Sole Commerce Buyers Seek Cold Weather Looks

NEW YORK — Though grueling weather has chilled footwear sales across most of the nation, retailers at the recent Sole Commerce show here said they are finding ways to move forward.

“The winter has actually been great for us,” said Juan Carlos Aziz, co-owner of the high-end Sols boutique in Vail, Colo. “The cold and snow meant 25 percent more traffic this year than last. And we always push for November deliveries on product, so we were prepared for whatever was to come.”

Aziz noted he was looking for more upscale product for fall ’14 and was gravitating toward brands that make stylish, fur-lined boots.

For Karen Macielak, owner of Latham, N.Y.-based boutique Bumble Beads, this winter’s challenges prompted her to seek more women’s cold-weather product.

“Wellies by Dizzy, [in the Picabow style], have been selling quickly with all the snow,” Macielak said. “I’ll get more of those, but one can only hope that next winter is warmer.”

Anna Kahoe said she believes customers will look for seasonless footwear that can be worn year-round. Her store, Goodwood in Washington, D.C., appeals to customers striving to transcend trends.

“I love Italian and Spanish shoes in particular,” Kahoe said. “I don’t think I’d want them from anywhere else but there. [The styles] do well with my customers. They’re comfortable and long lasting.”

Less also can be more, according to Kahoe. “People will be ready for fewer bells and whistles [on shoes that offer] warmth, more simplicity and [looks that] are fashion-forward,” she said. “A well-made shoe, even if it’s expensive, will appeal to our customers.”

Lisa Thomas, owner of the Mount Pleasant, S.C.-based Swoon boutique, said winter hasn’t been so kind to her business. “Our store is across a bridge, and we’ve had snow days where the bridge has been shut down and no one is moving for three days at a time,” Thomas said. “But everyone wears boots year-round in the South, so we’re stocking up.”

In hopes of warmer weather, Thomas plans to buy deeper into shorter-length styles with mixed textures. “I love Dav’s quilted boots,” she said. “They have a bunch of cool new styles, and I’m hoping to go for patent leather and maybe even some suede mixes, rather than just rubber.”

Other retailers said they aim to be more trend-conscious next season.

Dana Schwister, co-owner of Brooklyn, N.Y., independent store Shoe Market, said the winter slowed down traffic but has been a good opportunity to research versatile new merchandise.

The most notable trends Schwister spotted at Sole Commerce included neoprene and calf-hair, as well as printed and embossed leathers, she said. She added that she plans to include stylish, waterproof boots in her inventory, listing Timberland as a top seller.

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