Buyers at Atlanta Show Bullish on Spring ’14

ATLANTA — Encouraged by a recent uptick in business, most retailers at last week’s Atlanta Shoe Market were feeling upbeat.

Attendees, who largely came from the southeastern U.S., said they were shopping strategically at the show to fuel momentum. “We are adding very specific things,” said Duke Pinner, owner of Pinner’s Fine Shoes in Gainesville, Fla., who just capped off his best spring season in five years.

Chocolate Blu and Franco Sarto were among the brands he planned to add to his mix, which includes contemporary and high-end labels such as Stuart Weitzman and Fly London.

Tim Blake, owner of Shooz of Grayton in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., also was making judicious selections. “[Business] hasn’t been easy, but it’s trending up,” he said. “You have to watch what you buy carefully.” He was betting that active-sport styles for men and women from Merrell, Chaco, Keen, Teva and Clarks will remain strong going into 2014. “You have to have [the active-sport category],” Blake said. “It’s like having bread and milk at the grocery store.”

Chaco was a swift seller at K&D Shoe Warehouse in Conyers, Ga., according to buyer David Keel. And while the store’s sales have increased over last year, the buyer was taking a hard look at his brand partners. “Certain vendors have figured out how to be successful in a tough market,” Keel said. He listed Nine West, Alegria by PG Lite, Keds and Skechers’ GoRun minimalist styles as other sought-after lines at K&D. “Single soles, casuals and comfort continue to drive the business.”

Ken and Jill Cope, owners of Miss Shoe, which has locations in Tahlequah, Okla., and throughout Florida, were upbeat as well. “Business has been very brisk [in Tahlequah],” Ken Cope said. “Our Florida stores experienced a lot of wet weather that impacted our business a little, but overall it was good. Everyone is settling into whatever is going on in the economy.”

Angie Dorchak, owner of Pursona boutique in Columbus, Ga., was forging ahead despite a lackluster spring. She was looking for new brands for her store, which does well with women’s and juniors’ labels such as Seychelles, Sam Edelman and Coconuts by Matisse. “I don’t want a repeat [of this past spring], but I also don’t want to judge based on that season,” Dorchak said. “I’m feeling good.”

In men’s, closed-toe sandals, espadrilles and sneakers with vulcanized soles should be hot for spring ’14, according to Lee Feil, footwear buyer for James Davis in Memphis, Tenn.

Feil was confident that smart strategizing will make for a successful year. “We’re going to have a huge fall,” the buyer said. “In turn, the ball will continue to roll [into next spring].”