Buyers: Boots Are Still A Must For Fall

A late start to this year’s fall/winter season may have dampened interest in tall boots and other winter styles, but buyers at FFANY’s December shoe show said they will continue to bet on their boot businesses for the upcoming season.

Laura Wilson, buyer for Berlin, Conn.-based Mickey Finn Shoes, said she expects styles by Sorel, Timberland, Minnetonka and Sperry to be standouts next fall.

“Even though we’ve had a bit of a challenge this year with the weather in New England, fur-trimmed product and sweater-trimmed product has still performed fairly well for us — along with fringe and ankle booties,” Wilson said.

Yang Li, buyer for e-tailer CambridgeSelect.com, hit FFANY in search of rainboots, ankle styles and tall slouchy boots. “Almost every year, they do well,” she said of the category, citing Bearpaw as a key brand.

Winter Boots on a budget
Sorel Women’s Out N About Leather Boot, $110.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Li added that she’s open to new labels. “We always have a budget for new brands,” she said. “We look for opportunities,” citing Euro-comfort brand Wolky among her new additions.

Billie Bohannon, senior women’s buyer at Seattle-based Shoes.com, is homing in on boots for fall ’16 as well. “Everyone has them, and the silhouettes look similar,” she said.

“I want something fresher than styles on stacked heels. I like the wedges and platforms from Klik,” a fashion-comfort brand that bowed for spring ’15.

The Walking Co. COO Mike Grenley said boots also continue to be a strong category for the Westlake Village, Calif.-based chain.

Grenley added that he’s on the hunt for riskier shoe styles and details. “The market has become too conservative,” he said. “We want fresh looks on new constructions with material interest. We’re always looking for newness in brands, [particularly] in comfort. We try different ways to advance that market to become more [in sync] with mainstream fashion.”

Grenley said the store is scouting new looks in the men’s arena that incorporate comfort features. “Men’s has been kicking up for us,” he said.

While sticking with Mickey Finn’s staples, Wilson said she will take a few risks as well — snapping up several clog styles in hopes that the trend will gain momentum, along with growing interest in flare-leg jeans.

At New York-based Harry’s Shoes, buyer Nicole Carty sees growth opportunities in women’s dress shoes. “We could have sold more [for fall ’15],” she said of the lack of career looks currently in the market. “[Dressier] shoes are still important. There were not enough [dress styles].”

Samuel Krause, men’s buyer for Morgantown, W. Va.-based retailer Gabriel Bros Inc., picked up a larger Timberland-boot inventory for the fall, but also scanned the show
for alternative brands. “Lugz has been a good alternative for us in the stores.”

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[Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in print 120715]

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