For winter boot brands that bank inventory, frigid temperatures have been translating into an uptick in business due to independent retailers searching for last-minute fill-in product.
“These extraordinary weather events are always nice to have, and they make the phone ring,” said Taylor Vaughn, director of sales for Sorel. “Over the last couple of years, [as] weather is seemingly more unpredictable, when events happen, you get these spikes, and it’s nice to see.”
While frigid temperatures typically call for heavy-duty boots, Sorel has found its lighter-weight products have been in demand. According to Vaughn, “We experienced a shift from heavy utilitarian pack boots to much lighter, sportier [looks] that have a lot more versatility,” he said about a contributing factor to strong boot sales this season, with retailers calling for fill-ins as inventories began depleting.
Brandy McCarty, chief marketing officer, global brand strategy for Khombu, has also seen a spike in requests for product. “Khombu was fortunate enough to have strong sell-throughs even before the cold really hit,” he said. “Once [it did], business definitely accelerated, and with it calls for additional inventory. If the winter continues as is, we do anticipate additional calls. But, we’re working with our partners to make sure they plan now because inventories are shrinking.”
At Pajar, Raffi Nicoghosian, director of operations, said the company has seen tremendous demand for product this winter. “We keep inventory of our top sellers, but due to the extreme weather this season, we’ve been totally depleted.” Nicoghosian said demand should continue since the traditional selling period for the Canadian brand continues way past February.
Like Pagar, Canada-based brand Kodiak has found sales on the rise. “We notice instantly when winter hits,” said Steve Hagarty, VP of sales at Kodiak Group Holdings. “We get more calls and emails to our customer service department asking about the availability of stock and, along with that, an increase in immediate orders for our winter boots.”
According to Hagarty, “We always plan to have stock available for fill-ins. With the volatility of the weather these days, this is a difficult exercise from a sales forecasting perspective.” However, he added, “We do strive to have the inventory available for when the cold weather hits.”
Bogs has also seen sales pick up due to the extreme weather. “Fill-ins have picked up after a slow December in an otherwise strong fall season,” said president Dustin Combs. “We keep a large surplus inventory focused on key items and carryover colors,” he noted. “The general target is 60 percent surplus over the previous year’s sales.”
While a cold snap can mean increased demand by consumers for cold-weather product, Combs said that retailers remain cautious this late in the season when it comes to reorders, preferring to end the season clean.
For Bearpaw, Edna De Pamphilis, global marketing director, said the company is able to react to last-minute requests since it takes a strong inventory position. However she noted, “Once January hits, it’s tough for larger retailers to react. But we can definitely appease independent accounts. Smaller stores have the flexibility to react.”
While boots are the go-to item during the cold weather, Emu Australia, which offers a wide range of shearling looks, has seen increased interest in its slippers. Keith Barnett, sales manager for North America, said while Emu has seen a slight uptick in boot sales, slippers have been a bright spot. “We had some interesting positions this season,” he said, “not just in outdoor-type product that we’re starting to get some fill-ins [on] but had some early success with our slipper collection.”
According to Barnett, the company took a risk and reordered slippers, which came in around New Year’s. “We just rolled the dice, and it’s going to start paying off because these last two weeks, we’ve seen a small pickup in [slippers].”
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