As a leading global specialty retailer of athletic shoes and apparel, Foot Locker Inc. has a long legacy to uphold. The company celebrated its 100-year anniversary as a publicly listed company on the New York Stock Exchange this year and can trace its roots back to F.W. Woolworth Company and Kinney Shoe Corp.

The company has 3,400 stores and 35,000 sales associates in 23 countries, operating under a number of different brands. In fact, the organization goes to market via eight different brands: Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Footaction USA, Champs Sports, CCS and Eastbay. A new brand, SIX:02, is soon to launch.

“Our different banners allow us to talk to different customers, or even the same customer but at different times,” CEO Ken Hicks says. “Our brands allow us to appeal to everyone, from the sneaker enthusiast or the high school athlete to women and children.”

Competing Smarter

With the portfolio the company has assembled, it can reach consumers through both brick-and-mortar stores and direct-to-customer online channels Footlocker.com, Eastbay and CCS. This is particularly important because of the ways the competitive environment has changed.

Hicks says the market has become more competitive for Foot Locker because of competitors like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Finish Line. Some of the key ways Foot Locker is trying to remain a strong player in the market include making its stores and Internet sites more exciting, pursuing growth in high-potential business segments, looking for brand expansion opportunities, increasing the productivity of all assets and building on its retail team.

“We’ve had to get sharper and clarify our banners and what they stand for,” he says. “We’re making sure we offer the best assortments and broadening our appeal so we aren’t dependent on one business line.”

From a physical perspective, Foot Locker’s stores operate in spaces that vary in size depending on the brand. Lady Foot Locker and Kids Foot Locker tend to operate in 2,500 to 3,000 square feet. Foot Locker locations are around 3,500 square feet, while Champs and Footaction are in the 4,000-square-foot range.

Each banner carries different assortments and types of product. Champs and Footaction have more apparel, while Foot Locker has more shoes. “We are working hard with new formats and testing prototypes,” Hicks says. “Plus, we have the new chain coming out with SIX:02, which targets women.”

Online, Foot Locker is competing with its Footlocker.com, Eastbay and CCS direct-to-consumer operations, as well as the branded websites for its remaining brands.

“Promotions and products cross over, and we use communications in-store to get people to go online and vice versa,” Hicks says. “We’ve seen good growth and won awards for our mobile and digital sites. Customers are using mobile more and more to shop and buy, so we are giving them the latitude to shop and buy where they want. That flexibility is a key to success.”

Partnerships and Service

Foot Locker maintains and builds relationships with suppliers and vendors to remain aware of industry trends and display the right product mix.

“We support them, and they support us,” Hicks says. “We partnered with Nike on the House of Hoops. We partnered with Adidas on Original shops in Europe and are looking to do that in the U.S. We partnered with the NBA and the NFL in Champs and Foot Locker stores.”

Hicks believes it is critical to provide recognition to vendors and suppliers in stores because it is a part of telling stories that customers will connect with. He points to efforts around the launch of Asics’ new running shoes this summer that were part of the Asics Colors That Run campaign.

“That campaign showed Asics off and the color assortment they have,” Hicks says. “By telling great stories in the store, online and through marketing, the customer will understand what is new and hot and why they should come to us.”

Hicks says service is critical to Foot Locker. He says the company has put together an exceptional team at all levels, and that the associates in the stores are knowledgeable and personable. 

“We have a tremendous group of people in our offices and stores,” he says. “That is something I am proud of, and we continue to build the team.”

Protecting and enhancing Foot Locker’s long legacy means taking advantage of future opportunities. Hicks believes the company can grow its apparel business, continue to expand its presence with women and kids, expand online and make further inroads abroad. At the same time, it plans to maintain its core basketball, running, classics and apparel businesses.

“We don’t just have one opportunity; we have many options for growth,” Hicks says. “Team sports opportunities with clubs and schools are a big area of growth. We will also be investing in store remodels, the new SIX:02 and Locker Room banners and making sure we have an optimal software system and supply chain so we can go to market faster.”

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