Post-Christmas, many shoe sellers were banking on the boot category, which has been a bright spot throughout the season with fashion as well as performance looks in demand. Retailers were also looking to entice customers with aggressive promotional activity, although major department stores’ early discounting posed a challenge for independents.
Michael Kerstein, owner of Brookline, Mass.-based Simons Shoes, said sales over the holiday season had improved on the same period last year. “I see a warm recovery,” he added, noting that he had yet to discount product. “We are moderately up on last year.”
Weather played a part in the uptick, Kerstein noted, with cooler temperatures and snow in the Northeast boosting pre-Christmas activity. “There wasn’t one particular style driver this season,” he said, “but the tights and boots look was a big style influence. If you had that look covered, you were OK.”
At E.G. Geller, Dallas, a three-unit chain, manager Kelly Sparling said business was also up for the season over last year without any pre-holiday promotions. Key categories included slippers and weatherproof boots. Geller listed fashion-driven brand Aquatalia by Marvin K. as a top performer.
For Chicago-based Lori’s three-store chain and e-commere site, co-owner Lori Andre said key items included cold weather boots by Sorel, La Canadienne, Pajar and Blondo, propelled by snowy conditions in the Midwest.
Despite the robust boot business, overall Andre anticipated a five percent dip in holiday sales compared to last year, a decrease she partially blamed on major retailers’ early promotions. “It’s so competitive, it’s hard for independents to get our margins,” she said, adding that Lori’s introduced its promotions the day after Christmas. The retailer was hopeful that consumers would continue to shop with gift money.
Footnotes store owner Bruce Hausman said his store’s sales were so far tracking in line with expectations for the holiday season. “We’re running close to even. Were selling Aquatalia by Marvin K. boots and Ugg [styles] very well,” Hausman said. He added that the drop in temperature helped boost boot sales, in particular Stuart Weitzman’s 5050 styles.
Like Andre, Hausman said big sales at department stores made for a formidable challenge. “It’s very promotional out there, and independent retailers have to do what they have to do to [stay competitive],” he sad. Footnotes’ semi-annual online and in-store sale — which offers up to 50 percent off a range of styles — kicked off on Dec. 26.