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Up Close: In Conversation with Cougar Shoes’s Jackie Charest

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Up Close is Sourcing Journal’s regular check-in with industry executives to get their take on topics ranging from personal style to their company’s latest moves. In this Q&A, Jackie Charest, vice president, marketing at footwear label Cougar Shoes, discusses what the industry can learn from beauty and why footwear needs to foster up-and-coming talent.

Jackie Charest Cougar headshot

Jackie Charest, vice president of marketing at Cougar Shoes

Name: Jackie Charest

Title: vice president, marketing

Company: Cougar Shoes

Which other industry has the best handle on the supply chain? What can footwear learn?

I spent many years in retail and specifically in beauty. For anyone who knows the world of cosmetics, you know that this industry is the master of SKU management. Although I was in marketing, I always marveled at the level of detail that went into forecasting sales for launches, driving consumer demand and managing inventory. Automatic replenishment was born in beauty and if run right can make all the difference in both margin and top line sales.

Do you consider yourself a typical consumer? 

No, likely because of my years in retail. I never get sick of shopping whether it’s for fashion, food, furniture, etc. I love shopping both in stores and online. I’m a fast decision maker. If I like something, I buy it.

As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?

Besides the actual product delivering, just being nice. Being honest. Receiving great service and/or something unexpected. Sounds so simple but it’s not.

What’s your typical work uniform?

I’m a real mix of high/low and a mood dresser. Having worked in luxury retail for years, I have an extensive designer wardrobe, but I am now trying to buy and mix in more casual pieces. My work uniform since joining Cougar is much more relaxed and comfortable, i.e. leather and suede leggings paired with a shirt or sweater with some statement jewelry. This past winter I lived in our Cougar Helena black suede boots and I also wore my first pair of jeans to work not too long ago.

Which fashion era is your favorite?

Definitely the ’20s with the flapper dresses, turbans and long pearls. I would have loved a good Gatsby party.

Who’s your style icon?

That’s a blend between my grandmother and Jacqueline Kennedy.

What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?

Putting a head of international in place and testing sales abroad.

How would you describe your corporate culture?

Passionate. Top down including our president, everyone is hands-on, all doors are open and sleeves are rolled up. And everyone here is a foodie and makes a point of eating in our lunchroom versus at your desk.

What should be the footwear industry’s top priority now?

Besides brands having a coronavirus contingency plan in place, we could all benefit from focusing on up-and-coming industry talent. Having artisans who know the craft of how to make sustainable footwear for the future is key.

What keeps you up at night?

Not having a home! We just sold our house so I could be closer to our offices and we have not found a place to live yet.

What makes you most optimistic?

The younger generation and their awareness and belief of how they can impact climate change.

Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:

For F/W 20 we are introducing two new nylon boot styles, Gale and Gusto, that are made with recycled plastic bottles. The design team has re-invented synthetics with the environment in mind. They are the perfect city boot that’s waterproof, hard-working and conscientious. Each pair is made of five recycled bottles. I’m proud that our brand is on the path to smarter choices.

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