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Gladys travels the globe helping designers refine, manufacturer and distribute the world’s finest footwear. With more than three decades in the shoe business, she’s seen the industry evolve; the way luxury shoes are sold and the type of consumer who buys them.
She was working at Italian luxury brand Bruno Magli when she was first approached to sell shoes online.
“We had a very large business at Saks and Neiman’s and Bloomingdales. It was really before the online business started, it was 1994.” recalls Gladys.
“I remember when Zappos came to us and we said luxury shoes online? That sounds crazy! and we turned them down. Then, two years later we started hearing about how they’d built the business and we were not so snobby anymore about online business!”
“When I first started, it was certainly the more mature buyers, because they could afford it. I do see the younger customer is definitely aspirational. We try to develop the collections with a price point that could be an opening price point – which is still very high – but we do find the young consumer is interested in having high-end shoes.”
Perhaps Gladys biggest brand success story with The Peter Marcus Group is Aquazzura. It was Gladys who propelled shoe designer, Edgardo Osorio, from his living room workspace into the luxury footwear stratosphere in 2011 with the brand Aquazzura. His designs rapidly became bestsellers, tapping into demand for elegant yet practical footwear and are now stocked at over 350 stockists worldwide, including Net-a-Porter, Bergdorf Goodman and Matchesfashion.com.
“Aquazzura, like no other brand I’ve ever known, just took off and became a major luxury player. Now all the brands want to be with us because they think I can make them into Aquazzura. That was a moment in time and it’s not necessarily so!” says Gladys.
Her role as EVP Sales at the Peter Marcus Group isn’t just about selling shoes or linking shoe manufacturers with US retailers. The Group strategically build brands from concept to sale including design, sourcing, social media planning and retail relations.
“The American market is very, very different from the rest of the world. The expectations of the stores, they’re very demanding. Most of the Italian manufacturers know how difficult it is to navigate with the retail stores here.” Gladys explains.
“Their expectations are overwhelming. Their demands sometimes need a big person to say ‘No, enough’ because they will ask for everything. So, I become also, for my brands, the enforcer.”
“We know the landscape here and I negotiate for our brands, and they know that I know what’s reasonable and what’s not.”
“We also have to advise brands what’s selling at retail.”
“The sale price is not just selling the shoe, it’s building the brand and making sure the brand can sell at retail”
“Shoes are not relevant if they don’t sell at retail. They can be beautiful but if they don’t work in that particular store….. we have to sell them in this marketplace to the right stores that will be able to sell that particular assortment of shoes.”
According to Gladys, there are a few essential ingredients that make a wildly successful luxury brand.
“The coolness factor. You have to have the trend silhouettes but in the shoe business it’s more than just good looks and being on trend. You have to deliver on time, the shoes have to fit and there has to be quality.” she says.
“We try to impress that with all of our brands; that all of these things are expected in the luxury market.”
It’s a glamorous role but like any job, it has its downsides. For Gladys, working with teams who don’t really understand the shoe business and a hectic travel schedule can be challenging.
“If you travel on business, it’s not fun. It’s work. It’s long days. While I’m wherever I am, I enjoy it, but the travel itself is not fun.”
“I would say what’s gotten me through all the travelling is I love to read. So I use these trips to read, a lot, and that’s when you’re delayed. I just put my head in a book, now it’s a kindle, it used to be I’d drag 3 books with me for fear I’d not have anything to read”
“I just zone out and stay calm. I don’t let it affect me. You do need to have that calmness because if you don’t, travelling will drive you crazy!”