New Year Brings Fewer Discounts

NEW YORK — While January continues to be a big clearance month for retailers, promotional activity should not be as widespread — or deep — as last year.

Thanks to better-than-expected holiday sales and slim inventory levels, storeowners and analysts told Footwear News last week they are not discounting as heavily as they did in 2009, during the height of the economic crisis.

“[The promotions] are going to be nowhere near the 80 percent discounts we saw last year,” said RJ Hottovy, equity analyst at Morningstar. “The most I’m seeing are 50 percent to 60 percent off advertisements.”

That is due in large part to the fact that “inventories are nowhere near where they were a year ago,” Hottovy said, adding that boot sales in general “were pretty good” for holiday and that overall footwear sales were better than expected.

A number of retailers confirmed that brisk business has helped quell markdowns.

“We haven’t had to discount shoes at all,” said Laura Flynn, owner of Laura Jean Denim in Newport, R.I. “People keep coming in and asking if we have all kinds of boots. It’s crazy. I was a little hesitant to buy $300 and $600 boots, but my customers will buy them. Footwear has added a tremendous amount of sales to my business,” said Flynn, who added shoes to her denim boutique almost two years ago. Brands such as Frye, she said, are a hot ticket.

Other storeowners — though they are discounting merchandise — are still selling certain items at full price. The panic of last year’s discounting has not carried through to this year, said Andy Smart, owner of Foot Dynamics in Boise, Idaho. “We’ve seen some really good numbers. We’re wildly more busy than a year ago.”

Smart said he offered discounts on core product at his comfort store before Christmas, so the store has not had to rely heavily on sales this January.

“We’re not doing any big sales right now, but we’re focusing on our Internet business because we’re launching a new site in a couple of weeks,” he said.

Smart said he will be promoting the store and its brands, including Alegria, Birkenstock and Clogs, through e-mail blasts and select sales online this season.

At Two Sole Sisters in Boulder, Colo., co-owner Laurel Tate said she has a significant amount of early winter product on sale for 40 percent to 50 percent off, but she is not using discounts as much as last year. In fact, the shop just added new product to the shelves.

“Most of my store is on sale because we have really spotty sizes this time of year and need to move merchandise out, but we did bring in four new styles of boots because we had such good sell-throughs, and those are all full price,” said Tate, who stocks brands such as Farylrobin, Biviel and Modern Vintage.

“My customers have been coming in to buy sale merchandise and leaving with new items too. In fact, I’m on a mad dash calling all my vendors to see what I can get early,” Tate said.

In the department store sector, discounts were more widespread last week, but still not as deep as last year.

Bloomingdale’s offered 25 percent to 40 percent off select shoes on its Website, including the Ralphie pump from Modern Vintage and boots from Guess, Boutique 9 and Corso Como. In-store, the retailer was offering 50 percent off select shoes.

Saks Fifth Avenue touted an online and in-store sale of 60 percent off designer merchandise, including shoes from Givenchy, Brian Atwood, Sergio Rossi and Ugg Australia. Jimmy Choo’s Proud peep-toe pumps, originally $1,195, were on sale on the Website for $269.

Nordstrom advertised an online “winter savings” sale, with as much as 40 percent off merchandise from Cole Haan, Jessica Simpson and Stuart Weitzman.

Though the sale was advertised as Web only, a Nordstrom associate said if the same shoes could be found in-store, the retailer would match the online sale price.

Macy’s was also offering deals on its site, with 25 to 70 percent off select merchandise, including shoes.


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