Buyers Upbeat at Children’s Great Event

Encouraged by a strong back-to-school season, retailers shopping last week’s Children’s Great Event Shoe Show in Teaneck, N.J., said they are taking a bullish approach to their spring ’14 buying.

Eric Keough, owner of Kids Footstop in Winchester, Mass., whose sales are up 28 percent over last fall, said he is planning for a strong spring. “Our buying will definitely be up, but we always reevaluate our cash flow and on-hand inventory a month or two prior to the season kickoff to see if any adjustments are necessary,” he said, noting he was on the hunt for water-friendly footwear from brands including Tsukihoshi, Merrell and Sperry Top-Sider.

Keough also picked up some at-once product to round out his current inventory. “Our fashion boot business — excluding Uggs and snow boots — was off last year, but we have had many requests come in during back-to-school shopping,” he said. “I think the riding boot trend is starting to move down to the younger girls, which I hope will help [spark sales].”

At Potomac, Md.-based Shoe Train, back-to-school sales are up between 15 percent and 20 percent compared with last year, according to owner Marina Fradlin. Although Fradlin said she had already locked up most of her spring orders prior to the show, she did search for new brands to add to her assortment.
“We’ve already met with most of our vendors in our store, so I go mostly to look for anything new and exciting,” she said. “One new line I came across is Plae. I thought their sneakers were really adorable, so I bought both some at-once and spring product from them.”

Fradlin also was excited by the new offerings from New Balance, whose widths program has made it a key brand for her store. “Kids with wider feet want fun shoes, too, so I was impressed with how New Balance updated its line for spring with great colors and styling.”

Philadelphia-based Sammi’s Shoe Box also is enjoying brisk back-to-school business. To maintain the momentum, owner Dara Shipp said she placed a lot of immediate orders at the show, particularly for more girls’ boots, boys’ everyday casual shoes and dress styles for the holidays. For spring, Shipp added a number of new lines, including Plae and Livie & Luca, as well as styles from Australian baby brand Bobux’s new collection for bigger kids. “We found a lot of great new lines at the show,” she said. “We were really excited by what we saw out there.”

After a rough spring season this year, Shipp said she is hoping for a better outlook this coming spring.

“Easter this year was one of the worst ever for us, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed for better weather and sales in 2014,” she explained. “Because Easter is very late [April 20], we’ll put more money into sandals than traditional dress shoes. But we still need to stock a certain amount of dress shoes because we do a huge communion business. We’re hoping for warmer weather this spring, but you just never know.”

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