'Footwear News' walks new path

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One of the first e-mails that Danny Wasserman reads each weekday is the daily alert he receives from Footwear News .

"It really is my Wall Street Journal," said Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes, an independent shoe store with two outlets in Manhattan. In addition to getting the online newsletter, Wasserman has subscribed to the weekly print edition of Footwear News since 1976.

"We buy shoe lines every day, and we need as much information as possible in order to make the right decisions," he said. "I might get a call about a new business or someone going out of business, so I need to stay ahead of the game. FN gives me timely information as soon as it happens."

When subscribers open their FN e-mail alerts March 1 they will see an entirely new design, with more messaging room for advertisers. "It's a fresh coat of paint on the daily and gives us more of an opportunity for advertisers to reach our audience," said Jay Spaleta, publisher of FN , who added that the site now has 5,580 subscribers.

FN, part of Conde Nast's newly minted Fairchild Fashion Group, targets shoe manufacturers and retailers as well as the industry's financial players with its extensive coverage of the ongoing consolidation in footwear markets. Its circulation (17,500) has been flat for the past few years.

Anniversary windfall

The revamped e-mail newsletter is part of a series of changes at FN , which in October celebrated its 60th anniversary. Bulked up by congratulatory ads, the Oct. 31 anniversary issue had a 186-page folio, the largest in 20 years, according to Spaleta. The special issue landed several new advertisers, including Nina Shoes, Swarovski and House of Dereon.

Spaleta has made several moves to leverage FN's recent milestone, such as plugging the celebration at last May's Footwear News CEO Summit in Miami, which drew 148 attendees. Throughout 2005, the publication ran "FN Looks Back," a monthly column highlighting some of the most famous footwear events of the past 60 years.

This year, FN will produce a few tribute issues for top clients, including a 25th anniversary issue in October for athletic shoe retailer Finish Line. The magazine has created similar issues for Foot Locker, Reebok, Skechers USA and the Fashion Footwear Association of New York. "It's our opportunity to chronicle a significant player in the business that our readers would like to hear from," Spaleta said. "They're like history books for these companies."

The publication will also run supplements tied to major international trade shows.

Michael Atmore, editorial director of FN , said the weekly will boost its editorial coverage of technology, materials and components, as well as run a special series on the increasing use of outsourcing among shoe manufacturers. The enhanced "Newsmaker Series" will spotlight shoe retailers that are making waves.

'Talking to all the major names'

"We want to make sure we're talking to all the major names," Atmore said. "It's how to show our readers that we're on top of the business."

Despite the momentum, FN continues to struggle, albeit slightly, on the ad page front. Ad pages fell 3% last year compared with 2004, according to TNS Media Intelligence, while ad revenue was up 2%. Spaleta projects first-quarter ad pages and ad revenue will be up about 7%, compared with the same period last year.

New advertisers joining the fold this year include Lacoste, Dan Post and Geox.

The decline in ad pages hasn't deterred media buyers, with some of the biggest footwear brands considering FN a must buy.

"It's really upped the ante in the last couple of years," said Jimmy Gabriel, president of Jimlar Corp., whose footwear lines include American Eagle, Calvin Klein, Coach, RJ Colt and Frye. "They've done a fantastic job of putting stories in front of people like myself who have been in the business a long time but still find the product informative."

Velimir Soskic, senior VP of Geox USA, the U.S. arm of the Italian shoemaker, said he's ramping up the number of ads he's running in FN this year to more effectively penetrate U.S. markets. "One of the most important goals of the company is to reach the retailers who we know read FN," Soskic said. "It really communicates what's happening in the sector."

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