Salt Lake City — The warm winter weather dominated the conversation at the first day of the Outdoor Retailer show here Thursday, but vendors told Footwear News they were looking to strong product trends to appeal to a cautious retailer base.
Brands including Vibram, New Balance and Saucony were showing minimal styles with beefed-up protection like waterproofing, soles with more grip and insulation in the upper to keep runners going longer into the season.
According to Richie Woodworth, president of Saucony, the brand will expand its 8-mm heel-toe drop program, which it calls the Geometry of Strong, into three more franchise styles. With the extension of the new platform into the Ride, Omni and Echelon shoes, the brand will have converted almost all its franchise shoes from a 12mm to a 8mm offset. And Woodworth said early response from consumers and retailers has confirmed their belief that this is the right way to go.
“It’s a great validation,” Woodworth said.
At Brooks, the running brand will deliver the first product for kids in its more minimal PureProject line: the PureFlow styles for boys and girls, which makes some adaptations to the adult shoe to make it more kid-appropriate. The styles will deliver July 1.
Brooks — as well as other brands including The North Face and Timberland — have lightened product with new foams, welds instead of stitched overlays and fewer added parts.
“We want to reduce weight where we can,” said Carson Caprera, footwear manager for Brooks, adding that changes can’t be at the expense of performance.
Leather styles that incorporate performance features like waterproofing or limited insulation have also gotten attention at the four-day show. Styles have centered around fashion casual boots rather than bulky winter product.
“Apparel has always had transition product, but [historically] footwear has always struggled for a third-quarter transition,” said Brian Trask, footwear buyer for Boston-based City Sports. But strong men’s product, he said, has made him consider adding product for fall ’12 with a lower, more fashionable profile and protection. “I like anything with Gore-Tex,” he said.