February FFANY Preview

FFANY’s February edition is fast becoming bigger than the niche event it was in the beginning.

According to Joe Moore, president of FFANY, the show is seeing heightened demand compared with last year, with 41 new exhibitors and a rise in international customers. The number of expected attendees is around 3,500, and more than 225 footwear brands will participate, including newcomers, such as Auri Footwear, Italian Accent Shoes, Miucha and C/O Angelique. To accommodate the larger numbers, the show, set for Feb. 2-4 in New York, will now expand across two locations, at the Hilton New York Hotel and the Flatotel, as well as member showrooms.

“More and more, [FFANY is] becoming a business center,” said Moore. “People feel it’s a must to do serious business here.”

Here, Moore discusses standing out in a down economy, bright spots in footwear and buyers’ moods this season for the show.

FN: What are the new features of the show this season?
JM: February is turning out to be a big deal to us because of new demand for space. So we will be at the Hilton with rooms, and we’ll be at the Flatotel. Between the two of them, it’s going to be probably around three times the size of last year, and in [terms of] dollars, we will have well over double the size of the show.

FN: Do you think buyers are feeling better or worse?
JM: It took everybody a whole year to get their inventories in line, and people are feeling cautiously optimistic. We don’t seem to have the gloom and doom of [before], and a lot has to do with buying for reduced demand. Footwear has been hanging in there better than a lot of areas. People are not expecting a bonanza, but they’re definitely feeling an [improvement].

FN: What do retailers and brands need to do to stand out right now?
JM: It’s basically a combination of product and service. You [have to] have fresh product and something that people need to spend their money on. [Consumers are] not looking to buy just for the sake of buying. You really have to have something fresh, something they don’t have. From a retailer’s point of view, it’s not the time to be conservative, but [it matters] how selective you can be with your product mix. Of course, service is close behind that, but product is always No. 1 to me.

FN: What segments are performing the best right now and why?
JM: I know the high-end dress shoe business is struggling. A lot of people have told me in the last two quarters that footwear has done well, so there is definite encouragement going forward. I think boots have saved everybody. It’s just automatically a higher-priced ticket. And the trend continues with all the strappy sandals.

Sounding Off
Retailers and vendors weigh in on fall trends and expectations for February’s FFANY show.

Andréa Bernholtz, president, Rock & Republic
On fall trends: “I am really looking forward to expanding over-the-knee boots and wedges, and I love all the double platforms and evolving embellishments.”
Expectations: “Because our shoe business is up 87 percent from last year and the celebrity and editorial coverage was so strong, I expect more buyers, deeper orders and a larger presence on the floor.”

Andrew Tastad, VP of sales, Auri Footwear
On New York: “We use this trip to New York to shop the market and see some of the newer trends that are beginning to show up at retail from Europe. With our offices in Laguna Beach, Calif., we take time to visit most of our retail partners’ stores and see what’s going on.”
New launches: “The Auri women’s launch. We have developed a collection of fashion-forward styles that incorporate Auri performance technology [and is] ultra-comfortable. The new Auri men’s City collection debuts at FFANY with more fashion-forward men’s dress styles, sophisticated materials and leather/rubber hybrid soles.”

Gabriel Morales, product director, Seychelles and BC Footwear
On fall trends: “We anticipate boots to continue to be a large portion of the business, and those boots that are cool, yet of a versatile nature, are not only trend right but necessary in today’s economy. We anticipate lace-up silhouettes, from oxfords to boots, to trend up.”
On New York: “New York offers the fashion world at a glance. The sheer volume of feet on the pavement allows one to see what consumers wear in a very short time period and is conducive for design inspiration and/or affirmation.”

John Holden, COO, Benjamin Lovell Shoes in Pennsylvania, New York and Maryland
Expectations: “I expect to walk away from this show with a renewed spirit of the footwear industry. It’s about time. I expect to find new looks, new innovations and new brands. I think fall ’10 will be the time to step it up a notch.”
On New York: “On a personal level, I like it because it’s a quick commute for me, and it has great restaurants and live music. On a business level, it just seems right to have a major show in the fashion capital of the world.”

Larry Bienenfeld, owner, Jildor Shoes in New York
On fall trends: “Newness. The marketplace wasn’t ready [before], so we’re hopefully going to see some new direction. Some freshness and some new trends will give [consumers] a reason to put on something new.”
New launches: “We try to see everybody. We’ll cover as many bases as we can, if not all the bases. Anybody new, we’ll check them out.”

Richard Erani, owner and creative director, Chuckies New York
On New York: “Living and having our businesses in New York makes it a lot more gratifying because we get to see people wearing these fantastic fashion trends every day and any given night during the week.”

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