FFANY Buyers Bring in More Seasonless Styles

NEW YORK — Versatility was at the top of buyers’ wish lists at FFANY last week.

After chilly temperatures put a damper on sales earlier this year, retailers were seeking product that could work in warm or cool weather for spring ’14. 

“I’m definitely looking for more transitional footwear and not as many open-toe sandals,” said John Holden, COO of Benjamin Lovell Shoes, which has locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He listed Fly London, Pikolinos, Ron White and Paul Mayer’s new lug-sole constructions as standouts.

Holden also was hunting for newer brands. “We need to have product that isn’t available everywhere, and it’s harder and harder to find,” he said.

Brittanie Yvonne, owner of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Ehvonnae, was taking a proactive approach. “I’m buying closer to season [and stocking] what makes sense,” she said. “[I’m not focusing on] what is on trend, but [adding shoes that are] a little more fashion-forward to give people something to be really interested in.”

Also based in Brooklyn, Je T’aime Shoes owner Stan Jones said he plans to reduce his buy by about 30 percent after a slow spring season for his 2-year-old boutique. The retailer was focused on trendier looks and bold hues to grab customers’ attention. “The more fun, colorful stuff [will help us] not get stuck with [excess product] going into fall, which is our biggest season,” he said.

Jones predicted a move toward casual styles could produce more predictable sales. “I’m gearing toward the more-casual looks because that can push over to the next season,” he said. He cited Boutique 9 and Jeffrey Campbell as two staple sellers, adding that his primary goal at FFANY was to check out new offerings from brands his store already carried.

Anthony Brown, buyer for Charleston, S.C.-based Shoes on King and Augusta, Ga.-based Shoes at Surrey, added that less-formal looks are strong in the South, too. “We have been in a casual mode going on 24 months now,” he said. “We see it doing nothing but strengthening. I do think the dress shoe is de-emphasizing.”

Ruth Krass, co-owner of Bedazzled Boutique in Newtown Square, Pa., and Bedazzled by the Sea in Ventnor City, N.J., was also looking to scale down her dress-shoe offerings. “I am definitely [buying more-casual items for spring ’14],” she said. “For the dressier shoes, I go to a lower price point. We did Stuart Weitzman [in past seasons], which is a higher price point, but I don’t have to do that. I can do Badgley Mischka for $200 instead of $400.”

Even for buyers from outside the U.S., relaxed styling was top-of-mind. “Right now our casual product is 38 percent of our whole business,” said José Antonio Díaz Alonso, who was buying for Dorothy Gaynor boutique in Mexico City. “That is 11 points [higher] than in the past five years.”

The general mood among buyers has improved since the June FFANY show.

“This spring [may have been] the first season where women were starting to buy shoes for fun again,” Holden said. “The last five years, people just weren’t spending money and it got scary. Now it’s getting better.”