The recent batch of snowstorms along the East Coast has taken a big bite out of footwear retailers’ winter sales.
With about 2 feet of snow pummeling the Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania regions last weekend, and another 6 to 12 inches expected Wednesday, many businesses ground to a halt. Calls to multiple footwear retailers in Washington and Alexandria, Va., were not immediately answered or returned by press time late Wednesday.
Surrounding areas were also hit hard, from North Carolina through New Jersey. The fresh round of snow falling on Wednesday was expected to impact the Eastern Seaboard, from Washington to Boston.
For Gary Weiner, president and CEO of Saxon Shoes (with stores in Fredericksburg, Md., and Richmond, Va.), the storms this winter have been a blessing and a curse, but mostly a curse.
“When the snow was being called for, each and every time we were on the phone five to seven days in advance with some of our bigger suppliers, including The North Face and others, and we were having boots two-day aired in,” he said. “We were buying 100-plus pairs and selling 95 of them in two-and-a-half days. But I’d give up those 100 pairs of boots to sell 600 pair of shoes. It didn’t make up for the difference [in lost sales].”
On the bright side, Weiner said weather-related boots have blown off the shelves, and as a result, his boot inventories are very lean.
In Pittsburgh, Rocco Procida, GM of Littles Shoes, said sales last Sunday, following the first storm were “so-so,” but on Monday and Tuesday, business picked up. “People knew they needed something to keep their feet warm and dry,” he said, adding that Littles was closed last Saturday due to the first storm.
Procida predicted business will pick up more Thursday, after light traffic on Wednesday. “When they get the roads cleared a little bit more and people feel better about getting out, we should [have sales] like we did on Monday and Tuesday. It’s a sense of urgency. If they don’t have a pair of boots, or their old boots wore out, they need to replace their boots. That will last until the weather gets nice,” he said.
Jim Beatty, retail director of Pittsburgh-based Gordon Shoes, manned his store alone on Wednesday morning, as the fresh round of about 4 inches of snow that fell overnight Tuesday kept his store associates away. The area already saw about 20 inches of snow over the weekend; the store was closed last Saturday.
Business Wednesday morning was slow, Beatty said. In fact, he added, it had never really picked up since weekend. Consumers “wait until the very last minute [to shop for boots], then they get mad because you don’t have their size,” Beatty said.
But in New York, consumers seemed a bit more apt to prepare. Bob Schwartz of comfort retailer Eneslow in Manhattan said sales on Tuesday were brisk.
“[Tuesday] was a good day,” Schwartz said, “after horrible days on Sunday and Monday.”
Sales of boots and other cold-weather items were especially good, he said. New York was expected to get hit with between 12 and 18 inches of snow on Wednesday, and Schwartz said he planned to stay open all day. “It’s not unbearable.”