Kathy Hymer, VP and merchandise manager for the 285-store, Birmingham, Ala.-based chain Simply Fashion Stores, said she mainly was looking for private-label options and was finding an array of choices.
“There are a lot of interesting heel treatments, wedges, color blocks and suedes, and we’re starting to see a lot of single-sole shoes,” she said.
Hymer noted she planned to spend about the same as last spring, keeping inventory in check, but still wanted to offer customers fresh styles and new reasons to buy.
“Business is going to be tough [for spring],” Hymer said. “But if you give her something great, she’ll buy it, so you have to keep bringing in new things.”
Sam Krause, shoe buyer for the 104-store Gabriel Brothers and Rugged Wearhouse chains, was shopping for closeouts to bring into his discount stores. However, he said, fast fashion has impacted the buying choices of people who had typically been focused on price. “Our merchandise follows what’s in fashion just the same as in department stores,” Krause said. “People want fashion, they just want it at the right price.”
Krause’s business is up about 20 percent compared with a year ago. In part, he said, that’s due to the rough economy, which has brought in new customers who hadn’t shopped value chains before. His goal at the show was to find styles so appealing that these customers keep coming back even after the economy improves.
Krause added he’s also looking forward to a fashion shift. “We’re hearing that spring is going to be more feminine, with lower wedges and a little more tapered look, and single soles.”
Big M Inc. DMM and director of planning and allocation Jo Ann Treglia said that while she’s worried about the economy, she would increase her spending by 5 percent to 10 percent for spring to offer reluctant consumers more options.
“Last spring was terrible for us,” she said of business in her 150 Mandee and Annie Sez stores. “I want this one to be better. The economy is terrible, but people always want to buy something new.”
Treglia said about 80 percent of her merchandise is private label, so she hoped to connect with her first-cost suppliers at the show, as well as peruse new styles.
Other storeowners were scouting out new categories to add to their merchandise mix.
Theclymb.com footwear buyer Katie Fagan said that while the trade show offerings don’t fit with the outdoor theme of her member-based flash sales site, she wanted to research adding lifestyle products. As competition increases in the flash sales space, she said, buyers can’t afford to stick solely with what consumers expect to find on the sites. “We came here to see if we’re missing anything that we could offer to our members.”
Rick Ravel, president of Austin, Texas-based Karavel Shoes, said he was at the show on a fact-finding mission.
“Instead of going to China, we’re coming here [to explore first-cost opportunities],” he said.