Back-to-School Trend Preview: Standout Brands and Retailers

Vans Custom Sneakers
Vans is among the brands expected to perform well for back-to-school. (Seen here: winning designs from Vans' Custom Culture national high school design competition).
Courtesy of Vans

School doors may have barely slammed shut for summer break but Footwear News is already thinking of the shoe trends that will dominate when students make their way back into the classroom in September.

Industry insiders say there are no major trend surprises popping up yet but many of the usual players are set to do big numbers.

Key brands to watch include Vans, Converse, Skechers and Steve Madden, with canvas and fashion-athletic styles, in particular, expected to outperform.

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“I think Skechers will be a key winner—especially with adult takedown styles attracting an older child,” said Wunderlich Securities Inc. analyst Danielle McCoy.

B. Riley & Co. LLC analyst Jeff Van Sinderen is equally bullish on the brand.

“Skechers is on fire,” said Van Sinderen. “I think the brand will do well [because they have] a strong assortment of accessibly-priced, on-trend product in kids and plenty of casual/comfort product that appeals to a wide range of older (high school, college and up) age groups.”

CL King & Associates analyst Steven Marotta said he’s placing his bet on Steve Madden which “from a share perspective, is poised to perform well.”

“Steve Madden has a little wind to its back and I think a lot of the styles that are doing well for them in the spring will translate into the fall for back to school—in the fashionable sneaker category in particular,” said Marotta.

Van Sinderen also noted that Nike’s offerings in the basketball category will continue to perform well among kids, teens and young adults.

Retailers forecasted to have the prime share of must-have shoe items include Famous Footwear—Caleres’ standout performer in the family space—and Genesco Inc.’s Journeys.

“Famous Footwear’s offerings are trend-right and in-stock,” said Marotta. “They invested heavily in canvas which has done well in the spring and we think it will do well in the fall.”

McCoy and Sterne Agee CRT analyst Sam Poser also called out Famous Footwear—which reported a 27 percent increase in canvas sales in the first quarter—as a retail chain to watch for back-to-school.

“Famous Footwear is well-positioned with its new marketing,” said McCoy. “They have been working with a third party to enhance consumer engagement and I think the back-to-school campaigns will reflect the work they’ve done.”

McCoy also noted that the retailer’s assortment mix features key back-to-school favorites that include Keds, Sperry, Skechers and Madden Girl.

Journeys, the chain that continues to boost Genesco against pressure from its underperforming chain Lids, capitalized on the strength of strong boots and canvas trends in Q1. Market watchers expect that canvas will remain the driver for the firm’s sales in the back-to-school shopping season.

“Management continues to feel confident in the business with strong visibility into back-to-school in addition to traffic and conversion driving initiatives such as increased catalogue spend…” wrote Susquehanna Financial LLLP analyst Christopher Svezia in a note on May 29.

Regarding new shoe trends, the market will just have to wait to see if something emerges.

“Outside of the usual brands and retailers, there’s nothing else showing signs of strength right now,” said Marotta.