Atlanta Show Goers Tout Strong Winter

ATLANTA — Weather was the hot topic of conversation at The Atlanta Shoe Market, held here Feb. 13-15 at the Cobb Galleria.

After a brutal winter storm shut down roads and airways across the Eastern Seaboard and prevented many retailers and exhibitors from attending the trade show, those who made it were weighing the impact.

Jamie Hunter, buyer for Norris Shoes, based in Douglas, Ga., said chilly temperatures the past couple of months have been a boon to the family shoe store, which stocks boot labels such as Timberland, Red Wing and The North Face. “Business has been steady,” he said. “For south Georgia, it’s been much colder than usual, so that helped our January sales numbers.”

Tops for Shoes in Asheville, N.C., also benefited from Mother Nature. “We had a big boot season,” said owner and buyer Alex Carr, who listed Ugg Australia as a strong performer. “It was amazing. Everyone thought the brand was done, but they diversified the product line and really impressed me.”

Looking toward spring, Carr was less enthusiastic. “It’s too early to know how the season will go, and the weather isn’t helping things. It’s going to be nerve-racking getting sandals into the store,” he said.

While shopping for fall ’14 product at the show, Carr noted he was drawn to the offerings at Frye and Bed Stu, though he worried the market is becoming oversaturated with boots. “About half of everyone’s lines [in the fashion category] is boots,” he said.

The Trask boot collection won over Maria Molnar-Baskin, co-owner of BoutiqueMMM in Franklin, Tenn., but not because it’s winter appropriate. “That brand is still made in the U.S.,” she said. “There are so few companies still manufacturing here, so we want to make sure we support them so they’ll stick around.”

Added Bill Baskin, Molnar-Baskin’s husband, “We’re in a quaint Southern town that is a historical destination. It’s a piece of Americana, so in Franklin, patriotism is a big part of the mindset.”

Though store traffic has been slow this winter, Molnar-Baskin said she is looking forward to a strong spring, led by best-selling labels such Paul Mayer and Attilio Giusti Leombruni. She also plans to introduce styles from Via Spiga in the coming season.

At Diamond Line Shoes in Jacksonville, Fla., spring is beginning to bloom. “Dress shoes are selling well, and prom fashions are beginning to move,” said owner Yvonne Lynah. For more casual styles, she predicted that the black-and-white and chevron trends will be hot this season.

For Michelle Tibbetts, who is opening a new women’s footwear store in Bath, Maine, in May, the emphasis was on feel-good fashions. “My market is women who don’t want to sacrifice comfort for style,” said Tibbetts, who also owns the Bohemian Rose apparel boutique in Bath. “OTBT is a line I’m excited about, and I like the look of Fly London. I also like that the Audley brand put a sneaker bottom on a cork wedge. You can tell they’re concentrating on the feet to keep women comfortable.”