It is officially crunch time for footwear and apparel companies.
The month of May brought further deceleration in the space as store traffic slipped more than 8 percent in the third week (which ended May 21), according to Citi Research analyst Kate McShane.
As weather and changes in consumer shopping and spending patterns continue to create challenges, retailers and brands are seeking out the best strategies to stay afloat.
According to B. Riley & Co. LLC analyst Jeff Van Sinderen, in the short term, many companies are banking on advertising to jolt store traffic.
“[Firms] are [engaging in] focused marketing and advertising to boost mindshare and traffic in Q2,” Van Sinderen said.
During the company’s Q1 conference call last week, Shoe Carnival Inc. CEO Cliff Sifford said the company plans to create more targeted marketing to accelerate sales.
“On a go-forward basis, we plan to better mine our customer data into certain segments and categories and then be able to market special offers and communications to them based on their Shoe Carnival shopping habits,” Sifford said. “We believe this will help us increase shopping frequency and average order value across our most loyal customers.”
Producing more relevant storytelling, Van Sinderen noted, is another key part of the strategy to reinvigorate retail following tough times.
Foot Locker president and CEO Dick Johnson said, during the company’s Q1 conference call last week, that he would continue to prioritize storytelling as he works toward boosting apparel revenues as well as sales on the women’s side of the business.
“We’re still working on driving more apparel volume in each of our banners, and the investment in our store remodel programs continues to be an important element of our strategy to elevate the storytelling around the premium special products our vendors are beginning to deliver,” Johnson said.
Another longer term strategy, cited by both Nordstrom Inc. and Macy’s Inc., involves ramping up omnichannel initiatives. In fact, both department stores have announced plans for layoffs — Macy’s is in the process of closing up to 40 stores — as they shift more resources to online.
During its Q1 conference call on May 12, Kohl’s Corp. also said that it would continue its omnichannel focus with more strategic investments in technology and in training its associates to allow for seamless buy-online, pickup-in-store capabilities.
“In the first quarter, ship from store was 15 percent of our online demand, and buy online, pickup in store was 3 percent,” Kohl’s president, chairman and CEO Kevin Mansell said. “We believe we have a big opportunity there, and we’ll continue to test marketing that option throughout the year to make it top of mind in our customers for holiday.”
As e-commerce heavy hitters continue to create challenges for traditional brick-and-mortar players, experts suggest that investing in better in-store experiences is also another line of defense for companies.
Macy’s, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Lord & Taylor and The J.C. Penney Co. are among the retailers that have upped their efforts to improve the consumer in-store experience