Retail Guide: Up Close With Chuckies New York

Chuckies’ Richard Erani knows what he likes, and he sure isn’t afraid to say it.

“That’s our forte, really,” he told Footwear News from his boutique on New York’s Third Avenue. “I have smaller stores, so I know how to cherry-pick and ax out the boring shoes.”

For more than two decades, Erani’s candid demeanor and outspoken approach to luxury footwear have helped him build a roster of brands that spans Prada to Lanvin and Yves Saint Laurent to Camilla Skovgaard. (Brother and Chuckies co-founder Chuck Erani helms the original Brooklyn shop, while Richard owns the two Chuckies New York locations in Manhattan.)

Now, the native New Yorker — who is often in the shop, doling out advice on the best pair of coordinating tights or adjusting the strap on a stiletto — is relying on a faithful customer base and a mix of unique and in-demand brands to bolster business in a slow economy.

People like knowing I’m here,” he said. “Even if I’m in the back and they don’t see me, they like having the option of asking my opinion.”

What’s working? Erani credits an active replenishment system for helping Chuckies stay on top in a down market. “We’ll have the stuff everyone is sold out of, and then we become the heroes, like, ‘Oooh, Chuckies has the shoe!’”

What’s not? The overabundance of options. “There are too many shoes designers, too many brands, too many deliveries. It’s killing independent retailers and diluting fashion and the whole ambience of shoes.”

Mood at retail: “There’s excitement. Things are selling at full price, and if not full price, 30 percent off. That’s not bad.”

Most memorable sale: A couple’s $12,000 shopping spree on Prada, Giuseppe Zanotti and Valentino. “She was drunk and a little dowdy, and he was this good-looking guy. They didn’t really match up, but he was doting on her and she loved it.”

Tourist trap: Though clients have ranged from Kate Moss to Chris Noth, Chuckies has had its fair share of sightseers, too. “We get the [out-of-towners] with the Big Gulps, knapsacks and cameras, and you just have to be patient. But we also get tourists looking to us for fashion direction. We love that kind of tourist.”

Most desired brand: Chanel. “They have a great fashion sense for old ladies, and we’ve never been able to really tap into the market for that older, sophisticated woman.”

Best bets for spring: Platform sandals, Jimmy Choo wedges and “summer boots in soft leather that can be worn with a skirt and a nice tan leg.”

Rising stars: “I’ve been eyeing Charlotte Olympia. They are really expensive, but I am so in the mood for her shoes. It’s like craving chocolate cake. You know it’s bad for you, but you just have to have it.”

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