Goodbye, Bells & Whistles: Comfort & Versatility Beckon Kids This Easter

Long gone are the days when parents dressed their little ones in festive dresses and three-piece suits with even fancier footwear for Easter. This year, retailers say, comfort and versatility are the must-have elements in kids’ shoes.

“Parents are looking for shoes that are cute and that can be worn with a nice dress, but if they end up at the playground, the kids won’t get hurt because the shoes also [provide] comfort and support,” said Donna Azer, manager of Village Kids Footwear in New York’s East Village.

Azer said she saw interest in fussier dress-shoe styles fade about four years ago, but colorful, casual spring styles like those offered by Livie & Luca have remained top sellers.

“Each of our shoes is made with a flexible sole and padded insole and heel, to promote the healthy development of children’s feet,” explained Allison Charvat, marketing project manager for California-based Livie & Luca, which specializes in handmade shoes. “Leathers, suede and textiles are used to design bright, colorful shoes that can be worn every day and for special occasions.”

Tim Butler, owner of North Carolina-based kids’ store The Shoe Inn, said he’s no longer bombarded by parents looking for saddle oxfords for their little boys and Mary Jane party shoes for their little girls in the leadup to the holiday. These days, the traffic is spread out over several months, and the most interest is in sport sandals, athletic footwear and “sandals that you can dress up or play in.”

“We’re selling shoes that kids will wear the day after Easter,” said Butler. “Easter business is really not a business anymore — there’s been a huge shift starting about three years ago.”

Experts say that shift could be attributable to the overall casualization of American culture, a waning interest in religious holidays or a combination of the two.

“We used to be able to count on people coming in early to prep for the season,” said Peter Frappier, GM of FootPrint Shoes in Newington, Conn. “Easter is nothing compared with what it used to be — it’s a non-event now.”

Parents, said Frappier, have displayed a “buy now, wear now” approach to shoe-shopping, opting for simpler, comfortable looks rather than elaborate statement styles.

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