Children’s Buyers Aim to Spice Up Mix

ELIZABETH, N.J. — With consumers continuing to cut back on spending, retailers at the Children’s Great Event Shoe Show, held here Feb. 21-23, said they were on the hunt for unique product that would catch shoppers’ eyes and motivate them to buy.

“I looked for the unusual: styles that were a little more fun,” said Roz Viemeister, owner of Shoofly in New York. Among her more interesting finds, she said, was a Pliner Jrs patent leather ballet flat with a faux-fur cuff, as well as a classic loafer interpreted in an ankle boot from Venettini.

Viemeister said she also was in search of shoes with interesting bottoms as an alternative to the rubber-sole looks that have dominated the kids’ market for some time.

“Kickers had a thin crepe sole that had a nice, crunchy, organic feel, and Camper even dabbled with some blue soles,” she said.

At Little Shoebox in Upper Montclair, N.J., owner Elaine Sinisi said she zeroed in on key trends she believes will excite customers this fall.

“Fashion boots will be big, especially Western boots and styles with buckles and that have an earthy look,” she said. “We picked up Frye at the show and are really excited to carry that line.”

Other trends Sinisi cited included purple and muted-gray colors, updated skater looks, metallics, and Minnetonka moccasins and styles with fringe details. She also noted a resurgence in more traditional product, such as the classic, buckle-strap school shoes offered by brands such as Footmates.

Still, although storeowners were seeking new and different looks to freshen up the shelves, they had considerably less product to choose from this season.

As business continues to be challenging, many vendors showcased smaller and more-focused collections.

“A lot of [brands] scaled down and narrowed their lines, offering fewer choices for buyers,” said Carole Husiak, owner of New York-based Ibiza Kidz. However, she added that while SKU counts have been reined in, quality has been stepped up.

“There was a noticeable effort to improve the fit and comfort, with softer uppers, more flexible soles and things like that,” Husiak said.

Access exclusive content