Shopping List: Men’s

SOULA, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Rick Lee, owner

Store count: 2 (average 1,000 sq. ft.)
Open since: 2004
Buying plan: “To focus on footwear that looks great, but has an element of comfort.”
Hunting for: “We’re looking for unique and interesting sneakers. I’d like more sandals for guys and shoes that can do double-duty — dress up or dress down.”
Strategy shift: “We’re buying a lot tighter. The price-to-value ratio on footwear is also a major concern for us.”
View on the economy: “It’s definitely challenging. We have to make our buys meaningful to bring customers in again.”  
Lesson learned from spring ’09: “If the item is right, the price isn’t a huge issue, but there has to be an element of value.”
Current bestsellers: Adidas, Ryan Rowe
Best price point: “$80 to $85 for sneakers; $120 to $150 for footwear.”
Fall ’09 forecast: “I’m optimistic. In the fall, boots will be a strong item for us.”
Next big thing: “Laceless sneaker/shoe hybrids for men.”
On the way out: “Elongated, pointed toes.”

Ulysses Lawson, owner, president & CEO

Store count: 1 (1,000 sq. ft.)
Open since: 1999
Hunting for: “With the economic climate being what it is now, we’re playing things close to the vest. We’re looking for a few new products for spring ’10, but we’ll wait until the season gets closer to make those final decisions.”
Strategy shift: “We’re going to buy close to the season, not go overboard and stay close to our open-to-buy.”
View on the economy: “Though people say it’s getting a little better, we still want to make sure before we go completely out on a limb.”
Current bestsellers: Jo Ghost, Bacco Bucci, Mezlan
Best price point: “Nothing over $300.”
Fall ’09 forecast: “It probably will be a tad better because we’re under a new administration [that is] trying to get it right.”
On the way out: “It’s more of a casual shoe now that has that look of a gym shoe, which fits our demographic.”

BULO SHOES, San Francisco
Emily Landsman, manager

Store count: 1 (800 sq. ft.)
Open since: 1994
Buying plan: “Providing customers with a wide variety of price points and styles.”
Hunting for: “We’re always in search of well-made classics with a twist.”
Strategy shift: “We are very focused on incorporating more variety at the lower price point.”
View on the economy: “We need to widen our variety, work to maintain our relationships with customers and accommodate their needs with lower price points, while still offering good options.”
Lesson learned from spring ’09: “We’re finding we need to stick with Italian- and American-made products.”
Current bestsellers: Cydwoq Elect sandal, Cydwoq Skate bootie
Best price point: $200 to $350
Fall ’09 forecast: “We’re predicting it will be better than 2008.”
Hottest new brand: “Cydwoq shoes. They’re nontoxic, handmade in California, whimsical and comfortable.”
Next big thing: “Domestic production.”
On the way out: “Things that are priced much higher than the way they feel.”

Dave Massey, buyer

Store count: 1 (29,000 sq. ft.)
Open since: 1936
Hunting for: “We’re looking for updates on the products we’ve done well with in the past, as well as any new trends. The styles that have worked well for us for spring are boat shoes and flip-flops.”
Strategy shift: “Just trying to be smarter. We’re concentrating on bringing things in a little closer to when we’re going to be selling them.”
View on the economy: “Hopefully optimistic at this point. Our men’s side was more affected than anything else, I would say. Men typically push off buying new shoes until they need them, but I’m hoping for fall that we do see a change.”  
Lesson learned from spring ’09: “We really need to try not to bring in product too early, but rather a little closer to when we’re going to sell it. Men buy pretty close to season, as opposed to shopping ahead of time, so we can bring the products in later.”
Current bestsellers: Sperry Billfish, OluKai sandals
Best price point: $90 
Fall ’09 forecast: “Men will come back slowly to buy again. I don’t think there’s going to be a major shift. I’m hoping for the same as last year at this point.”
On the way out: “Everything keeps getting more and more casual and keeps trending away from dress.”


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