FFANY Retailers Offer Mixed Outlook

NEW YORK — While bold colors are driving footwear sales this season, retailers are looking at fall ’12 and spring ’13 in shades of gray.

Shaky consumer confidence and an uncertain global economy left buyers at last week’s FFANY show with mixed outlooks, though department stores were on average more optimistic than independents.

Liz Rodbell, EVP and chief merchant at The Bay and Lord & Taylor, said the chains’ footwear business is being fueled by newness and color, especially from Steve Madden, Ivanka Trump, Vince Camuto and Sperry Top-Sider, with top styles ranging from the classic pointy-toe pump and the smoking shoe to the wedge sandal. “Color will continue to drive sales, and [we see] this as a major opportunity,” Rodbell told Footwear News. “We see footwear being a leading category.”

Darcy Penick, DMM of Shopbop.com, noted, “[We] continue to see strong growth in our footwear business. Pop colors in sandals [and] sport-inspired shoes [are] important trends that we see boosting fall business along with booties. Rag & Bone, Alexander Wang, Ash and Maison Martin Margiela are growth brands for us for fall.”

Both Rodbell and Penick said they plan to increase their buys for next spring.

Dagmara Patkowski, senior shoe buyer for Justfab.com, was equally optimistic about the neon trend and noted that customers are responding well to pastel colors. “We feel really good about [fall ’12 and spring ’13],” she said. “We’re seeing really substantial growth month over month on average.”

Meanwhile, storeowners such as David Zaken of David Z in New York, were more uncertain. Although he expects fall business to be steady to slightly up this year over last, Zaken is proceeding with more caution for later seasons, keeping his spring ’13 buy on par with the prior year.

“I’m not committing to anything,” said Zaken. “It’s a volatile world and [our industry is] part of it.”

Isack Fadlon, co-owner of Sportie LA, is also keeping his spring ’13 plan flat despite seeing a slight year-over-year uptick in his business.

“We see customer confidence ever so slightly on the rise, [so] we’re being cautiously optimistic,” he said. Fadlon noted that canvas, vulcanized looks and lightweight running product are driving the current season’s sales, with key labels including Vans, Converse, Toms Shoes and Nike’s Jordan.

Slightly more downbeat were buyers for Karavel Shoes in Austin, Texas, as they plan to order less for spring ’13.

While she’s counting on pumps to be the season’s standout style, buyer Heather Johnson noted, “We had too many SKUs [last] spring. We’ll be going tighter and deeper [this year].”

Raquel Nosworthy, owner of Nos in Brooklyn, N.Y., is also tweaking her brand mix to focus on more moderate price points because “things have been picking up since we started carrying a lower price point in shoes.”

She also will buy less footwear for spring ’13. “We’ve cleaned our plate. I’m mostly reordering DV by Dolce Vita, Sam Edelman and Pour La Victoire, and we’ll see if there are any [additional brands to pick up here], but I’m cutting back,” she said.

The most bearish retailer polled was Dave Levy, owner of Hawley Lane Shoes in Shelton, Conn., as spring for his chain is down in the single digits.

He plans to trim his spring ’13 buy by 25 percent. “I’m looking for hot items,” he said, “and staying as focused as we can.”

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