With the massive wave of change sweeping across retail, it’s no wonder buyers at last week’s FFANY shoe show hit the floor in search of variety. But as has been the case for the past three years, unseasonable weather was top-of-mind as retailers generally approached their buying with an eye on temperatures.
“Weather is definitely impacting how we spend,” said Melissa Gerbereux, a buyer at Brooklyn, N.Y.-based DNA Footwear. “We’re being more reactionary [as opposed to] rebooking too heavily because it’s very ‘buy now, wear now’ for our customers. We’re chasing sales.”
Isabel Zadlo, buyer for Shoes ‘n’ More in Greenwich, Conn., a five-unit retailer, said the store has also faced challenges stemming from spotty weather. “It’s staying warm much, much later,” Zadlo said. “People didn’t transition into fall [looks] until later, creating a short selling window.”
On the trend side, Zadlo said she was putting more emphasis on multiseasonal looks for fall ’18, citing mules as a key spring style that can be worn into fall. “We need more transitional looks to get us through the third quarter rather than the boots we used to [sell].”
Boots, however, remain a key category for buyers. “Things are still very bootie-driven— nothing too high, just a good mid- to low heel,” Gerbereux said. “Also, combat boots have been doing very well for us. We brought back the Steve Madden Troopa after five years, and we’ve been seeing the sales soar again there. People are looking for something different beyond a simple black bootie, but that’s always going to be the driver.”
Rosann Valentini, buyer for Roxy Shoes in Millburn, N.J., was shopping for dressier boots on mid-heels. “It’s a look that’s not quite as casual,” she said, welcoming the alternative.
At Milwaukee-based Shoo, co-owner Kate Blake said she had an overabundance of shorter boots this season. “People were asking for tall boots,” she said, noting, however, they were not a key trend for fall ’17. “I will buy some basic [styles], and I can then fill in.”
In that same vein, several buyers said they were playing it safe with athletic and tailored looks. “There’s been a general casualization,” said Susan Baro, owner of Benton Shoe Co. in Manchester, N.H. “People at work are not wearing heels as much,” she noted regarding the dress-down trend.
Elena Dell’Ermo, head buyer and GM at Canada-based men’s and women’s store Alton Gray, said she’s seeing the shift to casual take a bite out of boot sales — also prompting her to go deeper into the athletic side. “We’re seeing a lot of people wearing sneakers into November and December — but we are buying into the sneaker business, which [sets some of] that,” Dell’Ermo said, listing Adidas, Puma, Reebok and New Balance among the store’s top-selling athletic brands.
For her part, Valentini said high-top, slip-on and fashion sneakers were performing well at her store. “It’s still a strong trend that will continue,” she said, moving into fall ’18.
Conversely, Bezshan Dolatabadi, owner of high-end women’s boutique B. Prince in Mountain Brook, Ala., said he’s actually seeing sneaker trends decelerate.