Retailers Enjoy Strong Thanksgiving Weekend

With strong sales of boots, it could be the start of a joyous — and profitable — holiday season for footwear retailers, following more active sales during the post-Thanksgiving weekend period.

Marshal Cohen, NPD Group’s chief industry analyst, said footwear was the fifth most purchased item over the weekend, following apparel, electronics, toys and DVDs/CDs. “That’s huge news,” Cohen said. “Footwear is in a great place, not only with the holidays but also going into 2011. The challenge for the footwear industry is to keep this going.”

Cohen said this year saw another shift, one where consumers are buying for themselves. During his research, Cohen learned that 31 percent of shoppers bought on impulse over the holiday weekend, and 15 percent of that was for them. “That has been basically gone for the past two years,” he said. “It’s 15 percent in additional sales. That’s a very big component [to the success].”

Retailers across the board said they saw an active weekend, though most were hesitant to celebrate too soon.

“Overall, we were very pleased with the way it went,” said Ginger Reeder, VP of corporate communications for Neiman Marcus Group. “Boots continued to be a really strong category for us in all shapes, styles and iterations.”

Still, Reeder said Thanksgiving results don’t typically paint an accurate picture of things to come for the holiday season. “This past weekend has not ever been a predictor for us because we don’t work in door busters like other retailers,” she said.

Sheikh Ellahi, owner of the 112-store Shiekh Shoes chain, said comps rose about 18 percent against the same three-day period last year. However, he said, traffic was only up slightly.

“The customer we had bought more items and higher-priced items,” he said. “It’s very encouraging. The whole month of November was positive. It looks like people are feeling better.”

At Los Angeles-based American Rag, CEO Mark Werts said his stores saw a 10 percent increase over last year, though he admitted he was going up against fairly weak numbers. But he remained positive going into the winter holidays. “It isn’t like 2005,” he said. “Those days are over. It’s not a return to the good-old glory days, but the dire, dark days of the recession seem to have lifted … although we’re still cautious.

Access exclusive content