Buyers Laud Bread & Butter

BERLIN — U.S. retailers attending the recent Bread & Butter show here were upbeat about spring ’12 and said they were gravitating toward niche European labels that are not widely distributed.

“Even though Bread & Butter is not an ordering fair for us, we’re very committed to bringing some of the brands we’ve seen here onto our websites,” said Michelle Umran, a buyer for Drjays.com and DJpremium.com. She called out Dutch casual men’s label Floris van Bommel as a standout at the show.

Umran said the websites have seen a “robust” increase in shoe sales over the past nine months, and that she plans to buy more European product for next spring compared with a year ago.

The merchandise mix at Bread & Butter also resonated with Bob Carlberg, VP of men’s merchandising at Buckle Inc.

“We were looking to see how European brands differ from the U.S. brands and what we could learn from that,” said Carlberg, adding that the early timing of the show was “good to preview styles and ideas.”

On the trend front, retailers opted for looks with bright patterns and eye-catching soles.

Clogs from labels such as Swedish Hasbeens also were popular at the show. For spring, the Stockholm-based brand is launching unisex bowling shoes and boots with navy, red, baby-blue and pink color details. The collection will retail for 100 and 300 euros, or $139 and $417 at current exchange.

“Our customer loves clogs. They are so comfortable,” said Susan Gregg Koger, chief creative officer of Modcloth.com, a Pittsburgh-based e-tailer. Chunky-soled styles, especially flatforms, were also a hit with Koger. “Flatforms are happening right now and it’s important to have the look,” she said, adding that, as a retailer from overseas, she is “more willing to buy into spring styles because shipping is less expensive than for heavy winter boots.”

Retailers said the flatform look should mesh well with next spring’s apparel trends, namely flared jeans. “At the end of the day, the shoe business isn’t an autonomous one,” said Benjamin Krümel, product manager at Görtz, one of Germany’s major shoe retailers. “It’s related to [apparel].”

To that end, Bread & Butter’s layout — mixing footwear with apparel on the floor — was once again applauded.

“You can see how the shoes relate to the clothes,” noted Michael Jonte, owner of Lolo, a new Los Angeles-based concept store opening in October. “Plus, you get to see a European take on footwear.”

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