FFANY Mood Optimistic

Vendors and buyers at last week’s FFANY show were feeling upbeat about the year ahead.

Many expect overall business to be healthier than 2009 and anticipate boots to be a standout seller for spring and fall.

“Our business will be up [in 2010],” said Chinese Laundry CEO Bob Goldman. “There is a confidence among retailers. Certain items like boots have really performed, and they know what will work [in their stores].”

For San Francisco-based Corso Como, business in 2009 was up  about 6 percent, said president Maxwell Harrell, who added that he expects to double business across Corso Como and the lower-priced Ciao Bella line in 2010. “We had a really healthy fall with the boots,” he said. “I’m feeling really good about what people are buying.”

Harrell added that he dropped prices on certain key items by 10 percent to 15 percent in 2009, a tactic he is sticking with as volume on those core items continues to grow.

At 3-year-old Blowfish, a lower price point has also helped the Santa Monica, Calif.-based brand, as well as trend-right product and a focus on the junior customer.

“Even outside of the younger girl, a lot of people have trended down to our price point. Everyone wants fresh stuff at great price points, and customers are all about mixing it up today,” said co-founder Stephen Hoyt. “There are no prejudices against brands because of price, which is why Zara and Topshop are doing as well as they are.”

Indeed, a number of retailers said price was top of mind as they shopped the show.

“I’m [looking] for a quality shoe in a moderate price point and a shoe that lasts for several years,” said Jennifer Mann, owner of Bethlehem, Pa.-based Shuze.

Brands said that beyond smart pricing, they were focusing on on-trend product and strong customer service.

“People are investing in us,” said Marvin Krasnow, president and founder of Montreal-based Aquatalia by Marvin K. “We have the product, we deliver on time, we’re upfront and we’re a family business. That’s what makes a relationship [work], and it’s what people look for when times are tough.”

The brand, which relies heavily on its offering of waterproof and fashionable boots, was up about 12 percent in 2009, according to Krasnow.

El Segundo, Calif.-based Matisse had a similar experience in 2009 and is banking on loyal customers to help it thrive in 2010. President Michael Katz said his overall business on Matisse and the diffusion Coconuts line was up about 25 percent in 2009.

Coming off a strong performance, Katz predicted that retailers that had a good experience with the brand during the down economy will reorder in the new year. “People will look to us for positive product that sells,” he said.

Though Katz is hopeful business will boom in 2010, he said his goal is to stay flat and chase the higher numbers by bringing product to market quickly and meeting demands for reorders.

Gary Van Ackeren and Ron Owens, co-founders of contemporary brand Mojo Moxy — which is launching for fall ’10 — are also optimistic about the year ahead.  “I still think 2010 is going to be a great year. Vendors are in a better position, and retailers are looking for newness,” said Owens. The partners added that bright-colored items and boot and heel shapes should be strong.

South Florida-based Athletic Footwear is expecting a strong performance in 2010 after a healthy 2009, thanks to the store’s tourist-heavy location. “For us, it has been great,” said CEO Walid Safa. “Everybody is hopeful, but I don’t think it’s going to get worse. … [The economy] may get flat or a little better.”

Weather also has been a factor for  some retailers, such as Nahas Shoes in Boston. Last year, business was down about 40 percent and the seemingly continuous summer rains were the main culprit.

“The weather was worse than the economy, but I’m feeling good about this summer,” said co-owner Mohammed Nahas, who carries a mix of women’s, men’s and children’s brands. “It has been a little more mild lately, and people have been out spending money. If we have good weather [later this year], we’ll do well.” Nahas added that he is eyeing boots — in flats, heels, booties and knee-highs — and is looking to simpler styles with limited embellishments.

Meanwhile, Farylrobin founder and CEO Faryl Robin Morse is anticipating a big season for boots, as well as for baroque color styles and satins. Overall, she said, 2010 should be a better year for the company.

“I’m a lot happier walking in the door this show. I’m so excited for spring,” she said. “I don’t think business will ever be what it was, but crisis and chaos create opportunity.”

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