Succeeding in an increasingly complex global marketplace has never been more challenging, but Collective Brands Inc. has found a formula that works.

Matt Rubel, chairman, CEO and president of the company, told summit attendees that igniting the international business has been a priority for the firm, which reported overseas revenues of $590 million last year.

How did Collective Brands do it? By getting the fundamentals right, Rubel said.

“You have to have base tenets,” Rubel said. “Know your brand. Know your marketplace. Know your consumer. Know your capabilities.”

At Payless ShoeSource, the retailer has taken its “house of brands” strategy abroad and now counts stores in 27 countries and territories.

“You have to make your vision easily understood and universally transportable,” Rubel said.

The Payless story is resonating particularly well in markets such as Colombia, which will house 90 stores by the end of the year.

“Three years ago, when most people wouldn’t go into Colombia, we did,” Rubel said, adding that his team spent time meeting with government officials there to ensure a smooth move into the market. The recent addition of Colombian designer Silvia Tcherassi to the Payless brand roster is expected to further sales in the area.

Other markets haven’t been as easy to enter. For example, Russia was slow to take off, “but as we’re adding more boots and more closed-toe styles, we’re starting to see that demand grow,” Rubel said. “The idea and the package we’re exporting is highly successful.”

Collective also has capitalized on Payless’ positioning abroad, where it has a less mass feel and more of a “fun, fast-fashion” feel, he said.

Looking ahead, Payless will dive into a number of additional key markets this year, including Peru, Indonesia, Morocco, Lebanon, Malaysia and Singapore.

Meanwhile, in the wholesale business, the Collective Brands Performance & Lifestyle Group has also been venturing into new international territory.

At Sperry Top-Sider, for instance, the company has focused on expanding in key European markets. About 4 percent of the brand’s sales were derived from the international business in 2009, and by 2013, that number is expected to reach 9 percent.

Keds is also making waves in Europe, which now represents more than 70 percent of the brand’s total international growth. Similarly, Saucony is also gaining traction in Europe and Asia.

“We have focused on understanding the consumer in each market we go into,” Rubel said. “And then we also look at our competition.”

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