Retail Guide: Comfort Shopping List

Sockshop & Shoe Co.
Santa Cruz, Calif.
Ellen Gil, co-owner
Store count: 1 (7,000 sq. ft.); est. 1988

Hunting for: “Boots, boots, boots. Now that the store is coming back after the economic downturn, we’re not as afraid of price anymore.”
Buying strategy: “We’re buying a little more than 2010. Business last year was well up over 2009, so we’re not looking at huge increases, but we will buy a little bit up.”
Can’t keep in stock: “Vibram FiveFingers. We don’t even know what our potential business is yet because we haven’t been able to get enough of the shoes. Toms Shoes is another one we sell all day long.”
Best price points: $150 to $200 for shoes, $240 to $300 for boots
Hottest new brands: “We’re excited about Earthies. We have a long history with Earth shoes, and now they’re making beautiful fashion shoes that are comfort-focused.”
Fall ’11 trend you’re betting on: “The trend for quality shoes and boots, such as what we’re seeing from Ariat for this year.”
Mood at retail: “Very optimistic. We were up close to 15 percent last year, and we see that strength continuing.”
What you’re doing to spark sales: “We’re experimenting with Facebook and other social media, as well as doing local advertising. We also do charity events.”

Gordon’s Shoes
Homestead, Pa.
Chuck Gordon, president & owner
Store count: 3 (average 2,500 sq. ft.); est. 1885

What are you hunting for this fall?
“Innovative styles that are fashion-forward with technical features and benefits that differentiate them from the competition.”

Total Relief Footwear
Austin, Texas
Cam White, co-owner
Store count: 1 (2,500 sq. ft.); est. 2004

Hunting for: “New, emerging technologies in comfort and wellness from companies such as Ryn, Tenevis, Chung Shi, Wooccoli, Fidelio Hallux and Spring Step’s Walk ’n’ Roll collection.”
Buying strategy: “I’ll buy slightly more than last fall, but my buying has to be conservative and well-reasoned.”
Can’t keep in stock: “The Tenevis La Jolla and its sister shoe, the Cardiff.”
Best price point: $160 to $180
Hottest new brands: “Ryn was our biggest player in 2010, and I see no signs of that abating. Tenevis arrived in our store last August, and it took off like a cannon.”
Fall ’11 trend you’re betting on: “What we’re moving toward is for health, wellness and fitness shoes to have excellent side-to-side stability.”
Fall trend you’re skipping: “Toning shoes or rocker-sole shoes that are unstable.”
Mood at retail: “Cautiously optimistic. Retail numbers seem to be on the increase.”
What you’re doing to spark sales: “We have a program called Walk It Off Austin that we do every year. From the day customers sign up until the end of the calendar year, we award $1 in in-store credit for every pound they lose.”

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