Fall Sales Still Slow for Retailers

NEW YORK — Business is feeling lukewarm this fall, said retailers.

“People aren’t buying more than one pair of shoes at a time, but they are buying,” said Frank Peterson, store manager of the largest Sneaker Villa, in Philadelphia.

In-store promotions and back-to-school sales have helped, but the momentum does not seem to be carrying over into fall. Tim Butler, owner of the Shoe Inn in Charlotte, N.C., said customers are “buying what they need now over what they like.”

Others added that unseasonably warm weather has affected boot sales. Peter Hanig, owner of Hanig’s Footwear in Chicago, said that the city’s recent 90-degree temperatures stalled sales of boots.

Here, six retailers discuss the fall business so far, top-selling brands and the biggest trends in their market.

John Weingarten, partner and co-owner, Shoe Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Top brands: Naot, Paul Mayer Attitudes, Born Crown
Star styles: Flat and wedge sandals
Sales check: The store’s end-of-summer sale offers half-off discounts and “buy three pairs, get one free.”
Overall mood: “Sales are just about the same as last year. We would like it to track up, but with the sluggish economy, we are OK with staying the same.”

Gary Muhrcke, founder, Super Runners Shop, New York (6 stores)
Top brands: Asics, Saucony, New Balance
Star styles: Minimalism and barefoot running styles
Sales check: Upcoming Asics promotion in conjunction with Asics sponsoring the ING New York City Marathon in November.
Overall mood: “The running market is a mature market. People are buying brands they had success with in the past.”

Tim Butler, owner, The Shoe Inn, Charlotte, N.C.
Top brands: Keen, Nike, Stride Rite
Star styles: Ballet flats, fashion boots
Sales check: No current sales.
Overall mood: “Our strategy is changing with the economy. A few years ago, we ran one or two promotions a year. Now we are looking at doing one to two a month.”

Frank Peterson, manager, Sneaker Villa, Philadelphia (26 stores)

Top brands: Nike, Timberland, Adidas
Star styles: Colorful Airmax, basic white-and-black sneakers, workboots
Sales check: No current sales.
Overall mood: “People are definitely spending more on sneakers than last year. People of all ages are continuing to spend, and we expect them to do so through fall.”

Peter Hanig, owner, Hanig’s Footwear, Chicago (6 stores)
Top brands: Thierry Rabotin, Hunter, Vibram
Star styles: Both classic and waterproof boots
Sales check: No current sales.
Overall mood: “[It’s] a day-to-day situation with the weather driving sales, but I’m optimistic about the early fall season.”

Paul Karaz, owner, Paul Karaz Shoes, Fayetteville, N.Y.
Top brands: Frye, Stuart Weitzman, Anyi Lu
Star styles: High-heel and over-the-knee boots, studs and ornaments
Sales check: No current sales.
Overall mood: “I’m not a big promoter. If you take care of your customers and have the right product, you’ll be fine.”

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