Foot Locker CEO sits down with 'The DP'
Ken Hicks spoke at Wharton's Leadership Lecture this past Thursday
February 12, 2012, 10:14 pm·
Andrew Dierkes | DP
Foot Locker CEO, Ken Hicks, spoke at Wharton’s Leadership Lecture Thursday. The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with Hicks to discuss Foot Locker in the larger economic and political environment. Click here for the full lecture coverage.
While Ken Hicks, Chief Executive Officer of Foot Locker, considers his company apolitical, he says Washington and the economy certainly influence the way he runs his business.
Hicks — who joined Foot Locker in 2009 after serving as President and Chief Merchandising Officer of J.C. Penney and, before that, as President of Payless — is all too familiar with consumer spending trends, what gets customers through the doors … and what keeps them out.
He thinks the 20 to 30 percent unemployment rate among young adults is one of those factors. “When our primary customer is a young male under the age of 25 and you have unemployment … that’s a challenge and it’s something I’m concerned about,” he said.
In addition, he pointed out governmental actions that, in his view, take disposable income from Foot Locker’s target consumers.
For an example, Hicks referred to the health care mandate that requires all individuals not covered by their employer, Medicaid, Medicare or public insurance to purchase private insurance or pay a penalty.
“The young person has done the math and figured out that they don’t need health care,” he said. But because of the mandate, these individuals are required to purchase health care. “That one or two hundred dollars [put toward health care] is a car payment or buying a pair of shoes. That’s disposable income that [now] they won’t have.”
Hicks also stressed the need for Washington to provide stability and understanding in a financial environment that remains uncertain.
While Hicks acknowledged recent stimulus efforts, he said that not enough is being done to get businesses to hire. “What will cause me to hire people is because I can open stores or because a mall is going well.”
“Short term tax break will not encourage a business to hire,” he added. “A long term opportunity does.”