Magic Buyers Tout New Strategies

LAS VEGAS — To confront the dismal economy, retailers shopping the Magic floor here last week were thinking outside the box.

Many store owners said they were experimenting with new buying initiatives for fall.

Nicole Jones, owner of Sensual Steps in Chicago, Ill., said her store was looking for creative ways to stay competitive during the recession. To that end, she recently partnered with Sassi Soles in Merrillville, Ind., to share inventory. Together, they will buy manufacturers’ minimums and share the shoes between the two stores.

“I can’t be intimidated by [Sassi Soles’] business,” said Jones, who was looking for anything between the $25-to-$300 price point. “We’re in business together, and we have to help each other. It adds variety to the store, and now I have her to bounce ideas off.”

Brett Teilhalber, marketing manager of Friedman’s Shoes in Atlanta, said the store’s staff was shopping Magic with newness in mind. With a specialization in big and tall men’s shoes, the goal lately has been to keep things fresh, but with lower price points.

“Five years ago, our lowest-priced shoe was $150,” said Teilhalber, “but now it’s $49.” He added that the store has been cutting back on inventory and has become much pickier in their buying. “There can be no more duplication,” Teilhalber said. “That’s why we’re here — to see what’s new and different.”

Gwendolyn Aboutboul, owner of The Shirt Factory, Sunsations and Loungin Lizard in Rehoboth Beach, Del., was also attending Magic to find something new in men’s, women’s and children’s products.

“My customers want the name brands, but then they see the reality of the price,” she said. “What I’m doing to counteract that is buying lesser-name brands, and putting those next to the name brands, with the expectation that customers won’t buy full price [for name brands].”

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