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Transition Shoes the Answer to Lack of Trends, Poor Weather?

Retailers say they’re struggling with a lack of trends at a time of year when the weather meanders between brutal wind chills one day and warm spring-like temperatures the next. So what do people do when they’re tired of heavy winter boots but run the risk of frostbite if they whip out spring sandals too soon? Retailers say they’re hopeful that there will be a renewed interest in the ‘transition shoe.’

With transitional slip-on brands like Toms and Sperry Top-Sider on an uptick—Wolverine World Wide announced plans to reposition Sperry and launch a global campaign last month—retailers are optimistic that their businesses will hold up in less than favorable weather, particularly in cities in the northeast.

“People are looking for a good loafer or driver to get them through until the weather warms up,” said Peter Frappier, general manager of FootPrints in Newington, Conn.

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Frappier said that, for some time, female shoe shoppers seemed to deviate from transitional footwear and aimed to go “straight from their Uggs into flip flops or sandals.”

With the weather now bouncing back and forth, however, Frappier said he’s beginning to see more transitional styles like those offered by Sperry and Toms go out the door.

Patty Patterson, owner of Aspen Colo.-based shoe store Bloomingbirds, said she’s seeing similar patterns from her customer base.

“People are buying a lot of fashionable sneakers and transitional shoes,” said Patterson. “We’ve been selling quite a lot of our spring collection but not sandals or styles like that—more like Vince sneakers and Voil Blanche.”

Even in places like California where the weather has held up pretty well year-round, retailers say there’s a lack of consistent trends and that their customers—much like the weather—have flipped back and forth.

“We’re selling a lot of boots and at the same time we’re selling some sandals,” said David Assil, owner of Madison International in Beverly Hills and Brentwood, Calif. “It’s all adding up nicely but there’s no consistent trend.”

Brands like Officine however, with distinct loafer and ankle boot styles which are in the transitional shoe family, have been popular, Assil said.

Sandals, Assil added, have had to be restocked multiples times for the season.

“We’re on our third reorder of Calleen Cordero and Silvano Sassetti sandals,” said Assil.

Meanwhile, in the northeast, retailers say they’re not sure how much spring inventory they’ll be able to push when the weather finally breaks.

“With the weather [expected to break] so late, spring is going to be a ‘one and done’ for us,” said Frappier. “We won’t have a chance to restock and replenish inventory.”

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