Toning, Boots Lead as Footwear Drivers

Industry executives praised the toning and boot categories as key growth areas in footwear right now in a discussion at FN Platform here Wednesday morning.

The panel, sponsored by Sterne Agee and moderated by the company’s research analyst, Sam Poser, included Debbie Ferrée, vice chairman of DSW Inc.; Scott Prentice, VP of sales at Jimlar Corp.; Tom Romeo, president and CEO of Bearpaw; Sonny Shar, CEO of Pentland USA; Cliff Sifford, EVP and GMM of Shoe Carnival Inc.; and Diane Sullivan, president of Brown Shoe Co.

Despite upcoming price increases and issues with delivery from China, panelists agreed that the toning category has been good for sales.

“I call this the toning revolution,” said Ferrée. “It’s a lifestyle, and it’s impacting other brands, [making them] sharper.”

Sullivan added that the whole wellness category has exploded, with the success of barefoot product demonstrating a consumer interest in fitness and innovation.

The panelists also said boots would continue to drive the market going into the next season.

“Early reads [on boots] have been extremely positive,” said Sullivan. “The shift we’ve seen is almost as though the consumer goes directly from sandals to boots. That closed-up category is more [difficult].”

Ferrée said boot sales at DSW have even become a 12-month business in many locations.

“Last year, I was most concerned [about]: Is there enough newness to drive an increase again this year?” she said. “And can we comp on top of significant increases last year? Yes. It’s a fashion shoe and customers will [buy it again].”

The category is strong across segments, according to Sifford.

“I’m pleased with [men’s boots],” he said. “It’s not what we see in women’s, but we are seeing increases. I feel it will be strong again this year.”

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