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Sole Commerce Buyers Shop Color

NEW YORK — The outlook at Sole Commerce, which ran here Sept. 19-21, was mixed for spring ’13, but retailers were counting on color and newness to buoy the market.

“Color is where it’s at,” said John Holden, COO of Wilmington, Del.-based Benjamin Lovell Shoes. “I am not buying very many black shoes right now.”

Holden also was seeking to add fresh styles, such as looks from Irregular Choice. “[That brand] will be like window dressing — it will get people to come into the store,” he said, noting that the label has taken a new direction with its mass-focused Irregular Choice Mutiny line, which will debut in spring ’13.

Shoe boutique owner Serena Robb was banking on newness to boost sales at her two-door boutique in Reno, Nev., and at Northstar Ski Resort in Truckee, Calif. She said business has been down significantly at both locations for the year.

Still, Robb said, she is hopeful about spring. “I like the forthrightness [of vendors] and the awareness of affordability,” the retailer said, adding that her stores have stayed afloat because of their ability to offer fresh, on-trend styles with pops of color. “My customer wants something different. She wants something special, and she wants to feel special.” Robb listed raffia and cork styles as top looks for spring, and she cited Bettye Muller as an eye-catching label.

Carole Goldman, owner of the The Velvet Slipper, which has locations in Newtown and Lahaska, Pa., was looking to grab customers’ attention with an infusion of fashion-forward fabrics, textures and adornments. “People are still a little hesitant [to spend], but that’s why you have to get them into something that’s really sharp and different from what they already have,” she said. “Color-blocking and sparkle give them reasons to buy. I’m buying about the same amount [of inventory] as last year, but I’m varying [my selection] style-wise. We’re getting away from neutrals and into fun, splashy styles. We have always been a comfort store, but customers are much more into fashion now, so we have to fulfill both categories.”

Goldman listed Paul Mayer Attitudes, Frye, Rieker, Beautifeel and Marc Joseph New York as staple brands for her stores, and she praised Cordani as a standout at Sole Commerce. “Cordani is the perfect marriage between comfort and fashion, and our customers really love it,” she said. “The design is very, very innovative.”

Janie Griffin, owner of Ruxton, Md.-based The Little Shoebox, said she would increase her inventory for spring. “Business is up and we are buying more,” she said. “We also are buying really well. We know our customer, and that really helps.”

As for trends on the horizon, Griffin predicted jewel embellishments would be hot for spring ’13, as well as bright orange and sapphire-blue hues. “We’re seeing a lot of brights and pops of color,” the retailer said. “We don’t always play it safe, and [color] is where we take our risks.”

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