Retailers at GDS Tweak Spring Plans

Düsseldorf, Germany — U.S. and European retailers attending last week’s GDS show came armed with overhauled buying strategies and new inventory concepts as a result of the recent economic concerns on both sides of the Atlantic.

“We’re making sure we never miss a size on basics. We’re also doing more business with fewer vendors,” said Maurice Breton, president of Comfort One Shoes in Manassas, Va.

Breton was planning to buy less product compared with this time last year, but added that he is still open to new brands, reserving a percentage of open-to-buy for testing.

Karsten Chorus, co-owner of Bondstreet Shoes in Pittsburgh, was less willing to take a chance on new labels. Instead, the retailer is focusing on what sells. “Our men’s selection hasn’t been doing as well as our women’s. So we’ve decreased the men’s assortment by 25 percent while simultaneously increasing women’s by this amount. The market has changed in the last couple of months. You’ve got to be careful.”

Dorota Sinclair of European Design Shoes, a distributor from Portland, Ore., concurred: “The trend I’m starting to see with my retailers is that they … buy less, analyze every detail and work very accurately.” She noted that she will cut her own margins due to raised sourcing and transportation costs. “You can’t go to the U.S. consumer and demand more money.”

Consumers also are anxious in Europe, said Antonka Buric, category manager at Zalando, one of Europe’s biggest online footwear retailers. At GDS, Buric was seeking product in the 100 euro price range, as well as labels with a strong brand name. “Many customers enter our store searching by brand,” Buric said.

On the trend front, color — whether translated into psychedelic prints at United Nude, jewel-toned metallics at Pretty Ballerinas or washed pastels at Palladium — also resonated with buyers at the show.

“In hard times, people get more creative. The customer can do with some excitement,” said Breton.

And Chorus noted, “The one sentence I haven’t heard manufacturers say this time is ‘Well, you can always use black.’”

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