Dansko’s New President: Doubling Down on Retail Partnerships

Kitty Bolinger Talks Opportunity & Why the Brand Isn't Pulling Back on Its Retail Partnerships
Dansko Healthcare Shoes

In early September, Kitty Bolinger stepped into a new role as president of Dansko, the West Grove, Pa.-based shoe brand whose stapled clogs have long been a favorite of nurses, teachers and other professionals.

But as she looks to grow the business, Bolinger told FN that the biggest opportunities can be found in Dansko’s lifestyle collections, accented by strong sales for its sandal selection.

To help drive the brand’s future, Bolinger — who has been with the company over 10 years and was most recently EVP of sales and marketing — is joined by an all-female leadership team that includes CFO Jamey Mullin, VP of design Kelsey Jayne-Gomez, VP of marketing Christina Sewell and VP of sourcing Susan Li.

Here, Bolinger talks with Jennie Bell of Footwear News about capitalizing on the brand’s strengths and its search for an elusive customer.

What are the biggest challenges you’re facing?

“Getting the more skittish retailers to write future orders, so that we can determine where to make our investments. I think that’s prevailing throughout the industry. Also, we had a huge business with The Walking Company [before] they went away essentially in 2021. Now we’re trying to figure out where did that mall-based consumer go? We’ve seen growth with Dillard’s and Nordstrom, so is she staying in the mall and shopping elsewhere? Is it online or the local independent? How do we continue to have that relationship with her?”

What is your approach to retail — are you pulling back on any distribution channels?

“We are not pulling back. I know there have been trends in the industry to limit distribution as part of various strategies. The independent retailer is how we got to the dance, and we will stay at the dance with them. We know that we’re important to some of these folks’ livelihoods, so we’re going to continue to grow with them. In the independent channel, there’s consolidation that’s occurring, so there are a few stronger players in the market and we are partners with them, whether it’s Shoe Mill in the Pacific Northwest, Beck’s Shoes in the California area or Sole Provisions on the East Coast.”

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