Once again, Ugg has saved Christmas. In one of the toughest holiday seasons in recent memory, demand for the shearling boots has kept many independent retailers afloat.
The winter weather that swept many parts of the country late last week made the sought-after Ugg boots an even easier sell, and provided a boost to other functional footwear, retailers said. While Ugg sales this season have so far topped last year’s for Wilmington, Del.-based chain Benjamin Lovell Shoes, GMM John Holden said La Canadienne was also a key performer.
And it’s not just snowbelt states selling out of the popular boot brand. “Everyone’s coming in looking for Ugg,” said Stanley Eisenman, owner of Stanley Eisenman Fine Shoes in Fort Worth, Texas. “They’ve become the perennial gift of the footwear industry.”
Richard Olson, president of Summerlin Shoes in Las Vegas, also named the brand as a top seller. “Our Ugg business is as good as ever,” Olson said, adding that the recent, headline-making snow in his area helped push up sales already driven by the boots’ fashion appeal. According to Olson, shearling brand Koolaburra also benefited.
Still, many independents expected to end the year on a low note. “Everything has slowed down so drastically,” said Eddie Cuevas, owner of the Shoegasm stores in New York. “You always think you are going to get big numbers, but they were bad this weekend. It was a combination of the economy and the weather.”
Holden said he anticipated Benjamin Lovell’s business would be down a couple of points for the month, and Greg Lagrotteria, owner of the Shoe Market in Hingham, Mass., said the store is off more than 10 percent for the third and fourth quarters compared with a year ago. In Las Vegas, an area hard hit by foreclosures, Olson said he’s expecting a 20 percent dip in December sales.
With the clock ticking on pre-holiday purchase, retailers are scrambling to get customers in the door with fresh discounts. “We have taken a few more markdowns and brought more shoes to 50 percent off than we normally do,” Eisenman said, adding that the store typically goes on sale after the new year. “We’re [trying] to capture some consumer dollars bit earlier rather than later,” he said. In an effort to spark buying, Benjamin Lovell’s Holden said the store has been more promotional — which has cut into margins. “Everyone is looking for a deal,” he said, adding that he already has his eyes set on post-holiday sales. “The week after Christmas is always good for us.”