Retail’s Fall Drive

Storeowners are pulling out all the stops for fall.

With consumer confidence still shaky, retailers shopping the showrooms and hotels here during FFANY last week said they are broadening their product offerings, holding more in-store events and ramping up their marketing efforts.

After a mixed spring, Peter Hanig, owner of Hanig’s Footwear in Chicago, said he sent out a fall catalog to customers on his mailing list and is increasing e-mail communication. In the end, though, he said, putting together the right mix is his biggest priority.

A number of other retailers said they are tweaking product strategies for fall. Asheville, N.C.-based Tops for Shoes is emphasizing existing brands that are performing well, including Frye and Toms Shoes, and also plans to introduce more less-expensive styles.

“We’re making an effort to add lines at lower price points — for example, from $44 to $79 — as a response to the recession,” said owner Alex Carr, who noted that the store had seen a sales bounce recently.

Sole Survivor, based in Belleville, Ill., is also expanding the number of labels it carries.

“Our strategy is [to stock] more brands,” said GM and buyer Kay Rye, who will be putting the focus on fashion-comfort looks. She expects to add about six new labels by spring ’11.

Other retailers are growing outside of footwear. For instance, Dare to Wear, in New Haven, Conn., will sell clothes and accessories for the first time this fall.

“We figure that might bring in more people,” said owner Kimaree Brice. “We’re trying to get items that are really trendy and eye-catching.”

Ben Kline, project manager at Gloves International Inc., in Mayfield, N.Y., said his store is considering adding accessories, handbags and belts.

“We can’t discount much more, so it makes sense to bring in something else that might sell,” said Kline.

Still, promotions will be a key strategy for many retailers this season. Sneaker Villa, a chain of 26 stores in Philadelphia, is offering a back-to-school “two for you” special, which gives customers a 25 percent price break if they buy more than one pair.

Lisa Polansky, owner of Lisa Polansky Inc. in Brooklyn, N.Y., said her store features a sale rack outside to draw customers inside — a tactic that seems to be working.

“I’m feeling some energy. My traffic is up,” he said.

Finally, some retailers are enticing consumers with in-store events. Moorestown, N.J.-based Samantha’s is holding shopping parties featuring 10-minute massages and catered food. And Sergi Shoes in upstate New York has begun offering foot massage packages to drum up publicity, said CEO Sergio Lazo.

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