a more hopeful, Chaucerian outlook might see it as the start of a new spring.

Posted by Paul Nauert, The Google Retail Team

Do online search campaigns lead to in-store sales? Controlled studies we call ‘Online to Store’ experiments prove time and again that they do! Check out this video for results from large advertisers that tested the effects of keyword targeted products and categories, generic keywords and online coupons. Highlights include in-store sales lift, return on ad spend (15:1 in some cases) and halo effects on overall sales. Understanding the effect of search ads on offline sales is a large part of accurately defining the full value of search campaigns, beyond direct conversion. Consider these results and your own online to store testing.

Posted by Susan Billingsley, US Large Advertiser Marketing Team

With Easter falling significantly later this year, retailers have an increased opportunity to push Easter products including gifts & greetings, Spring apparel and home decor for family entertaining. They also engage consumers as they search for last minute entertaining items and the perfect dress for the occasion, and feature deals on related products and exclusive inventory to increase online and store purchases.

Google Insights for Search indicates that searches begin to rise in early March, with peak interest on the Thursday before Easter. It is crucial to be actively advertising to in-market consumers throughout the Easter purchase season, as competition is fierce.

Although Easter has its own specific retail products, don’t forget about the 40 days leading up to Easter that have a significant group of people giving up vices for Lent. Their sacrifices range from media consumption -- including TV and social networking -- to sweets and unhealthy habits. This may encourage consumers to get off the couch and go shopping. Entice buyers to channel their spare time to engage with your products in-store.

Lent followers traditionally focus on giving something up, but there is also a component of taking on a project that has been subjected to severe procrastination. Now it is time to tackle the daunting home improvement DIY projects and intensive spring cleaning, including taking all of your old clothes to the local donation store and purchasing a fresh look for the quickly approaching Spring weather. Retailers have the opportunity to push messaging reminding consumers of their pending projects and the products that provide easy solutions.

Posted by Keri Overman, The Google Retail Team