Price Hikes Top of Mind for Outdoor Players

NEW YORK — Though economic and sourcing issues could continue to weigh heavily on the outdoor market in 2011, a large number of executives told Footwear News they were optimistic about the coming year.

In the lead-up to the Outdoor Retailer show, set for Jan. 20-23 in Salt Lake City, FN polled vendors and retailers for their thoughts on the issues and trends impacting the category. They said the economy was the biggest issue facing the industry, followed by consumer spending and rising prices.

In spite of the challenges, most respondents were upbeat. Roughly 46 percent of participants said they were feeling optimistic about spring ’11, while 39 percent were “somewhat optimistic” and 16 percent had a negative outlook.

Aiding that negativity is sourcing concerns. In fact, 72 percent of execs said they were worried about price hikes over the next two years.

To prepare for the tightened environment, industry players reported they were adopting several tactics. One retailers said, “[I’m] looking for ways to cut other operating costs and doing more pre-booking to ensure discounts.” Another participant said, “As a vendor, we are negotiating hard with our suppliers to get the best possible prices.”

In addition, firms are seeking to boost business next year with more aggressive marketing. About 24 percent of respondents said they would be incorporating new efforts such as direct-mail, phone calls and e-mail.

Retailers, in particular, said they were getting smarter about their buying, putting in orders earlier and focusing on proven labels. “Leave all the ‘me too’ products out. Buy only the original,” said one executive.

Among the trends that are currently driving sales are women’s fashion boots, barefoot/minimalist styles and casual, low-profile looks, according to poll respondents. And they predicted that the “outdoor as fashion” and lightweight performance trends would have the biggest impact in 2011.

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