Simple Formula Leads to Success
SHOE SHOW, INC. continues to evolve in an ever-changing retail landscape while staying true to its roots by providing a seamless customer experience.
Robert Tucker founded SHOE SHOW, INC. in 1960 with the hard work, perseverance and passion it takes to make it in the ever-changing world of retail. At just 23 years old, he opened his first store in Kannapolis, N.C., and laid the foundation for which the company would operate for decades to come. He delivered a meaningful customer experience, was product-driven and implored employees to take ownership of the business.
“The company’s growth started soon after Robert Tucker opened the first store,” COO Jay Manning says. “It’s a tongue-and-cheek comment Tucker makes frequently when he says the only time the company ever doubled its growth was when he opened his second store. The company continued to grow over the past decades through new store openings and acquisitions, which continues to be the case still today after 60 years in the industry.”
Operating on a simple formula of providing quality products, service and value, SHOE SHOW, INC. caters to a broad range of customers featuring branded footwear, accessories, and bags for men, women, and children with the ease of shopping in a customer-friendly environment with associates who will assist in finding the right shoes for you. Its stores offer an impressive lineup of brands such as New Balance, Columbia, Fila, Skechers, Timberland, Wolverine and Nike. Today, SHOE SHOW, INC. has more than 1,143 stores in 47 states across all of its divisions: SHOE SHOW, SHOE DEPT., SHOE SHOW MEGA, SHOE DEPT. ENCORE, BURLINGTON SHOES, BURLINGTON SHOES ENCORE and SHOEBILEE. The company employs more than 10,000 associates with an average leadership team tenure of 10 years or more.
“We don’t fear hard work. Frankly, we embrace it and celebrate it,” Manning says. “That’s a very important part of our culture because it goes back to that passion to do business and taking ownership at every level. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been with Mr. Tucker in the field and he’s looked at a store manager and said, ‘This is your store.’ It’s that instilment of ownership in the business and you can’t have that passion without it coming down from the top.”
In 2018, Tucker’s daughter, Lisa Tucker, took the reins of the company, but he still stays involved. “He was just here yesterday stirring my pot, which honestly I love – but, depending on the day – I may not love it as much,” President Lisa Tucker jokes. “He’s 82 years old and he and my mom are still active in the company, which remains family owned and the largest privately held footwear retailer in the nation.”
Although Robert Tucker never had to deal with the technology changes that retail is experiencing today, there were similar challenges he had to overcome to keep the company successful. He saw the evolution of retailers located on Main Street moving to large shopping malls and strip centers. Lisa Tucker’s challenge is to accept today’s transformative culture and emphasis on omni-channel, in addition to welcoming what the future may hold.
The most important advice Robert Tucker gave to his daughter was that the business needs to keep changing, but also stay true to its customers. “This goes back to the entrepreneurial spirit and mom-and-pop type company we have, because it’s still about product and what the customer needs, but we have to change and stay relevant in today’s retail environment,” Lisa Tucker explains.
SHOE SHOW, INC. is undertaking the challenges of omni-channel retail by staying truly product-driven. “We are product focused and that means having the right product, in the right location and at the right time,” Manning says. “We say that a lot, and it’s not so easy – but we embrace it and attack it daily.”
Although SHOE SHOW, INC. embraces technology and is investing in advanced, state-of-the art components such as a new POS and customer loyalty program, it doesn’t run the company. Tucker says she doesn’t think the world is ready to get rid of human interaction and isn’t sold on the fact that everyone only wants to buy online and not have those personal shopping experiences.
The goal for SHOE SHOW, INC. is to provide its customers with a seamless experience, which goes back to the definition of omni-channel. “If you want it today, I need to make sure the stores have what you need today,” Tucker says. “If you want to order it and get it later, I still need to be quick enough and agile enough that you don’t wait too long to get it on your front porch. If the customer isn’t happy or changes their mind, we make it easy to bring back and fulfill their needs in multiple ways. We really treat our customers like we would a family member – by being kind, responding and giving them what they need.”
SHOE SHOW, INC. operates with an entrepreneurial spirit and the enthusiasm of a young start-up; yet, the leadership also understands the importance of every decision and that 10,000 lives are impacted by those decisions. “We are not trying to celebrate the failure of our competitors, but there is retail space available and an opportunity grow,” Tucker says. “We have a successful business model that is allowing us to take advantage of that and it will be self-funded. We don’t have to borrow for growth.”
As a healthy company, Tucker takes pride in knowing that the company is debt free because, “We can make the right decision for the business instead of letting the debt run the business. Being financially strong also helps us with employee retention. Our employees don’t have to worry about us going bankrupt.
Mr. Tucker has always said that a lot of businesses don’t go broke from lack of sales, it is from lack of controlling the expenses.”
Moving forward, SHOE SHOW, INC. plans to add about 100 locations over the next eight to 12 months. Depending on real estate opportunities, the company will open stores that range from 2,500 to 30,000 square feet to capitalize on the market. “In addition to our long-term relationships with our suppliers, our landlords know us well and because of our relationships with them we are getting some opportunities that we might not get,” Manning notes. “We treat everyone like family.”
The larger the store – the better – for SHOE SHOW, INC.; but, Tucker says she will expound on any opportunity in the market. “We have built strong relationships with developers such as Brookfield Properties, Cafaro, CBL Properties, Hull Property Group, Rivercrest Realty and Simon Property Group. There is a lot of opportunity now that one of our competitors has gone away,” she adds. “Someone needs to fill that need – and we have the entrepreneurial attitude to make that happen. I want customers who bought shoes from that retailer to fall in love with SHOE SHOW.”
Tucker concludes by adding, “We are looking forward to big things for our 60th year and we are so blessed to have business partners who share and celebrate our success with us.”