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Why FFANY Plans to Merge with FDRA

The Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) will merge with the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA) in a new deal that will see the storied footwear organization operate under the FDRA umbrella into the future.

The merger, pending board approval at both organizations, is expected to into effect at the end of the third quarter, likely Oct. 1. Current FFANY executive director John Heron will stay on with the organization as an advisor to oversee the transition of FFANY intellectual property and information.

“Consolidation has changed our industry dramatically in the last 10 years as fewer buyers and fewer sellers encompass the industry,” Heron told Sourcing Journal. The merger, he added, is “more a testament” to what FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest has accomplished with the association he has helped to steer since joining in 2009.

“At the same time that FFANY was managing a diminishing exhibitions calendar, Matt was building robust communication platforms, building content and building systems to create content,” Heron said.

FFANY recently stepped away from its long-running show at Manhattan’s Warwick New York Hotel, leaving the organizing of the event to longtime FFANY associate Phyliss Rein, who converted the event into a separate entity known as the Footwear Show New York Expo (FSNYE).

As things stand, FFANY will continue to focus on setting dates for its four New York-based events, which are set to continue on schedule in 2021. Heron said the merger is a “positive” for both organizations and represents a win-win for the footwear industry at large.

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FFANY will offer its members access to FDRA resources for the remainder of their annual membership in 2020 as a trial run for the coming merger and current FDRA members will gain access to the FFANY network.

FFANY brands should easily transition into existing FDRA infrastructure, Heron said, and the merger offers increased value for footwear companies that were already members of both organizations.

“The industry has become smaller, [so] it’s time for the trade associations to consolidate as well,” Heron said. “We fit really nicely into [Priest’s] enterprise. Their main function has always been trade policy and governmental relations in representing the industry—in that regard they do so much more and we’re just going to become a part of their overall content package.”

Fashion Footwear Association of New York will merge with the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, pending board approval.
FDRA president and CEO Matt Priest. Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock

Heron has known Priest for more than a decade, a relationship that laid the foundation for the merger, the executive director said. Although FFANY is financially healthy with an active membership base, the organization’s place in the industry was “on a declining road,” Heron said.

This was yet another wave of consolidation spurred on by the advent of the coronavirus pandemic and is a proactive move to face the expected drop in secondary and tertiary spending, he added.

“Everything is being called into question,” Heron said. “People won’t have to be members of both associations, they get all the benefits by being members of just one association and so it’s going to be positive for the industry.”