Retail Guide: Polling the Industry

It’s the economy, stupid.

That’s what retailers said when responding to a Footwear News online poll regarding the fall buying season.

FN asked retailers their approach to the season, when they plan to place their fall orders, how much they intend to buy and what is influencing the fashion choices of their customers.

The retailers, from department stores and national chains to independents and specialty stores, made their voices heard.

Poll participants said their worries, beyond the economy, spanned from rising sourcing costs and the unreliable weather to unemployment and the European debt crisis.

And even as most said they are in fair spirits — if not downright optimistic — about fall business, nearly all said they intend to raise prices.

Most retailers noted they plan to place the bulk of their fall orders in March, but nearly a quarter said they would hold off until May, a sign that even as an optimistic tone pervades, buyers are still playing it safe. In fact, four out of 10 respondents said they would scale back their buying for the season.

And the poll revealed some surprising results, as well: Respondents said that, while celebrities may be grabbing headlines and fronting shoe launches, they don’t drive traffic in stores.

Will you raise prices this fall? 82% said yes

How much will you raise prices?
45% of retailers said 0-5%

What’s your attitude regarding business this fall?
Optimistic  44%
So-so  38%
Very optimistic  11%
Pessimistic  7%

Best lesson learned from the recession:
“You need to move quickly and make decisions before your competitors and always be on the lookout for new, innovative products.”

Trend most likely to be dead by fall:
“Rocker-bottom shoes”

Do celebrity lines drive business in your store?
65% said no

Which celebrity would you like to see launch a shoe line?
“Angelina Jolie. She’s so grounded and truly cares about others. A brand must carry a social engagement.”

When will you place the bulk of your fall orders?
41% said March

Are you buying more or less than a year ago?
Slightly less  40%
Slightly more  38%
About the same  15%
A lot less  7%

What should vendors be doing to help retailers right now?
“Offer creative ways to market to customers.”

What’s your biggest concern heading into the fall buying season?
The economy  66%
Rising sourcing costs  16%
Weather  6%
Unemployment  4%
The European debt crisis  4%
Other  4%

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