There’s no time like the present for Cat Footwear to pounce on the women’s footwear market. Sold in 140 countries, the rugged street brand known for its trendy take on work footwear, has a stronghold on the women’s market abroad, but lacks the focus and dedicated staff to build its women’s business in the United States.
National sales manager Margaret Doran aims to change that by getting product in front of the right buyers and into the hands of sales professionals that understand the women’s category. “We have to commit to the women’s business in North America,” she said.
The Brown Shoe Company veteran came on board last year and has formed a league of North American agents (10 in the U.S., five in Canada), each with history in selling women’s fashion footwear. “They are pros in the industry,” Doran said, noting that it is the first time the company has a dedicated sales force just for the women’s category. “Women’s is a whole different business,” she added.
Comfort, for example, cannot be undersold in the women’s market. “The one thing I stress to our sales team is that yes, we are a fashion brand and we focus on style, but our footwear also has amazing fit and comfort features. It’s beautiful, but don’t forget to tell [buyers] it’s also comfy.”
That renewed attention to comfort and fit is an initiative where Cat’s development team has focused a lot of effort. Doran said, “No one wants to be uncomfortable. You really need those comfort features to be built in, so we got involved with the product development team to drive more comfort in more feminine looks than in the past—styles that let you keep going all day long in a fashionable way.”
The differences go beyond gender. Globally, Cat Footwear is looked at as a fashion brand that zeros in on European trends. The Fall ’15 collection alone includes chunky white outsoles on combat-inspired boots, studs, safety pin details and paint splatter effects.
“We have a big focus on speed to market and like to react quickly. That goes to our European influence,” Doran explained. “Europe is very fast and quicker to try trends before we are in the United States. As a brand, we want to have that edgy look and shoes with attitude and we pride ourselves with offering trend right product, as well as the classics.”
While Cat aims to attract a fashionable U.S. consumer, Doran understands that American women like to “stick with what works for her.” The brand’s roster of classic silhouettes, spanning leather and oily suede ankle, midi, and tall boots, continue to make up the brand’s core U.S. business. For fall, the core line is upgraded with waterproof leathers, faux fur stories and stacked wooden heels.
Doran noted that the 10-piece waterproof collection is getting a great response from buyers. “You look at a true waterproof boot and many times it’s not fashionable. It’s only functional. We are both,” she explained.
By being a lot of things—fashionable, comfortable and functional—to a broad base of consumers, Cat sees the women’s boot category as a huge opportunity for both the company and for retailers. And if this week’s unpredictable weather proved one thing, it is that women still need boots.
“I think a lot of times we are quick to move onto the next season, when really we are still in need of winter product. The traditional calendar tells us to mark down, but consumers still want their boots.” Doran said, “Give the customer what she needs when she needs it.”