Embracing Diversity and Inclusion in Retail with Matthew Lafone

September 28, 2022



This episode’s special guest, Matthew Lafone, President of The Athlete's Foot, shares key insights and tips on how retail brands can best navigate changing consumer behavior and approach sustainability in retail today.

  • How can retail brands best uplift underserved communities and promote social justice? What's the key to enduring success amid times of change in retail? In what ways can retailers meaningfully mitigate the negative impacts of consumerism by implementing sustainable initiatives? 
  • We answer these questions and many more with this episode’s special guest, Matthew Lafone, President of The Athlete's Foot. Speaking from his experience building programs that aid underserved communities, Matthew shares valuable insights for retailers navigating changing consumer behavior and sustainability in retail.


Conversation Rundown

[ 03:09-05:12 ] Overcoming Retail Challenges in the Era of Disruptions
Retail is changing and this constantly presents new challenges for brands trying to stay ahead of the curve. This includes dealing with supply chain issues, global conflict and inflation, which affect inventory management and customer behavior as a whole. So what's the key to enduring success in times of change? Matthew Lafone, President of The Athlete's Foot, says it's all about being agile. Instead of focusing on what you can't control, Lafone emphasizes the importance of mitigating risk and shifting strategy as needed.

[ 5:25-8:20 ] Uplifting Communities Through Inclusive Retailing
Today's market and consumer behavior are more dynamic than ever before. In the sneaker business especially, customer's have many choices. Because of this, sales is no longer just about the quality of the product or accessibility, it's about what the company stands for. According to The Athlete's Foot President Matthew Lafone, retailers need skin in the game to remain competitive. By prioritizing diversity and inclusivity, community involvement, and rebranding as a socially conscious business, retailers can clarify their brand identity to consumers, driving brand loyalty, customer retention, and a more consistent customer experience.

[ 18:06-22:04 ] Sustainability in a World of Consumerism
Unprecedented levels of accessibility and marketing are driving a continual increase in consumerism, which creates new problems like sustainability concerns. Retailers have a large opportunity to help mitigate some of the negative impacts of consumerism by implementing sustainable initiatives. The Athlete's Foot is developing new initiatives for their storefronts to utilize recycled materials and highly efficient products. In addition, they're switching to a center fulfillment model to consolidate their fulfillment process and minimize the company's carbon footprint.

[ 23:14-25:09 ] Sustainable Supply Chain Practices in the Sneaker Industry
The Athlete's Foot, among many other retailers, are becoming logistical retailers by coming up with a centralized fulfillment system and routing orders based on multiple factors including speed, efficiency, and costs. Matthew Lafone says that by embracing an omnichannel approach, TAF can provide greater customer service while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint. Capabilities like BOPIS incentivize customers to enter physical stores, which gives retailers opportunities to further their relationship with customers. At the same time, BOPIS and Ship From Store help minimize the costs and carbon output of consumerism.

[ 28:47-32:38 ] The Importance of Physical Stores in the Customer Experience
We've all heard the phrase "the future of retail is digital." But many people assume that digital retailing means the elimination of storefronts altogether. Instead, retailers should consider how they can leverage digital communication to bring users into stores and retain sales. Customers still want to experience products. Nobody wants to buy products to return them. By incentivizing customers to come into stores, retailers can provide a fun and experiential in-store experience that elevates the customer experience and ensures they're purchasing items in the right size, color, etc. The Athlete's Foot President Matthew Lafone discusses the changing consumer behavior, social justice, and sustainability in retail.

Meet the Experts

Matthew Lafone is the President and General Manager of, The Athlete's Foot, North, South and Central America. He has a strong experience across branding, retail, merchandising, marketing and franchising. Prior to The Athlete’s Foot, Lafone was COO for Payless ShoeSource where he oversaw design, development, supply chain, marketing, and franchising for its 750 international stores. He has held the role of Vice President of Sport Style with Puma where he was responsible for driving wholesale revenue, leading sales, planning, marketing and merchandising strategies.

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