Spring Break: Retailers Optimistic for New Year

After a lackluster spring ’13, the pressure is on for next season, but retailers said they’re up for the challenge.

Storeowners and buyers attending FN Platform and other trade shows in Las Vegas late last month told Footwear News they are bullish on 2014, thanks to strength in athletic and men’s, and an array of fresh trends and colorful styles creating excitement in the women’s market.

“After a difficult past three years, we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel,” said Isack Fadlon, owner of Los Angeles-based Sportie LA. “Consumer confidence is up. We’re seeing a return of multiple pairs being sold. There’s more traffic in the stores. Overall, we feel good.”

For a more in-depth look at retailers’ spring ’14 strategies, read on.

Rick Ausick, president, Famous Footwear
Spring forecast:
“We have a positive attitude. The first part of the year was obviously impacted greatly by weather, and the expectation would be that we won’t have the same weather again [next spring], so we have a better feeling about that first part of February and March. After that, we are still putting our assortments together and finalizing the sandals and other seasonal product. We see no reason why business can’t continue to grow.”
Strategy shift: “It’s less about us having a strategy and more about us understanding what [our consumers] like to do and how they like to interact with [our] brand. Does that change what we’ve been doing? Probably. Now we are trying to find out what we will do [with options including mobile POS and guest Wi-Fi in stores].”

David Schmeling, lead buyer, 6pm.com
Graham McCulloch, director for value channels, 6pm
Spring forecast:
“So far what we’ve seen for spring ’14 looks fantastic. For us, [success] is going to be a combination of planning out a good business and then coming back looking for opportunities for our customers for buy now, wear now. We have seen a lot of that for fall ’13. If the last several trade shows are any indication, [spring] should be a very strong season for us at 6pm as well,” McCulloch said.
Strategy shift: “We are definitely always in a place where we are adding brands. We are looking for newness and we are always ready to jump in with somebody if the trend is right and if it’s right for the value-conscious consumer, which is who we serve,” said Schmeling.

Henry Bae, men’s buyer, Solestruck, Portland, Ore.
Spring forecast:
“Men’s footwear, like men’s fashion, is continuing to become more imaginative and inspired with every season. Spring ’14 [will be] one of the best seasons yet, but it takes a smart balance between appeasing the old and catering to the new.”
Hot brands: “The revamped Clae brand is exciting: accessible prices, quality materials, forward styling but still mainstream appeal. Plus, they reject the discount pricing model, which is favorable for retailers. Thorocraft also is doing great things with updated classics in eye-catching prints.”

Isack Fadlon, owner, Sportie LA, Los Angeles
Top trends:
“Retro yet again. You’re seeing that 1980s, early ’90s feel to a lot of products. We’re definitely seeing that trend from a couple new brands that we’re going to pick up, such as Brooks Heritage and Pony. There’s some good synergy there. Lightweight is also a big deal for spring.”
Hot brands: “Nike is still very strong. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in Palladium. There’s also some movement in brands with that lightweight canvas feel, and that’s what Keds brings — among some others. Those are just some highlights.”
Strategy shift: “We’re going a little bit heavier and wider with brands than this past spring. We’re feeling a little more confident. There’s some more play with color pops. So the consumer is going back and being less fearful of the neons and colors. The past couple of years it’s been mostly white, black and gray, and that’s coming to an end.”

Peter Hanig, owner, Hanig’s Footwear, Chicago
Spring forecast:
“Right now, there’s still lots of volatility with consumer confidence. I’m not seeing consistent growth in their confidence and in their disposable income levels.”
Strategy shift: “We are extending our transitional product offering. Due to weather issues, that period now runs from Feb. 1 through the end of March and beginning of April. That’s really the only way to deal with the inconsistent weather.”

Cassie Harper, owner, Harper, Glendora, Calif.
Spring forecast:
“It’s going to be better than 2013. People are starting to warm up to buying again, getting back into fashion. A lot of the colors right now are bright, like on the jellies. Overall, the trends are really good.”
Strategy shift: “Before, we [targeted] 30- to 40-year-olds, and now we are bringing back the twentysomethings because they fell out of it with the economy, but now we are seeing them start to shop again. The younger crowd is getting into fashion more.”

Yaniv Sananes, owner, The Shop on Lincoln, Miami Beach, Fla.
Spring forecast:
“I’m feeling very confident and I’m very happy with the direction we have gone in with our purchases.”
Top brands: Privileged, N.Y.L.A., Ash
Strategy shift: “Quantity-wise, we are probably buying the same, but what we are buying is different. We used to buy a lot of basic things and we were boring. Since we got into more funky and different things, we have seen a much bigger response.”

Isaiah Bond, men’s footwear buyer, Karmaloop.com & Boylstontrading.com
Spring forecast:
“The hybrid market is what we see continuing to develop. Function combined with fashion elements will continue to pave the way for new concepts and designs.”
Top trends: “I’m seeing a wide assortment of court shoes coming back into the market. Adidas bringing the Stan Smith model back to market and re-creating it on a sneaker wedge for women is a sign that this trend most likely will be seen from other brands.”
Hot brands: “New Balance, Adidas, Vans. 1990s-inspired technical running is what we are seeing from the major athletic brands. They’re bringing out iconic models similar to Nike’s Air Max program. New Balance, Adidas, Asics and Reebok are all looking strong in the running category. Retro quick-strike releases are still influencing the basketball trend, but we see technical sports models trending as well. Iconic sports figures with signature kicks always continue to drive the market.”
Strategy shift: “We are continuing to buy into the high-profile releases that sell out overnight, but are slowly testing athletic styles with lifestyle inspiration.”

Ty Mopkins, buyer & marketing manager, Puffer Reds, Ypsilanti, Mich.
Top trends:
“Everyone’s still pretty big on retro. There’s not much new coming out in terms of technology, because what kids ages 14 to 25 want are retro running and basketball products. You’ll also see neon, loud and jubilant colors for spring, and paisley and pastel colors for March and April, since Easter falls in that season.”
Hot brands: “Other than Nike, it’s wide open. We’ve got our hopes high for five different companies: Fila, Adidas, Reebok, New Balance and Pony. Those brands are definitely bringing the heat in the retro category. I’m very excited about Fila. They’re going to make a big run, and we booked with them heavy. There’s also a lot of buzz going on with Pony.”
Strategy shift: “We try to carry a lot of shoes other stores might be scared to buy, like the Ponys, Ewings or different colors in New Balance. We’re looking for shoes that we can hype up and market with our social media following.”

Mickey Nassrin, lead buyer, Millennium Shoes, Inglewood, Calif.
Top trends:
“Prints on uppers and camo are still going pretty hard, as they have this current summer and fall. I’m also seeing a lot of polka dots. There’s more of a technical aesthetic to athletic footwear.”
Hot brands: “I’m always impressed with what Nike is doing. I’m a big fan of what Adidas is pulling out for spring ’14 because they’re tapping into a lot of past heritage in terms of color stories. New Balance is leading the charge in retro running right now. Their growth has been very organic and they’ve been very selective about where they put their product. It’s working out very well.”
Strategy shift: “We’re putting a huge emphasis on buying kids’ shoes. There’s been pretty good demand, and we’re noticing that a lot of sneakerheads are becoming first-time parents. They want their kids to have the same shoes they had, or the hot shoe, because they come from that world.”

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