Kids’ Shopping Guide: Practical Magic

When it comes to children’s shoes, retailers are trying to guess what is important to parents, from machine-washable footwear to accessible price points.

Jennifer Thomas
, owner
Store count:
2 (ave. 850 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “Style is certainly a big deal, but first and foremost, we look for quality. Price is also more of a consideration now. We spent a lot of time analyzing our orders for this season and were very tight with our money. We wanted new items coming in, but we’re leaving a lot of money to react.”

Hunting for: “We still maintain the European flavor we’ve always had, but we have definitely looked at other products, too. I buy what I would want my own kids to wear — comfortable shoes with style that are unique and have a flair to them.”

Strategy shift: “In the past, especially with European vendors, we tended to buy more upfront because they don’t stock as much. We definitely held back on our spring buy as much as we could without taking away from having fresh product in our store.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08: “We could have used more snow boots.”

Current bestsellers: All snow boots, Ugg, Naturino and Keen

Spring ’09 forecast: “My hope is that people are so sick of not spending that they just want to go out and buy. The greatest thing would be that our spring breaks early. The weather changes, and people have a new state of mind.”

Hottest new brand: Tsukihoshi. “They’re machine-washable, which is great.”

Next big thing:
“Practical, comfortable shoes and anything organic, like Simple. People are definitely more green-minded.”

On the way out:
“Heels for kids and leather-bottom shoes.”

WEE SOLES, Los Angeles
Darci Rosenberg
, co-owner
Store count:
1 (650 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “We are always looking for style, quality and good fit.”

Hunting for: “A cool take on the classics. Everyone loves fun colors for boys and girls. People are also really into being able to wash their shoes. Everyone wants the quality for less money, and they can last a little bit longer if they can wash them.”

Strategy shift: “Our six- to 12-month goal is buying shoes that aren’t quite as expensive — maybe $5 less. And more variety in terms of brands.”

Current bestsellers: Tsukihoshi, Morgan & Milo, L.A.M.B., Kid Express, Lelli Kelly, Primigi and Naturino

Spring ’09 forecast: “We’re already doing better now that the holidays are done. We couldn’t compete with all the sales that were going on.”

Hottest new brands:
Eleven for girls, Simple for boys

Next big thing: “Going green, gimmicky shoes and anything that’s a little bit edgy, such as T.U.K. and L.A.M.B. Puma came out with a funky high-top sneaker for girls last season. We also reordered Minnetonka moccasins for babies three times.”

On the way out: “Anything clunky or anything not flexible.”

Danny Wasserman
, owner
Store count:
1 (400 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “Cautious. We’re looking to buy more core, price-value product and continue with our best partners. We believe we need to stick with our key vendors because we don’t know who is going to be around after the fallout.”

Hunting for: “As far as fashion, nothing new has really come out. We’ll look to see whether our vendors — the Merrells, Stride Rites, Eccos or Umis of the world — are going to come up with new and fresh product.”

Strategy shift: “To make sure we have our core product and enough sizes. We’re not going to be afraid to buy shoes.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08: “Have more Uggs. It’s still a strong part of the business.”

Current bestsellers: Ugg. “And Hunter boots have also been extremely strong for kids, and anything with Gore-Tex.”

Spring ’09 forecast: “I wish I could be more optimistic than pessimistic. The strong will get stronger and the weak will get weaker. Having the right shoes is important, but if you have sizes in core product and you don’t [let customers walk], you’ll do business.”

Next big thing: “Lots of vulcanized footwear again.”

On the way out:
“Rubber shoes.”

Eldred Fourie
, co-owner
Store count:
1 (1,088 sq. ft.)
Open since:

Buying plan: “We try to bring in brands that people aren’t familiar with, quality leather and good price points.”

Hunting for:
“Color. For 2009, we’re narrowing it down a bit as far as the different styles, but they’ll definitely have color.”

Strategy shift: “We want to find new and different brands that offer more variety as opposed to sticking with a few brands with a lot of styles.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08:
“Start putting out the sales earlier.”

Current bestseller: Tsukihoshi. “It became my No. 1 sneaker brand, and I’m constantly doing reorders.”

Spring ’09 forecast:
“I’m going to be a bit more tentative and cautious about what I buy. I set a strict budget for the brands I carry and then set aside a few dollars to find different brands.”

Hottest new brand:
Stevies by Steve Madden

Next big things:
Robeez and Pedipeds

On the way out: “Shoes that aren’t well made, because with all the sales now, people can afford to buy better shoes.”


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