Footwear News spoke to five outdoor retailers across the country to see what was in store for fall ’17. With weather a factor, some remain cautious with their buying, while others are optimistic on the year ahead. See what they had to say on trends, new brands and weather’s impact.
• Travis Zarins
VP of merchandise, Great Outdoor Provision Co., Raleigh, N.C.
Weather’s impact: “We see a huge boost in business when rain hits in the morning. I laugh and say we are farmers because we are very weather dependent. When it snows, it truly shuts down the city. It’s great even when the news guys just mention snow. As long as they mention the word, we see a bump in business.”
Buying strategy: “We’ve got a solid lineup and a good selection. We call our footwear selection front country and back country. The back includes Vasque and Oboz — and the front is a little more fashion-forward. We are going to be shifting market share within those given categories, and that’s always where the battle takes place. Is it going to be more or less Sorel, more or less Dansko? That’s what we are excited about.”
New brands: “It’s so early, so there’s nothing on the radar yet. I’m hoping to find a couple. We are always hopeful when we go to shows that we are going to see something that is cool, new and the next thing.”
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• Michelle Gelman
Buyer, Natick Outdoor Store, Natick, Mass.
Weather’s impact: “In New England, if we have snow early, we sell a lot of winter footwear. So a lot of our winter boot business is totally dependent on snow. Hiking boots sell all year long.”
Buying strategy: “I’m always conservative in my buying. With so many shoe vendors out there, there’s always something that can be purchased in a pinch.”
New brands: “Besides Oboz, nothing at the moment. Vasque has been coming up again, so I will bring it in for the fall and give it another look. Ahnu might be something new because it’s hot with women in the hiking category.”
Trends: “The [duck] boot look is popular among high school and college girls. They are also wearing leather boots versus Ugg. They are not so much concerned about the waterproof — it’s more about fashion. On the men’s side, they are wearing the Timberland Premium boots.”
• Jon Zalinski
Owner, TreadZ Shoes, Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Weather’s impact: “If you don’t have the first rush of snow around Halloween, it pushes all your sales into November and December. This year we had late snow, so everyone who was stocked with winter product was staring at it for a while until it got cold. You have to stay positive. If it’s not the weather, it’s the economy. If it’s not the economy, it’s something else.”
Buying strategy: “There is an opportunity out there because Sports Authority is gone. Maybe we could carry more sports products. We are going to test the waters there.”
Trends: “We always are looking for a tall snow boot with adjustment. A laceup with a side zip sells well. Insulated and waterproof footwear with not too much of a heel also performs well.”
• Ed McAlister
Owner, River Sports Outfitters, Knoxville, Tenn.
Weather’s impact: “We have cut way back: We will be cutting probably 25 to 30 percent back this coming fall. Some of that is definitely because of the weather. It’s become a bigger factor.”
New brands: “We’re going to continue to look at Salewa. We carry their footwear and have done well with them. They seem to do most things that new retailers want.”
Trends: “We’re hearing a lot of vendors talk about three-season fall product. Brands like Chaco, I think, are heading more in a direction of closed-toe boots — not necessarily insulated heavy winter stuff, but more casual things. We’ve had more requests this year for Chaco boots than we have had in the past.”
• Bob Wade
Co-owner, Ute Mountaineer, Aspen, Colo.
On weather’s impact: “We had a very warm and dry fall here, which extended our shoe-selling season by 45 days. It’s hard to say whether that’s a real trend but it does seem like in town the winters, are a little shorter. We might be moving out of ski a little quicker in the spring or perhaps moving into ski a little slower in the fall if this keeps up.”
Buying strategy: “We don’t have a specific strategy for how much we’re going to buy up or down. Footwear continues [to be] strong for us. We do have a retailer that’s likely to go away in our town for 2017, so we’re trying to be cautiously optimistic in covering what their buys were.”
New brands: “We’ll be watching Adidas — not that it’s a new brand, but we’ll see how they evolve and if we can include them more on our wall.”
Trends: “The thick midsole [as seen on] Hoka [One One] continues to do well, and other brands are playing around with it. We like that, and we like the fact that there’ll be more options. We do great with Hoka, but it would be great to have other people doing that as well.”