Retail Guide: Comfort Shopping List

CRAIG’S SHOES/MADISON ST. SHOES , Berwyn, Ill./Forest Park, Ill.
Craig Cohen, owner
Store count: 2 (5,500 sq. ft./1,000 sq. ft.); est. 2007

Hunting for: “People are always looking for comfort with a fashion twist, so we’ll keep searching for new styles that provide that, but that’s always been part of the solution in terms of merchandising our store.”

Buying strategy: “I want to buy less, but it seems the consumer wants to see more. If they shop websites, they see everything under the sun.”

Shoes you can’t keep in stock: “Fly London, specifically the wedge-based series, and Toms Shoes. Anything from Minnetonka is in high demand because of the great price point, but also because younger customers have accepted the brand again.”

Best price point: $40 to $70

Hottest new brands: “It’s Toms, hands down. We got our first shipment in January and they have been doing phenomenally well.”

Spring ’13 trend you’re betting on: “We’ll be looking for a big wedge season for all the brands. Our customers really like any comfort wedges.”

Spring ’13 trend you’re passing on: “We are seeing a slowing of the minimalist trend. It’s not dead by any means, but we’re watching our Vibram FiveFingers, Merrell and New Balance sales closely.”

Mood at retail: “It’s positive, but not exuberant. People will spend, but it seems only once or maybe twice a season. There was a time when our customers would come and look weekly, but we don’t see that much anymore.”

What you’re doing to get people to buy: “It takes a lot of advertising to motivate today’s consumers. We do continuous advertising in print media, we have a Facebook page and we’re in constant contact with our customers.”

DANCEY’S SHOES, Boone, N.C.
Russell Gullett, store manager
Store count: 1 (800 sq. ft.); est. 1941

Hunting for: “We’re looking to bring in styles that have good arch support and orthopedic-type flip-flops for the college students who shop in our store. Customers are looking for open toes, casual and dress shoes, and hiking shoes.”

Buying strategy: “We’ll be buying more because we’ve rebranded the store to attract a broader consumer base. We will be increasing our buy between 30 percent and 40 percent in comfort shoes for next spring.”

Shoes you can’t keep in stock: “Allegria’s clogs and Mary Jane styles, and GoLite’s low-quarter hiking shoes.”

Best price point: $100 to $110

Hottest new brands: “Joya’s casual dress and hiking styles, and Terox and Oofos flip-flops.”

Spring ’13 trend you’re betting on: “We really like Orthaheel because it has great arch support for people with plantar fasciitis and there are some great new styles, and Aetrex because of its customizable footbeds after the customer gets the shoe broken in.”

Spring ’13 trend you’re passing on: “Any shoes that don’t have removable footbeds. And the rocker sole movement is out.”

Mood at retail: “We have a really good handle on our fall selection this year, especially for the college kids. We’re optimistic that it will be a very good season for us.”

What you’re doing to get people to buy: “We try to have as many sales as we can. We also do a lot of advertising in local newspapers and through the Chamber of Commerce’s special events.”

WHEN THE SHOE FITS, Vancouver, Wash.
Alan O’Hara, co-owner, C.Ped
Store count: 3 (ave. 2,500 sq. ft.); est. 2004

Hunting for: “We’ll be looking for comfort shoes that can bridge to dressier [styles], such as items we’ve seen from Portlandia and Ziera. Our customers want dressier styles that can be worn in a professional setting.”

Buying strategy: “We’re planning to buy the same amount. We’ll also put in backup orders on the key styles we like from all our top brands to make sure we’ll be able to get them when we need to restock.”

Shoes you can’t keep in stock: “The Dromedaris Falcon, a double-gored clog from Portugal that Dansko used to have made for them. We now buy it directly from Dromedarius. Also Dansko’s Sophie, a double-strap, open-back sandal.”

Best price point: $120 to $140

Hottest new brands: “Taos isn’t new, but this past spring was our first season with the line. At $100, it was a good mid-range price point for quality comfort sandals. We also did well with Earthies.”

Spring ’13 trend you’re betting on: “Comfort shoes that bridge into dress, such as Earthies and Ziera. Dansko sandals will continue to be strong and we’ll have them stocked because I’m tired of running out.”

Spring ’13 trend you’re passing on: “We’ll watch the minimalist trend. It’s definitely not a pass, but it’s a saturated market and we’re going to be careful as it sorts itself out. The frequency of injuries is up, so we’ll be keeping an eye on it.”

Mood at retail: “We’re cautiously optimistic. Election years are always tricky.”

What you’re doing to get people to buy: “We market our stores on TV, private direct mail, email and outdoor advertising.”