WASHINGTON — Juanita Duggan, president and chief executive officer at the American Apparel & Footwear Association, who led the group’s charge against counterfeits on Alibaba’s e-commerce platforms, is stepping down at the end of the year.
The AAFA said Wednesday that Duggan is leaving to become president and ceo of the National Federation of Independent Business, a trade and lobbying group representing small and independent business owners, in February.
“When we brought Juanita on, we knew that she was a dynamic leader with deep Washington insight, which is why we selected her to chart a new course for AAFA and that’s what she has done,” said Rick Helfenbein, chairman of AAFA. “Under her leadership, we have garnered important legislative wins in trade, raised the profile of the organization and put a new architecture in place that sets AAFA up for future success.”
Helfenbein said the AAFA’s board is developing a leadership transition plan.
“We’re well positioned to continue the success we’ve achieved and to remain actively engaged in the trade debates, in the fight on counterfeits and in building our brand,” Helfenbein said.
Duggan said, “While I look forward to my new role, I will always be proud of the work we accomplished — taking on important issues, making bold changes and effectively communicating the industry’s point-of-view in Washington, to our membership and in the media.”
Duggan, who took the helm of AAFA in July 2014, worked to increase AAFA’s brand awareness by upgrading and reshaping its signature industry events, including the American Image Awards and AAFA’s executive summit. But it was her tenacious approach to fighting counterfeits and criticism of Alibaba in particular that put the issue and AAFA in the spotlight.
AAFA most recently called for the U.S. to re-list Alibaba’s e-commerce platform, Taobao, on a government watch list, known as the “Notorious Markets” list. That move followed a series of steps AAFA took over the course of Duggan’s tenure, including the filing of two formal complaints with the U.S. government in April, seeking more government scrutiny of a problem that costs brands millions of dollars in lost sales a year.
Duggan said in October that AAFA was seeking to pressure Alibaba to engage in more substantive discussions that the trade association hoped would lead to an agreement on a permanent counterfeit takedown system on Taobao, and an easier and quicker process for U.S. brands and retailers. Alibaba continues to defend its procedures to take down counterfeits from its platforms and commitment to intellectual property protection, as well as efforts to work with industry groups.
Duggan also developed a three-year strategic plan and oversaw the selection and design of a new office for AAFA, which will be moved from “across the river” in Arlington, Va., to a location that is six blocks from the Capitol. She will remain with AAFA for the move into the new headquarters.
She leaves AAFA at a time when brands are investing more in Made in U.S. production, but also looking to diversify and broaden their sourcing horizons. The U.S. recently concluded negotiations with 11 countries on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and released the text of the deal last week. The TPP has been a key priority of AAFA and potentially holds significant opportunities for its members.
Duggan said she is “passionate about small businesses,” noting that her grandfather started a family business 100 years ago, which is still in existence today.
“The next few years will be critical to the future of America’s small businesses as we wrestle with the issues of tax reform, ever expanding government regulation, and the continuing challenges created by Obamacare,” Duggan said. “These are epic issues for us, and I will be proud to fight these battles on behalf of America’s small businesses.”