FFANY Buyers Mixed on Fall

NEW YORK — The uncertainty of a wild-card winter marked by unseasonably warm weather and a challenging economy affected buyers at last week’s FFANY show. Many retailers told Footwear News they were taking a cautious approach and searching for inventory that offered more bang for the buck.

“For [fall ’12], we’re aiming for high quality, but not as expensive,” said Hendy Lew, buyer for London Kids in Brooklyn, N.Y. “People love [our offerings], but can’t afford them because of the economy.”

Lisa Gorlicki, a buyer for Boston-based The Tannery, said her strategy included ordering versatile brands and styles. “When you buy a brand such as Blondo [boots] that can [work for a variety of weather conditions], you are protecting your assets,” she said. “You can sell it as a winter boot, and if it happens to snow, you get a [bonus].”

However, Gorlicki added that she was also on the hunt for newness, keeping her eyes peeled for pops of color and interesting materials. “The past couple years have been a little somber,” she said, “so now I’m looking for a couple of things to spice up our offerings.” She found Beverly Feldman’s revamped, vibrant-hued collection to be a standout in that area, ordering flats as well as one style of boot from the brand.

Gary Groo, owner of Groo’s Shoes in Middletown, N.Y., was holding back a bit more. He said Ugg Australia was one of his store’s best-selling brands last fall, and he was considering adding brands Fidgi and Mukluks for fall ’12. However, the retailer planned to mull things over at home before making any decisions.

Caution also translated into a tendency toward more subdued styles for some retailers. “We will be buying more classic looks and not as many high heels,” said Elizabeth Gaiero, VP of Buckles in Brooklyn. “With the economy, [customers] want a look that won’t last just one season.”

As for trends on the horizon, buyer Jeff Thornton of Sierra Trading Post in Cheyenne, Wyo., predicted that minimalism would make its way into categories beyond athletic. “A larger portion of minimalist shoes are hitting the streets instead of the trails,” he said. “[Minimalism is] growing into the fashion end of it.”

And Gorlicki said ballet flats would remain a women’s staple. “I’m having huge success in ballet flats of all kinds,” she said, listing Jimmy Choo, Chloé and Tory Burch as strong sellers.

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