Retailers at FFANY Lament Brutal Winter

NEW YORK — Buyers at last week’s FFANY show said persistently frigid weather could delay the start of spring business.

“It’s been difficult making plans because my store is [in upstate New York], so even getting to [the trade show] today was difficult because the weather is harsher there,” said Karen Macielak, owner of Bumble Beads in Albany, N.Y., who decided to close her store last Wednesday due to winter storms. “The weather has definitely played a role in terms of business as far as hurting sales.”

While the cold snap in the Northeast continues to put pressure on retail sales, some storeowners were optimistic about the warmer days ahead.

“Today, the weather is hurting me. Last week, it was hurting me. But eventually people will have to get back out and start moving around again,” said Tan Jones, owner of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based Je T’aime Shoes. 

And the retailer is planning ahead to the next season. “Spring is coming up on me kind of fast. The weather will change in another 30 days, and the forecast brings sun at the end of the month,” he added.

For others, stocking up on winter boots has paid off this season.

“We decided to roll the dice and order more inventory, and thankfully, the gamble paid off,” said Gregory Lagrotteria, owner of Hingham, Mass.-based The Shoe Market.

However, in spite of a smart approach to inventory over the winter, Lagrotteria echoed concerns about a late spring and the impact on sales.

“Eventually it gets to a point where, no matter how rough the weather is, people won’t shop for winter boots, and certainly, unless they are going on vacation, they won’t come in looking for spring items.”

At Brooklyn Fox in Brooklyn, N.Y., a focus has been in-store promotions and events to help boost foot traffic during colder days.

“For spring, we just did a Valentine’s Day window and we’re going to bring up a resort collection with spring styles,” said owner Alexis Isadora. “We’re going to freshen up everything with new brands like Issey Miyake, Robert Rodriguez and Zimmermann.”

Joanna Radding, buyer for The Shoe Market, located near Boston, also was looking forward to spring. “We’ve heard lots and lots of buzz about Birkenstock. Fly London is also good, and Bernie Mev is absolutely on fire. Our No. 1 brand in spring is Sperry Top-Sider.”

Jede Phillips, product manager at San Francisco-based men’s and women’s e-tailer Travelsmith.com, said her business could benefit from travelers looking to purchase tropical-climate footwear as they book trips to escape the cold.

Of her efforts to spur spring business and navigate through the winter period, Phillips noted, “There is an opportunity to react now by utilizing our online business to do promotions on wear-now styles, like boots and closed-toe shoes, to help reduce some winter overstock.”

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