Retailers Report Soft Holiday Sales

Let it snow.

Once again, unseasonably warm weather put a damper on holiday business, according to retailers banking on boots to ring up sales. With another week left to the holiday selling season, stores were hopeful winter weather could help turn things around.    

According to Gary Weiner, president and CEO of Saxon Shoes in Richmond, Va., holiday sales kicked off five to seven days before Christmas. “The way the calendar fell was helpful,” he said, noting this year there was a full Saturday and Sunday for shopping prior to the holiday. He expected business for December to be flat or slightly up compared to 2011.  
Although the performance boot category was weak due to the milder weather, Weiner noted women’s fashion riding and lace-up styles proved strong.

“When the weather isn’t seasonal, we always feel it,” agreed Jeanette Riechers, owner of Madison Sole and Cornblooms, both in Madison, Wisc. “The weather impacted both stores. We’ve had a mild fall until we were blasted last week.”

Riechers predicted this week’s snowy conditions would help the holiday season end on par with 2011, also a year with an unseasonably warm winter.

Holiday sales were soft at Singer 22’s two doors in East Hills, N.Y., but CEO Jon Singer said that was no surprise. “I expected [business] to be slower than last year due to [Hurricane] Sandy, the fiscal cliff, etc. Sandy definitely affected [holiday] preparation, as it delayed shipments coming and going out and had our team working extra hours.”

Even so, Singer was optimistic, anticipating that both his brick-and-mortar and e-commerce numbers would start to catch up as winter weather rolled in, providing excessive snow wouldn’t keep shoppers at home.

Like Singer, Chuck Gordon, owner of Gordon Shoes in Homestead, Pa., said he hoped this week’s snowfall would spark boot business, adding it could prove a catch-22 if severe weather impedes consumers from hitting stores.

According to Gordon, holiday sales were down 5 percent over 2011. “It’s boot-related,” he said. “We put a big focus on boots every year.” He planned to move any excess boot inventory by putting them on sale. “[Consumers] might buy the same style sometimes, but I would just as soon not hold them another six months.”  

Two Sole Sisters in Boulder, Colo., saw an 11 percent decrease in holiday sales compared to 2011, according to co-owner Laurel Tate. “Since we went into the season down from last year, we took early markdowns to stimulate sales,” Tate said, noting it was accessories such as handbags, socks and jewelry that topped gift-seekers’ shopping lists.

“Our unseasonably warm weather forced us into boot markdowns we don’t normally see until January,” she said, noting the store would rely on continued markdowns paired with e-blasts, social media buzz and in-store promotions to move product going into the new year.

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