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, Karl Moehring, CEO of footwear manufacturer Washington Shoe Company, discusses how the firm’s family-owned perspective is shaping its human resources and the business investment that has proved valuable during COVID-19.
Name: Karl Moehring
Company: Washington Shoe Company
Do you consider yourself a typical consumer?
I do not consider myself a typical consumer as I analyze every aspect of a product to try and see how it was produced. I try and learn from and see if anything could be applied in my product development.
As a consumer, what does it take to win your loyalty?
To win my loyalty as a consumer, the brand must be trustworthy and surprise me with over-delivering on their promise.
What’s your typical work uniform?
My typical work uniform for these unprecedented times has gone more casual. Usually that consists of dark-wash jeans, button up or sweater, and finished off with a pair of [Adidas] Ultraboost 20’s.
Which fashion era is your favorite?
I’d say the Mad Men era in the early ’60s.
Who’s your style icon?
I’m going to go with the fictional character Harvey Specter from the show “Suits.”
What’s the best decision your company has made in the last year?
Pre-COVID, we made the decision to enhance our team’s work-from-home capabilities. Looking back, it was a brilliant decision.
How would you describe your corporate culture?
Being a fourth-generation 129-year-old company, we focus on a work family. We treat everyone as an extension of our family.
What should be the footwear industry’s top priority now?
Right now, we should be focusing on our employees as they are our most important resource. We cannot control the macro consumer behavior, but we can take care of our people.
What keeps you up at night?
2019 it was the trade war, and 2020 it’s shaping up to be COVID and its effects on the consumer.
What makes you most optimistic?
My leadership team has risen to the challenges that the pandemic brought. The first month of the crisis, each week felt like a month. It has strengthened our team. We have been very transparent with the entire Washington Shoe Company family to reduce anxiety and be a source of support to them.
Tell us about your company’s latest product introduction:
For Spring 2021 we are excited to launch our introductory “Rain Play” category for kids and a “Rain Sport” category for women. It’s a combination of our heritage rubber rain boots with lightweight sport outsoles. A colorful palette, key neutrals along with the comfort and flexibility add to the excitement of this collection.