The World Shoe Association, the non-profit operator of the WSA Shows in Las Vegas, is planning to donate $38 million to certain footwear-related associations, charities and other organizations while selling its assets to a newly created profit-making company, called WSA Global Holdings, which is controlled by. WSA’s chief executive Skip Farber, and its chief operating officer, Diane Stone.
Founded by a group of American sales reps in 1947 as the Western Shoe Association, WSA has operated as both a non-profit and a for-profit organization, but it will now act only as a private company under Farber and Stone, who took over its management three years ago. It should operate more efficiently under a highly motivated management, with a new board of directors. In a public statement last week, Farber said that WSA will have the right structure to make decisions, move quickly and pursued programs, services and alliances that can provide increased value to manufacturers and retailers.
One of these programs is the development of its own publication, WSA Today, and the launch a new web-based reference guide for retailers, called The Shoebook, during the 1st quarter of 2007. It also plans to launch a new “Global Footwear Sourcing” show during the WSA show in Las Vegas from August 2008. At the same time the WSA show will continue with its international expansion. Under an international outreach program coordinated by Phillipe Versluysen, it has appointed as “retail ambassadors” industry officials in France, Germany and the UK to persuade more European retailers to visit the Las Vegas fair.
The distribution of assets is in line with the requirements for tax-exempt entities changing their status in the USA. The proposed grants, which are still subject to legal conditions and other arrangements, are the largest in the history of the shoe industry. The WSA says its big donation is intended to provide the footwear industry with support, especially at the grassroots level.
If the transaction is approved by the government, the largest chunk of the money - $20.3 million – would go to Soles4Soles, a Tennessee-based charity that donates shoes to underprivileged people throughout the world. It has played a strong role in relief efforts connected with two recent disasters, the Asian tsunami and Hurrican Katrina. Soules4Souls will hold a semi-annual fund-raising gala on the opening night of each WSA show.
Another $5 million would be given to the World Shoe Travelers Association, a Maryland-based organization that represents more than 2,200 independent shoe representatives in the USA. The Two Ten Foundation, a group based in Massachusetts that provides social and educational services to people within the industry, would also get $5 million.
The U.S. National Shoe Retailers Association (NSRA) would receive $4 million. A planned $2.35 million would go to the WSA Trust, which would ultimately allocate the money to various footwear and design programs. A non-profit body called the U.S. Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) would get $1 million, and another $355,000 would go to Operation Bootstrap, a Rotary Club project in Arizona that donates shoes to poor people in the Southern part of the state.