The mood at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City this week is upbeat — with lightweight product and barefoot styles continuing to show strength and retailers and vendors reporting sales increases over the past year.
But vendors say inflationary pressures are continuing to drive up product costs — most say prices will increase by at least $5 at retail for the season — creating challenges as they assort their lines.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in 30 years in the footwear business, not even close,” said Jim Van Dine, president of the Ahnu brand.
The brand, a division of Goleta, Calif.-based Deckers Corp., has been forced to raise costs again for the spring ’12 season, Van Dine said, and is trying to concentrate raises on new styles that don’t have a price history in the marketplace.
For British brand Vivo Barefoot, rolling out product with more competitive prices was a major initiative for spring ’12, said the brand’s head designer, Asher Clark.
For the coming season, the brand is expanding its minimalistic trail running collection with a new style, a mesh look for men and women called Breatho. It will retail for $90, significantly less than the $160 and $110 performance styles the brand has already introduced.
Seth Cobb, GM of the Merrell brand, a division of Rockford, Mich.-based Wolverine World Wide, said he expects prices on the line to rise an average of $5 per style — the second increase of that size since spring ’11.
But the company, like many who spoke to Footwear News, is working hard to maintain a broad price spectrum, and hitting key price points is a priority.
Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource, said that while pricing is clearly a big issue for vendors, consumers are still willing to pay for new, innovative product.
“I’m a little skeptical of the magic number [theory] of pricing. I don’t think consumers think that way,” Powell said. “While segmenting a product line is important, the entire price ladder can slide upward.”