Buyers at FFANY Seek to Add New Brands

NEW YORK — Retailers at FFANY were keeping an open mind as they shopped for fall shoes.

Buyers in the showrooms last week said they are hoping new brands and, in most cases, an expanded assortment will lead to more robust sales next season.

Confident that the economy is gaining momentum this year, Sandra Dollard, owner of Albany, N.Y.-based boutique Evoke, plans to increase the shoe offering in her store to 60 percent from 40 percent.

“The climate for fall will be better,” said Dollard, who was considering buying La Canadienne and Arche. “It’s the [right] climate to add brands.”

Winchester, Mass.-based Mad About Shoe may also have a revamped selection soon. “We’re considering about three or four new [brands], perhaps swapping out [some we have now],” said owner Linda Sharpe.

She added that making the store’s selection more fashion-forward has brought in younger customers and encouraged more buying. “We’ve seen an uptick in consumer confidence,” Sharpe said. “[People] are spending a little more money, but are careful what they’re spending it on.”

Xavier Torres, owner of Xavier Dean Footwear in Bethesda, Md., is remaining selective when it comes to his fall ’11 buying strategy, although he anticipates that business will pick up.

“Consumers are definitely more optimistic now, but I have to keep my prices within $30 to $100 or I’ll start seeing some resistance from them,” he said, adding that he will increase his buy for well-performing brands, such as Blowfish, Dollhouse and Chinese Laundry.

Not everyone was so positive, however. Crystal Capps, women’s footwear buyer for Stage Stores in South Hill, Va., said she expected business for fall ’11 to be on par with fall ’10. Even though consumers are more confident, she’s cutting back on her buying plan. “[Due to] price increases, I have to scale back our pairs,” she said. “Our budgets are not going up. We are buying fewer pairs for the same money.”

Kathy Faulk, owner of boutique Burnt Sugar in Seattle, which does half its business in footwear, is also paring down for fall, going deeper with fewer brands. “I bought too much last fall,” she said. “I went overboard. The economy wasn’t there.”

However, Faulk recently has seen a turnaround. “[Consumers] are more upbeat about the economy [today],” she said. “People are buying and the store’s been packed all the time.”

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