Comfort Rules Floor at Atlanta Show

ATLANTA — Casual, comfortable and colorful styles dominated retailer spring ’15 buys at the August edition of the Atlanta Shoe Market.

While the lack of trends has made finding key styles difficult in the past few seasons, buyers did come armed with specific features to look for, especially footbeds and comfort flats.

Gary Weiner, president of Virginia multi-store independent Saxon Shoes, said he was still looking for the newness in the market and was reserving a number of spring buys for flats. “We’ve seen flats, espadrilles and skimmers in great colors,” Weiner said. “[The lack of clear trends] is one of the biggest problems in the industry. There isn’t anything new and exciting right now. We are looking to reduce our inventory, spice it up more and certainly aim to turn things faster.”

Kathy Murphy, owner of Kathy’s Shoes in Thomasville, Ga., said she was also looking for comfort that has the fashion-forward edge for her shoppers. She stocks brands such as Toms, Fly London, Chaco and Naot.

“Spring ’15 is really about comfort. All women are demanding it now — even the young girls who didn’t even care expect it, ” Murphy said. “Naot has been big with the footbed trend for us because everybody wants the feeling of the comfort and support.”

Sugar Shoe Lounge in Winter Park, Fla., mixes a variety of brands, including Gentle Souls, Bernie Mev, Coye Nokes and United Nude.

“In the South, our ladies want to be more feminine, so if it has a comfort or athletic sole, they want a feminine upper,” said owner Marsette Mangum. “It’s a lot about colors and comfort for us in spring, and rain boots will do well for us, too.”

Tiffany Perry, owner of Perry Footwear and who came to the show from Bermuda, was shopping for men’s, women’s and children’s looks for her stores. Her store carries a higher-tier price point for styles ranging from Guess to Marc by Marc Jacobs.

“For women, we look at color and a lot at flats. Our customer is buying a lot of the trendier, strappy flats that aren’t basic and simple,” she said. “We tried the footbed this past spring and wasn’t sure how it would go, but it did well. We’ll do more next year, but will do it in bright colors and neon soles.”

For men’s, Perry was looking for comfortable, interesting sandals and casual sneakers. She said Lacoste was a strong label for the men’s category, and also cited Donald J. Pliner and Guess as key brands.

Rack Room Shoes buyer Steve Mahan was less enthusiastic about the trends, citing the saturation of Bernie Mev- and Birkenstock-inspired styles and the lack of dressed-up looks.

“The biggest disappointment right now is dress shoes,” he said. “There is just nothing new.”

Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director of the Atlanta Shoe Market, said she saw an uptick in attendance at the show and was pleased with the quality of retailers and brands attending.

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