Retail Guide: Polling the Industry

If you want to know what’s happening in stores, go straight to the source.

Footwear News put the hard questions to retailers to divine their attitudes going into spring, what they learned from the recession and how much and when they plan to buy. And the results showed the unsteady nature of today’s consumer marketplace.

While the majority of retailers polled said they were feeling good about spring business, nearly half said they will be waiting until September to place spring orders. And another quarter said they’d hold off as late as October or later.

Regardless of when they plan to place orders, the majority of voters said they’d be buying more compared with a year ago.

When it came to prices, the outlook was certain: They’re going up for spring, retailers said. And it was clear who most merchants view as their main competition: Internet sellers.

While social media seems to be driving some actual sales, word of mouth is still the main way to get traffic into stores, respondents said.

Perhaps the most encouraging news uncovered in the poll is that more than half of retailers said markdowns aren’t much of a factor to closing the sale, an indication that consumers are moving away from a promotional pricing mindset.

Are you buying more or less than a year ago?
About the same…..31%
Slightly more    31%
Slightly less    23%
A lot more    8%
A lot less    7%

What is the best tool for driving traffic in stores?
Word of mouth    26%
Internet/social media    22%
Promotions/sales    17%
Direct mail    10%
Special events    10%
Local advertising    9%
Other    5%

Is social media effective in building relationships that lead to actual sales?
Yes    59%
Too soon to tell    28%
No    13%

What TV show is having the biggest influence on footwear sales?
22% said 
“Keeping Up with the Kardashians”
20% said 
“Gossip Girl”

How would you describe your attitude toward spring business?
Very Optimistic    54%
Cautious    40%
Pessimistic    6%

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned from the recession?
To buy less    25%
To buy later    23%
Other    19%
To lower prices    18%
To advertise more    12%
To reduce staff    4%

Will you raise prices this spring?
59% said “Yes, I likely will”

Who is your main competition?
53% said Internet sellers

How important is discounting to close a sale?
55% said “not much”

When will you place the bulk of your spring orders?
September    47%
August    30%
November or later    12%
October    11%

What’s the biggest myth about the shoe business?
“That there are any ‘niche’ shoe retailers now. The Internet makes it possible to buy any odd/rare/unknown brands from anywhere.”

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