Denise Friend, head women’s footwear buyer at Bothell, Wash.-based REI, said flip-flops of “any color, any style, for any price,” as well as road-running shoes and casual sandals with a dressier feel would be key for spring.
She also flagged hiking as an area in which the brand had seen a lot of growth — possibly, she said, due to families planning local outdoor treks for lower-cost vacations.
“People are rethinking how they recreate,” she said, identifying lightweight and often low-cut styles from Merrell, Vasque and Keen as key looks.
Bob Schwartz of New York’s Eneslow said he was back at the show after several years away, looking for fresh styles from vendors including Merrell, Aetrex and New Balance.
On the vendor side, Jim Zwiers, who in March was named president of the Wolverine Worldwide Outdoor Group, said the group’s Merrell brand would look to grow awareness outside its current customer base. It plans to do that through more partnerships like this summer’s sponsorship of the Rothbury music festival in Rothbury, Mich., and with its new deal with the National Parks Foundation.
He also said he was feeling bullish about growth potential for the Chaco brand, which Wolverine acquired in January, now that the sales were being handled domestically through the group’s technical sales reps. “We think it’s a pretty dynamic brand,” he said. “Maybe even a better brand than we thought when we bought it.”