October 12, 2010

With the leaves turning color and fall upon us, I thought I’d revisit some themes of this summer one last time for this month’s blog.

In mid-July I wrote about learnings from my various travels during the first half of the year. I can say that the three months since then have reinforced those experiences. First, about the economy. There continues to be a dire tone to newspaper economic reports these days. But one of the apparent advantages of being close to actual daily consumer activity is that we can read the economic pulse pretty well, maybe better than the newspapers that seem always to be looking back a few months and highlighting bad news. Based on what we’ve seen, I feel confident that the erudite (yet very pragmatic) economist I heard in L.A. in May was right – the average employed American consumer is recovering to a New Normal of spending behavior. The craziness of a few years ago has not returned, of course, and most likely never will in my lifetime, but the consumer is again driving economic growth.

A week ago, I was in our store in an upscale mall in suburban Detroit – a place where economic woes have hit especially hard. Well, our store there has had an upsurge in the past few months and the entire mall was much busier than I expected on a late Saturday afternoon in early October. The Starbucks upstairs from us had a constant line of people extending out the store’s doors, despite it being past the time to switch to decaf. The entire mall had almost an early-December vibe to it. Improving consumer confidence with 90% employment seems a powerful force, and that’s good news for everyone in the U.S., I hope.

Second, I mentioned in July that international fashion trends have turned decidedly toward authentic American Classic styling. The Fall Collections that have now made their debuts in stores across the nation certainly bear that out. Pictures tell the story better than I ever could. Here is a link to some photos of a Spring 2011 runway show by fashion designer Marlon Gobel, who used Allen Edmonds shoes throughout his collection. You see plainly here the trend toward traditional brown dress shoes paired with very casual apparel, even shorts. I had a customer ask me recently what to wear with khakis and jeans and I told him to look at walnut Strands or McAllisters, burnished brown San Marcos or the Players Shoe that we made for the PGA Championship.

Speaking of the PGA, the golfers in that tournament liked our shoes so much that the PGA asked us afterward to makes shoes for the entire U.S. Team competing over in Wales. If you look at photos of the opening ceremonies a couple weeks ago, you can see the team wearing our walnut Lombards with their suits. At the closing celebration, when tuxes were the order, the team wore black Park Avenues. Some men like patent leather shoes more with a tux, but Park Avenues work just as well or better at today’s formal events, and they’re much more versatile additions to the wardrobe.

Best wishes,

Paul D. Grangaard
President & CEO
Allen Edmonds Shoe Corporation