People usually are shocked when Kathleen Cucé answers the typical first question they ask upon meeting her: “What’s your background as a supplier in this industry?” Her shocking answer? “Absolutely none.”
However, that doesn’t mean Cucé, co-founder (along with her identical twin sister, Kristina) of Cucé Shoes, Virginia Beach, Va., doesn’t know what she’s doing. “Our parents were in the food and beverage industry for 25 years and we began working at a very young age,” she says.
You could describe the Cucés’ foray into the sports licensed footwear niche (the company was started in 2010) as a labor of love for the game. Both sisters are passionate about fashion, and they saw the need for NFL licensed footwear while attending a game between the Indianapolis Colts and New England Patriots.
“It was snowing and our feet were freezing and soaking wet by the time we made it to the stadium,” Kathleen Cucé recalls. “We thought a pair of rain boots with Colts logos all over them would be the perfect finishing touch to our gameday outfits. We searched the market to find a pair and were surprised to find out that licensed footwear did not exist.”
Such isn’t the case anymore. SportsFan Retailer recently caught up with Kathleen Cucé to ask five questions about the fashion footwear market, female consumers and more.
SportsFan Retailer: What styles/details about footwear have changed recently?
Kathleen Cucé: We launched our first collection three years ago and it was all about function. We produced a line that consisted of faux fur, snow and rain boots. We have added wedges, stilettos and some spring styles. We are making more fashion-forward styles women can wear every other day of the week.
SFR: Does fashion still still play as big of a role with women consumers in this sports licensed product market?
KC: Fashion has been the leading factor in consumer products these past few years. Female product sales are surpassing that of male item transactions and the NFL is really taking notice of that. They are pushing licensees to create fashion-forward items for the female fan demographic that is growing. For instance, the NFL’s female fan base reached more than 80 million last season. Women love their football teams and they love fashion.
SFR: What other factors are big drivers of product demand for female consumers?
KC: The NFL has created many campaigns directed toward all types of women. They are putting ads in fashion magazines like Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan, and have a huge campaign called “Fit For You” that includes spokeswomen like Condoleezza Rice, Serena Williams and supermodel Karolina Kurkova. The campaign consists of so many types of women that relate to each of us differently.
SFR: How do you stay abreast of what consumers are demanding?
KC: We design new collections each season and offer new styles. This has proved very successful for all of our vendors in that we are able to keep up with new trends each year. This year, short bootie boots were the new frenzy, so we launched a collection consisting of shorter-height boots. We launch a collection every August, so this means our collection in August 2014 follows new fall fashions.
SFR: What should retailers know about effectively selling/merchandising fashionable items?
KC: Retailers are always very nervous to try something new, which is understandable. However, they should experiment with fresh product for their customer bases. Women want something no one else has or something that seems exclusive.