Buyers Go Barefoot at OR Show

Barefoot and lightweight were big buzzwords at last week’s Outdoor Retailer show.

With high-profile collection launches from Merrell and New Balance — and related product from Teva, Terra Plana and Ecco, among others — outdoor players were optimistic the category will fuel sales.

“So much of the conversation is about how to run,” Brooks CEO Jim Weber said. “The conversation is maturing, and that’s a good thing.”

Danny Moody, buyer at Orem, Utah-based Runners Corner, said the explosion of minimal shoes and footwear designed with some barefoot elements has given running a boost.

The retailer already carries Vibram Five Fingers and Terra Plana, and Moody said he would add New Balance’s Minimus line and was strongly considering the Merrell Barefoot Collection. “It’s cool to see everyone embrace this,” he said.

Brian Trask, footwear category manager for Boston-based athletic chain City Sports, said he was seeking to introduce new styles to the chain’s minimalist offering.

“It’s become a movement, a viable category of running,” he said.

Hiking was another hot category at the show. Frank Gibbons, footwear and hardgoods buyer for the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters chain, said he was hunting for high-end Italian hikers, a slot the store has not been able to fill to his satisfaction.

Hiking styles were also on the agenda for Rob Gasbarro and Cory McCall, who will open their full-service outfitting store Adventure76 late next month in Franklin, N.C. They cited Salomon, Lafuma, Montrail and Chaco as standouts at the show.

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