Retail Guide: Comfort Shopping List

SHOES ON FIRST, Napa, Calif.
Phil Aved, owner
Store count: 1 (2,300 sq. ft.); est. 1999
Hunting for: “We’re certainly not going to buy basics. Basics are for fill-ins. I’m looking for about 30 percent of my sales to be in other than basic merchandise.”
Strategy shift: “We’re being very cautious. If a company doesn’t stock goods, then it has to be one that can yield extra-high margins. Brand names have diminished in their importance.”
View on the economy: “It is what it is. We’ve 
[taken precautions] by not overbuying and forcing our margins down. And we’ve [created] a profitable situation by cutting every expense to the bone and sticking with what works.”
Lesson learned from holiday ’09: “Don’t depend on Black Friday.”
Current bestsellers: “Ugg, Rieker and Arcopedico. We also did a nice job with clogs, and we had a great boot season with high-top styles from Laura Evan.”
Best price point: $140 to $160 for shoes,  $190 to $225 for boots
Spring ’10 forecast: “Keep your wallet in your pocket and wait. I went into spring with 80 percent of my spring money left. We’re going to try to stay strain-free the first half of the year, regardless of whether the economy bounces back. There’s going to be a long-term change in [consumers’] buying habits.”
Hottest new brand: Rieker
Next big thing: “Color.”

Jenkintown, Pa.
Joanne Karpowitz, co-owner
Store count: 1 (1,600 sq. ft.); est. 1973
Hunting for: “Casual looks for women who work from home. For our professional female customer, we need footwear that is presentable and comfortable.”
Strategy shift: “We have to buy much tighter. We can’t be as experimental. Now we buy close to the wire and try our best not to make errors.”
View on the economy: “Customers are not 
buying, and I don’t know when that will change. Everyone keeps saying it’s going to turn, but I don’t feel optimistic. There’s not going to be growth in independent retail the way there 
[has been].”
Lesson learned from holiday ’09: “Everything has just gotten tighter and smaller.”
Current bestsellers: Sofft, Ara, BeautiFeel, Wolky, Icon, Arche
Best price point: $140
Spring ’10 forecast: “We’re buying very cautiously. You can still have fun, but you have to reduce your numbers and you can’t take big risks.”
Hottest new brands: “We just brought in Sofft, and we’re looking at Gentle Souls.”
Next big thing: “Color.”

Richard Olson, owner
Store count: 1 (2,000 sq. ft.); est. 2004
Hunting for: “I’m looking to fill a boot table with more flat boots. We also need high heels with spiky toes.”
Strategy shift: “We carry the latest, greatest merchandise and then immediately dump the stuff to get out of it, particularly if we can’t fill in any more product [in season]. We have to buy closer and smarter and bring down prices to be more affordable.”
View on the economy: “It doesn’t look good. They’re talking about five years for recovery in Las Vegas. There is a sense we will persevere and come back, but we’re going to bleed and suffer along the way.” 
Lesson learned from holiday ’09: “I could have added some flat boots.”
Current bestsellers: “I sell almost 80 styles of Ugg. Also Born, MBT, Dansko and Helle Comfort. And Alegria is the trend of the future.”
Best price point: $200
Spring ’10 forecast: “I’m not going to kid myself and have expectations that it’s going to be big increases yet. I just want to maintain having better inventories, turns and margins.”
Hottest new brand: “Cogent. There are so many of these rocker-sole brands, but they have interesting-looking product.”
Next big thing: “Exploitation of this wellness concept, incorporating sandals, walking shoes and fitness shoes.”


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