Balmy Temps Heat Up Beachside Sales

Footwear retailers in cold-weather resort areas might be experiencing unsteady sales due to a lack of snow, but the unseasonably balmy temperatures have been a boon for retailers in some beach resort towns.

At Match, a footwear boutique at The Breakers resort in Palm Beach, Fla., buyer Ellen Akwa said recent 75-degree weather — as opposed to average winter temperatures in the 40s — enticed tourists outside and into a shopping mood, especially for resort styles from brands such as B Brian Atwood and Loeffler Randall that could be worn immediately. That resulted in a profitable first few months for her store, which opened in November.

In San Diego, Justin Davis, a buyer for Mint Shoes, said his store has had its share of “confused” shoppers, with sales down slightly for cooler-weather styles such as light boots. “[Customers] don’t know what to invest in because they don’t know if they will be wearing a boot or a sandal in 30 days,” Davis said.

However, he added, a steady flow of year-round tourists and a devoted local contingent has kept sales solid, with brands such as All Black, Jeffrey Campbell, Minnetonka, Shellys and Miss L Fire selling well. “We had a better year in 2011 than we did in 2010,” Davis said. “People are tired of being nervous. They’re ready for something new, and the reluctance to buy has snapped.”

Farther away, in Honolulu, island life and the retail business have continued as usual, interrupted only briefly by some heavy rains and a late-December visit from President Obama that created gridlock and prevented consumers from reaching the store, said June Mulhall, owner of C. June Shoes. “December was the best month [of 2011], and it exceeded last December [in sales],” she said.

Mulhall added that her boutique’s strategy is to cater heavily to tourists with resort styles, leaving seasonal lines to larger department stores. Brands such as Dezario, Stuart Weitzman and Donald J Pliner resonate with C. June customers, she said.

And as for foot traffic, Mulhall said, “we are seeing more tourists. However, they are more price-conscious, especially the Japanese [consumers]. We are looking forward to a great February and we understand that [tourism] is expected to be up, with more flights [booked] to Hawaii.”

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