Retail Guide: Comfort Shopping List

Richmond, Va., and Fredericksburg, Va.
Store count: 2 (average 23,000 sq. ft.); est. 1953
Gary Weiner, president

HUNTING FOR: “We’re looking for fun, eye-catching footwear that has a purpose. Any shoes that are unique and fulfilling a higher cause and that are driving customers to make multiple purchases.”
BUYING STRATEGY: “We’re buying about the same and hoping for an 8 percent to 10 percent increase in sales.”
SHOES YOU CAN’T KEEP IN STOCK: “The summer sandal season is dominated by OluKai, Reef and Vibram FiveFingers. We have a tremendous Dansko following, and they continue to roll.”
BEST PRICE POINT: $85 to $150
HOTTEST NEW BRANDS: “Our Dansko business is off the charts; the Clark, Merrell and Keen businesses are very good. [But] customers aren’t looking for new brands as much as they’re looking for products from companies they trust.”
SPRING ’12 TREND YOU’RE BETTING ON: “The tried-and-true will continue to be the powerhouse, but the [New Balance] Minimus could still be the newest star on the block.”
SPRING ’12 TREND YOU’RE PASSING ON: “As a rule we don’t pass on anything. We cut and shrink, but we don’t cut completely.”
MOOD AT RETAIL: “Slightly more optimistic but still apprehensive.”
WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO GET PEOPLE TO BUY: “We use our product and service to drive people in first and foremost, followed closely by broadcast and social media. We also do a lot of special events and cross-promotions with other businesses in town.”

Woodstock, N.Y., and New Paltz, N.Y.
Store count: 2 (average 2,500 sq. ft.); est. 1988
Len Sapiro, owner

HUNTING FOR: “Sandals with built-in comfort.”
BUYING STRATEGY: “For the first time in the history of my business, I’ll be looking to buy smaller amounts because there was no spring this year and I can’t bet there will be next year.”
SHOES YOU CAN’T KEEP IN STOCK: “Sergio Tomani and Vibram FiveFingers.”
SPRING ’12 TREND YOU’RE BETTING ON: “Anything with barefoot technology, such as Vibram FiveFingers and Merrell.”
SPRING ’12 TREND YOU’RE PASSING ON: “The toning trend has passed.”
MOOD AT RETAIL: “The mysterious disappearance of spring this year leaves us with a lot of question marks going into fall. There’s a new economy, and business in general will never be as good as it was a few years ago.”
WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO GET PEOPLE TO BUY: “We do trunk shows, local print and radio ads.”

Madison, Wis.
Store count: 1 (6,200 sq. ft.); est. 1961
Jeff Langner, CEO

HUNTING FOR: “I’m looking to continue the success with my favorite brands and sprinkle in some spice from smaller brands. I’ll also be looking for lower price points.”
BEST PRICE POINT: $150 to $235
HOTTEST NEW BRANDS: “We brought in Bracko from Spain and those have sold well. All our basics, such as Dansko, Vibram FiveFingers and MBT [are strong]. New Balance’s Minimus series and its Activalite series are also on fire.”
SPRING ’12 TREND YOU’RE BETTING ON: “Wellness continues to be an area of success.”
SPRING ’12 TREND YOU’RE PASSING ON: “Very high heels, pointy toes and very high platforms.”
MOOD AT RETAIL: “The mood is good in our store. We look forward to a great season.”
WHAT YOU’RE DOING TO GET PEOPLE TO BUY: “Customer service is very important for us, and we have a well-trained staff that understands what goes into the selling process. Frequent shopper cards and referral cards to advertise for us are also part of our strategy.”