Men’s Shopping Guide: Easy Does It

Casual fashions continue to dominate the men’s market, as consumers hunt for footwear that will take them from the office to the outdoors.


THE TANNERY,
Boston and Cambridge, Mass.
Tarek Hassan,
co-owner
Store count:
4 (ave. 10,000 sq. ft.)
Open since:
1973

Buying plan: “Focused and tight, but with an open mind. We’re working with our vendors to move forward and have a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Hunting for: “In this economy, people are buying brands they can trust, that they have a history with and that have authenticity. We’re also not losing our focus on the new and up-and-coming brands because that’s what separates us from others.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08: “Overnight the light can be switched off. The department stores went up to 70 percent and 80 percent off, and we saw prices go down on in-season items for the first time.”

Current bestsellers:
Ugg, Frye, Minnetonka, Hunter, Clarks Originals, Nike, Red Wing, Converse, Timberland

Spring ’09 forecast: “Honestly, I would say flat. I can’t see much growth in it, although if we do the right buy, we’ll overcome it and do well.”

Hottest new brands:
“YSL sneakers, Vans Syndicate, Spring Court, Common Projects, Visvim, Vael, Double RL. I saw men’s Earth for next fall and I was beyond myself. The line looks fantastic.”

Next big thing:
“We think everything is going back to the comfort, earthy, toneddown, lightweight pieces.”

On the way out:
“Wild fashion is totally out.”

SHOEBUY.COM
Patrisha Sweeney,
SVP, merchandising
Open since:
2000

Buying plan: “We need to continue to listen to our customers and provide what they need. We react after reviewing both their feedback and what’s selling. We look at product reviews and work closely with our brands.”

Hunting for:
“Anything fun, exciting or innovative, also something our customers tell us they want.”

Strategy shift:
“Along with shoes, we’re expanding into other men’s products, including bags, hats, watches, eyewear, activewear and outerwear.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08:
“We were very humbled going into the season, had our heads down and were very focused.”

Current bestsellers:
New Balance, Merrell, Timberland, Sperry Top-Sider, Bostonian, Johnston & Murphy, Rockport

Spring ’09 forecast: “We think it will be very good. We’re going into spring ’09 strong.”

Hottest new brand: “Any men’s outdoor performance. New brands for us include Keen, The North Face and Patagonia.”

On the way out: “Businesses that forget the existing customer.”

SHERMAN BROTHERS, Philadelphia, Quakertown and Rosemont, Pa.;  ShermanBrothers.com
Mike Sherman,
co-owner
Store count:
3 (ave. 3,000 sq. ft.)
Open since:
1953

Buying plan: “We’re sticking to our conservative men’s shoes, adding in some newer offerings from the brands we carry, including Allen Edmonds, Alden, Cole Haan, Johnston & Murphy and Ecco.”

Hunting for: “Casual shoes, walking shoes and dress-casual shoes.”

Strategy shift: “We’re looking more toward buying almost in season because of the way the economy has been, and it seems there is less of a reason to buy ahead.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08:
“We didn’t buy anything specifically for holiday ’08, knowing that the whole year was a bust. There were a few misses because inventory wasn’t as deep as it could have been.”

Current bestsellers:
Cole Haan pinch tassel and Alden shell cordovan shoes

Spring ’09 forecast:
“My feeling is that it’s probably going to be even with the season last year.”

Next big thing: “The casual dress business will continue to grow for us. Conservative dress shoes — the Eccos, the rubber-soled Cole Haans, the Clarks dress shoes — are going to continue to sell a bit better.”

On the way out: “Slippers. For us, that’s a category that’s gone.”

KIAN MATTHEW FINE MEN’S FOOTWEAR & ACCESSORIES, Englewood, N.J.
Ted Sharifian,
owner
Store count:
1 (1,000 sq. ft.)
Open since:
2005

Buying plan: “I cut down my orders by 40 percent for spring. I’m sticking with the basics and just buying a little bit deeper on the sizes. We’re not going to add any vendors to our selection this fall. I’ll try to stick with the open-stock program — aside from the private labels, which I’ve already ordered — and add to my order in August, if I see business moving toward positive.”

Hunting for: “Upgraded traditional styles with a little flair. Taking a chance in this market is a little bit crazy now.”

Strategy shift: “Price point is a big issue. Even my regular customers, who used to spend $500 or $600 on a pair of dress shoes, would rather spend $300 to $400 now. And we’re looking for value more than anything else.”

Lesson learned from holiday ’08:
“Don’t depend on the holidays. For me, holidays were never a big deal because we’re not a gift-item store.”

Current bestsellers:
“Any casual loafers and Geox.”

Spring ’09 forecast: “It’s going to be very tough. People will be cutting down on their spending, and they’re only going to buy what they need. I don’t think we’re going to get two or three pairs out of a customer, but maybe one pair at a time.”

Next big thing:
“Traditional styles are coming back. People are dressing up again.”

On the way out:
“I don’t carry anything that’s trendy, so things don’t go out of style.”