Athletic Shopping Guide: Back to Basics

Moving into the next season, retailers are dropping last year’s wild colors in favor of classic looks, special makeups and retro styles.

SPORTIE LA, Los Angeles
Isack Fadlon
, co-owner
Store count:
4 (ave. 1,500 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “We’ll buy what we know has sold in the past and dabble in some new styles, but we defi nitely won’t go as wide as we used to.”

Hunting for: “We’re toning down on the color blocks and the vibrancy for fall.”

Strategy shift:
“Along with being more conservative, we are going to look to chase product and look for a higher at-once business than we’ve had in the recent past.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08:
“Regardless of how big or small you are, you have to adapt really quickly.”

Current bestsellers:
Canvas sneakers, such as Converse and Vans, exclusive product from LA Gear Originals and Asics

Spring ’09 forecast: “It’s going to be challenging. I’m hoping to see somewhat of a turnaround in summer.”

Hottest new brands: LA Gear (relaunched by Fadlon and ACI), Fila

On the way out: “In the short term, high-price-point product. Customers are looking for value, and the resistance price point is getting lower.”

MAJOR, Washington, D.C.
Duk-ki Yu
, co-owner
Store count:
1 (1,600 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan:
“Our customer wants more exclusive product.”

Hunting for: “Something that makes sense for us and that hasn’t been done before. It could be retro, but it had to be a hit the first time around. In other product, we’re looking for technology and innovation.”

Strategy shift: “We’re trying to bring more value to our consumer.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08:
“People do spend money, it’s just that they’re being a lot more cautious.”

Current bestsellers:
Jordans and Nike Dunks

Spring ’09 forecast: “A lot of the retailers that aren’t smart about strategic buying are going to get left by the roadside.”

Hottest new brands:
The Hundreds, Alife, Creative Recreation

Next big thing:
“More retros. And the more authentic they are, the better. Companies are going to weed out some colorways and stick to the original colorways of retro.”

On the way out:
“All-over print is really done for us, and bright colors with no rhyme or reason.”

TRAINING CAMP, New York; South Beach, Fla.
Udi Avshalom
, owner
Store count:
9 (ave. 3,200 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “I don’t believe in a buying plan. We look at every brand and every shoe.”

Hunting for: “Basics are dominating the business. But on the other side, we’re bringing in a lot of outrageous and very unique, unheard of brands from Brazil and Europe that are doing very well for us.”

Strategy shift: “We’re shifting daily, depending on what we like and what our customers want. We never rely too much on one particular brand.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08: “Don’t plan too much and always listen to your customers. Sometimes a lesson learned is just the reinforcement to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Current bestsellers:
Rocawear, Nike, Timberland and New Balance

Spring ’09 forecast:
“People who have a loyal following will survive. The ones who are not close to their customers will be gone, regardless of how big or small they are.”

Next big thing:
“We’re doing our own private-label business, a line of Gorilla footwear.”

On the way out: “All the brands that overdistribute. We also see basketball, bulky shoes and ‘fruit loop’ sneakers with 10 colors on them trending way out.”

DTLR (formerly Downtown Locker Room), Baltimore
Todd Kirssin
Store count:
66 (ave. 3,700 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “We’re very item-driven and also make sure we’re well stocked in the basics from each brand. Men’s is trending more basic, and women’s and kids’ are a little more edgy. Our customers are pretty receptive to new brands, so we’re trying to find the next big hit.”

Hunting for: “Anybody who’s doing funkier high-tops, such as Supra or Creative Recreation. We’ll go to the shows to buy for fall, but also work on spring ’10 product with some of the vendors who are doing special makeups. That’s a big part of our business now.”

Strategy shift: “We’re looking to cater to a broader spectrum of customers, but because so many guys are staying away from the higher-end marquee product, we’re looking to go into more of that. We have to service the middle-of-the-road guy, but for that guy who wants to spend $80 to $100, we need to make his shopping experience the most exclusive possible.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08: “When a category is really hot, that’s the time to get off it. When everyone’s in the market buying, you want to be selling.”

Current bestsellers: Nike Blazers, New Balance 498s, Jordan True Flights, Creative Recreation’s Cesario High, Supra Sky Tops, Timberland Field Boots

Spring ’09 forecast: “We’re very optimistic. We’re bullish on spring, and we’re not scared of it. We’re buying heavy and bringing in a lot of product.”

Hottest new brand: Punkrose

Next big thing:
“Retro running is going to come back. High-tops have been hot for so long, and our customer tends to gravitate toward the total opposite.”

On the way out:
“A lot of competition.”


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