Comfort-Driven Looks Were in Demand by Buyers at the Spring ’18 Atlanta Shoe Market

Atlanta Shoe Market
Buyers shopping the Atlanta Shoe Market.
Johnathon Kelso

Easy-to-wear looks with an emphasis on comfort dominated this weekend’s Atlanta Shoe Market. According to retailers shopping the show, athleisure looks, followed by mules, slides and wedges, are a significant part of the spring ’18 fashion story.

“Shoes have to have a comfort aspect or we will pass,” said Courtnay McGinness, co-owner of Chattanooga Shoe Co. in Chattanooga, Tenn. “Slides will be huge, and the chunkier the wedge, the better.” She added fashion sneakers were also on her shopping list. “They’re not going away anytime soon, [especially] thicker-sole styles.”

Laronda Denkler, owner of Vince Canning Shoes of Delray Beach, Fla., is also banking on athleisure. According to Denkler, over half of the store’s top 10 SKUS profitwise this year have come from what she coined the “fashleisure” trend, a fashion twist on sport looks.

At Copper Penny Shooz in Charleston, S.C., owner Blake Vaigneur is translating the category into slip-on sneakers, currently a strong seller. “They’re comfortable, and all ages can wear them,” she said, about the popular silhouette.

Another trend women of all ages agree on, noted retailers, is Birkenstock. “We didn’t have enough inventory [this season],” said Janice Abernethy, owner of Abbadabba’s in Tucker, Ga. “The company couldn’t make enough. We’re selling them to everybody.”

Birkenstock was also strong this summer at Phillips Shoes in Charleston, S.C. According to store manager Fiona Baker, the brand has been resonating with both junior high students and their moms, and expects it to continue to grow.

Rounding out the footbed story were brands such as Taos and Naot. “I did well this [season] with comfort cork bottoms from Taos and plan to continue,” said Lisa Roy, co-owner of Soft Shoe in Richmond, Ky.

In a dressier comfort vein, wedges are also part of the story, especially as the silhouette relates to today’s ready-to-wear trends. “Clothing is being inspired by the ’70s,” said Copper Penny Shooz’s Vaigneur, making the high wedge even more important.

“We do a lot of wedges,” said Theresa Howard, owner of The Straw Hat in Trussville, Ala. “We have a fun, funky boutique and look for styles that will go with clothing.” Wedges and low heels, she said, are even selling to older customers who need to be stable but also want to look young.

Beth Weingarten, co-owner of The Shoe Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was also on the lookout for bolder, fuller-wedge bottoms that offer walking ease, while Camille Kessler, owner of Piazza Della Sole in Upper Montclair, N.J., is rounding out her wedge buy with low heels in thicker, chunkier shapes.

Whatever the silhouette, there was common ground when it came to color, with neutrals taking the lead for spring. Nancy Stoddard, owner of Shackelford Shoes in Saint Simons Island, Ga., was opting for colors that were light on the eye. “Fashion’s going monotone,” she said, “and I want to keep in that color scheme.”

However, there’s also room for brights. “We always bring in a splash of color,” said Courtenay Twinam, owner of Shoes by Beverly in Bellair Bluffs, Fla. Included in the mix for spring are turquoise and raspberry. ‘We need to make the store pop,” she said.

Like Twinam, Abernethy of Abbadabba’s is bringing in a broad color spread for spring. In addition to neutrals such as greens and taupes, she’s planning to introduce yellow, red and blue.