FFANY Buyers Bet on Athletic, Comfort

NEW YORK — While a lack of trends has made buying more difficult for some retailers, attendees at last week’s FFANY show were optimistic that comfort and athletic styles would continue to be important stories.

Michelle Kozak, merchandise manager of sandals for Payless Shoe Source, said she was looking for the newest version of the footbed trend. “There are a lot of iterations of things we’ve seen, but I definitely think it’s going to continue,” she said.

But, she added, “you still have to make sure that makes sense for your customer.”

On a similar note, Gianna Yun, buyer for Mercat, a men’s and women’s boutique in Edgewater, N.J., is getting behind “normcore.”

“People are looking for comfortable things,” said Yun, referring to brands such as Toms, Birkenstock and FitFlop. “Even if they’re looking for fashion items, it’s selling with comfort.”

According to Yun, more moderately priced comfort lines can sit alongside luxury brands. “People are looking for Jimmy Choo but will also sometimes wear Toms or Birkenstock,” she said.

Birkenstock-inspired bottoms were on the trend list for Melissa Gerbereux, buyer for Brooklyn, N.Y.-based DNA Footwear, as were color-blocking, platforms, chunky heels and the color white. She expects these looks, currently resonating with younger customers, to continue into spring ’15.

“Wedges have slowed down this spring,” she noted. “It’s more about platforms.”

The popularity of these looks is due to their casual edge, Gerbereux said. “We don’t have that dressy customer anymore. The cooler girls are more casual, opting for effortless dressing.”

Brands such as Vans and Converse proved to be strong sellers for DNA. Other retailers also see ath-leisure styles as a strong trend for spring ’15.

Shari Shape, owner of Chicago-based Shoe Fly, said that sneakers with a fashion edge, from colors to cutouts and platforms, were key looks for her customers. She said Ash and Jeffrey Campbell were two important brands for the retailer.

Sneakers were also on the buy list for Kingston, Pa.-based comfort retailer Arch Comfort.

According to co-owner Cheri Davidowitz, hip, bold-bottom sneakers from brands such as Fly London will be hot for next spring.

Davidowitz also plans to stock more lightweight booties. “People get bored in February and March with the boots they’re wearing, but can’t yet wear spring footwear,” she said.

While laid-back looks dominated the offerings at the show, other retailers still searched for more dressed-up styles.

“There’s a huge void in the market for sexy, casual shoes,” said Rene Pronesti, owner of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based men’s and women’s boutique Ermare.

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