A second-generation family business, Footwear Etc. continues to find success even as the pandemic continues to loom. By pivoting strategies and relying on credit cards, they’ve shown no signs of slowing down.
Thirty-four years ago, Andrew Monarch’s father, Elie Monarch, opened a shoe store with a partner. However, it wasn’t as profitable as anticipated.
Elie, an immigrant entrepreneur from Israel, identified the reason: They were carrying too many brands. So, he parted ways and opened his own store – Footwear Etc. By narrowing the focus to only the most comfortable and stylish brands, while also providing the best customer service, the venture because a success.
“My siblings and I remember growing up running stock and cashiering on the weekends just to help our dad,” says Monarch. “Fast forward 20 years and along with my dad and uncle, who had been there since day one, my brother-in-law and I joined the team. We now have 11 retail locations and an e-commerce website.”
As a second-generation family business, Monarch is navigating the ever-changing retail climate. They currently have 70 employees and corporate offices in San Diego and San Jose.
“Even during the current crazy times, we continue to hold seasonal trainings – this time, over zoom. Our brand representatives teach our staff the features and benefits of the new products,” says Monarch. “It has always been important to us to keep our staff knowledgeable on common foot ailments and how specific products can help. Our goal is to have a friendly staff who our customers look forward to visiting and can truly benefit from, learning what shoes are best for their lifestyle.”
Credit cards are not only part of Footwear Etc.’s winning business model, they keep the large Monarch family close as they travel the world.
See related: Business success in the time of COVID
Take us back to the early days of the business!
We opened in 1986 with a single retail location. The hardest thing to overcome at that time was distribution issues and being the new kid on the block. It was hard to get good quality brands to sell to us because we had no clout in the shoe biz.
We had to be proactive and look for new brands that fit our niche and sell them in our store. Over time, we persevered, and more and more brands became accessible to us.
And you’ve been using credit cards for the business?
Yes, we have the Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card, Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card, Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card, and American Express Corporate.
Over the years, we have used our credit cards differently. At first, we mainly used them to help offset business operations and to extend the terms with the vendors. As we expanded the number of retail locations, we used credit cards to finance the growth – including store construction and increased merchandise.
We pay for vendors, advertising and marketing, website expenses, people who manage the backend of our site and supplies like shopping bags, shipping boxes, tape and printed materials.
During times when we can pay the credit card off in full each month, we put whatever we can on the cards. This allows us to have more cash flow for the vendors who don’t accept cards. We can get more merchandise when we need to fill our shelves for our customers.
What have you been doing with your card rewards?
Through all of this, we were able to rack up many points and maximize our rewards so we could travel with the extended family.
A couple of years ago, we were able to fly my parents, their four kids and their spouses and seven grandkids to Israel! We flew business class, mainly because with that many young children for such a long flight, we thought this would allow us to sleep and then hit the ground running when we arrived. And that is what we did.
We all stayed with extended family in Israel and met up at one central location for all our meals and adventures. We toured the country with 20 of our Israeli aunts, uncles and cousins. It was an amazing experience to bond all generations. We would never have been able to afford this without using our rewards points for the travel.
Since that trip, we have also used points for another 49-person family reunion to Greece. Touring Greece and helping our children bond with the fast-growing third generation was priceless.
Is building good credit important to you?
Yes, keeping great credit is extremely important while running our business. Vendors’ credit departments have access to our credit, which helps when we are asking to increase our credit limit or ship merchandise early.
It has also been helpful to have credit accessible during this pandemic. In addition to using credit cards to help us most during the recent decline in sales during COVID, we continue to maximize our rewards to help pay our gas costs, employee incentives, merchandise and supplies.
Where you are now with the business?
Before COVID, we were at a steady plateau. We had spent four years expanding and growing in California and realized that more stores did not equal more profit. We decided to focus on our current operational efficiencies.
Now, we are trying to hold on tight through this tumultuous time. We are trying to run as mean and lean as possible to be ready to serve our customers on the other end and outlast our competition.
Do you have any regrets – anything you’d like to do over?
As a business owner, we, of course, have some regrets and missed opportunities. But as the son of an entrepreneur and partial owner of Footwear Etc., we just call these regrets learning experiences.
Growing from seven to 13 stores too quickly did give us growing pains for sure. In hindsight, we shouldn’t have grown that quickly, but it has taught us many things along the road.
Any advice to entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Take risks, but make sure they are calculated risks. Always be on your toes. Watch what others are doing around you, but more importantly, stay focused on what you do and do it well.
Sometimes businesses flounder because they focus too much on what others are doing around them. We have steered our course in the same direction for over three decades. We stay true to our brand, our concept of comfort footwear for all lifestyles and it has proven to be what our customers want.
What have you learned about using credit cards along the way?
We learned that if you use your credit wisely and efficiently, it can be a great tool to help you run your business. You just need to be careful to not over-extend your borrowing and always make sure you have some available credit for emergencies or for opportunities that arise.
For example, we took over a profitable single shoe store called Walkabout Footwear in Walnut Creek, California. This was a business similar to ours, and when the opportunity arose to buy it so the owners could retire, we took it over, rebranded it to Footwear Etc. and were able to expend from the Peninsula to the East Bay Area.