Retailers Betting Big on Boots for Fall

NEW YORK — Retailers are bullish about fall.

While spring sales were dampened by rain on the East Coast, buyers at the FFANY trade show last week said they expect a sunny boot season ahead. Meanwhile, they are focused on managing inventory and keeping margins up, but expressed some concern about how rising gas prices and product costs might affect consumer shopping patterns.

Here, retailers weigh in on their spring hits and fall outlook.

Liz Rodbell, EVP of merchandising at Lord & Taylor
Spring ’11 report: “We are running a double-digit increase. Our assortments are well balanced and the biggest growth is coming from dress shoes, casuals and espadrilles.”
Hot brands: “Sperry Top-Sider, Michael Kors, Sam Edelman and Vince Camuto. These brands speak to our DNA as they offer our customer trend-right fashion at compelling values.”
Outlook for fall:
“Footwear continues to be a growth engine … and we are planning more increases for this fall. Dress shoes will continue to be a growth category, [as will] the single-sole pump, the wedge and the chunky heel. Casuals move forward with the resurgence of the loafer. In the all-important boot business, [there] are chunky heels, wedges, lace-up booties and the motocross look.”

Brenn Kennedy, co-owner of Monkee’s, Winston-Salem, N.C.
Spring ’11 report: “We exceeded expectations and were 20 percent over last year.”
Hot brands: “Tory Burch and Jack Rogers are always good for summer. André Assous was also big for us.”
Outlook for fall: “We’re hosting a lot of trunk shows and predicting a 20 percent increase over last year.”

Danny Wasserman, owner of Tip Top Shoes, New York
Spring ’11 report: “The business was all weather-dependent. We’ve had too many rainy days [this spring]. This summer, hopefully June will turn out like May did last year, which was incredible.”
Hot brands: “New Balance, Merrell and Vibram FiveFingers. Consumers don’t have [minimalist footwear] in their closets. Minimalist is a business that doesn’t cost anything. You look cool and you’re taking care of yourself.”
Outlook for fall: “Fall will be a big boot [season] again. How big, though, will depend on the weather. It will be challenging due to prices [as] there have been huge increases. Everyone has recognized that unit pairs will be down, but the better-price business will [remain] solid.”

Art Fine, owner of Barefoot Shoes, College Town, Pa.
Spring ’11 report: “It’s been a good year. We have had a 10 percent-to-15 percent increase in sales.”
Hot brands: “Toms Shoes has been selling really well. We are located in a college town, and the students are really fond of the [one-for-one] business model of the shoes. We can’t keep them in stock. Sperry Top-Sider boat shoes are also selling really well.”
Outlook for fall: “We are very optimistic people. We hope for a 15 percent increase over last fall.”

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