The Jury Is Still Out on Whether Tall or Short Boots Will Dominate Fall ‘18

Once again, retailers are booting up for fall. Buyers shopping the Atlanta Shoe Market, Feb. 17 to Feb. 19, had boots topping their shopping lists. However, determining whether the ever-popular short or tall styles would be the favorite among consumers remains a dubious task.

“It’s all about the bootie,” said Ruthie McGuire, manager and buyer for Chesapeake Bay Outfitters in Saint Michaels, Md., who offered the silhouette for fall ’17. It’s a trend, she said, that addresses today’s casual lifestyle.

At Vogue Shoes in Seguin, Tex., owner Kandice Schmidt had eye out for taller boots. “I had more requests for them,” she said, about consumer interest in adding them to their wardrobes.

Kathy Murphy, owner of Kathy’s Shoes in Thomasville, Ga., was dividing her fall ’18 buy between short and tall styles. “Everyone has booties,” she said of her clientele. “By the end of this [fall], they wanted taller riding boots.”

Also putting her open-to-buy in boots was Kimberly Stephens, owner of Blossom in Greenwood, S.C. “I continue to believe in booties, but am looking for taller shaft boots,” she said. Over the past several season, she noted, “Vendors had stayed away from taller [styles].”

Like Stephens, Emilie Yarid Couch, owner of Yarid’s in Lewisburg, W. Va., she was looking for taller boots, a category she said had been over- corrected by vendors for fall ’17. “They weren’t out there last year. We’re going to pick a few, mostly casual styles.”

While Dave Massey, buyer for Vernon Powell Shoes in Salisbury, Md., agreed booties are still strong, he noted, “I’ll delve into them, but not overdo it.”

Massey also had athleisure looks on his radar. Although most of his customers own a pair, based on the success of the category, he was going to go forward with the sneaker-inspired styles for fall ’18.

“Athleisure is doing very well,” agreed Perry Calhoun, owner of The Shoe Market in Greensboro, N.C. “Our city is very casual and laid back,” he said. “It makes sense for us.”

Beautifeel sneaker fall '18
A cap-toe sneaker from Beautifeel for fall ’18.
CREDIT: Johnathon Kelso

Also putting his bets on athleisure was Maurice Breton, president of Comfort One Shoes in Manassas, Va. However, the retailer was shying away from styles with white bottoms, instead opting for monochromatic looks as well as luxury sneakers.

Regardless of the category, retailers like Breton agreed it’s all in the details when it comes to fall footwear. Nailheads, chains and aggressive hardware, were among the key special effects, followed by fur — both real and faux.

A broader color palette is also working its way into fall dressing. Melody Marshall, owner of John’s New Classic Shoes in Lexington, Ky., was on the hunt for sage, gray-green and shades of blue. “I’m adding a splash of color,” she said, from solid to tone-on-tone looks.

At Solely Comfort Footwear in Winchester, Va., owner Shari Kowasic, was going bold when it came to color, looking for reds and burgundies. “Gray is also making a comeback,” she noted.

Riker fall '18 boot
A scrunch shaft tall boot for fall ’18 from Rieker.
CREDIT: Johnathon Kelso

While retailers agreed on key trends for fall, they had opposing views on the impact of the recent tax reform on consumer buying. “It has affected everyone,” said Stephens, who expects to see an uptick in sales. “It’s enough to buy a pair of shoes, but not for a car payment,” she said.

Massey was also optimistic about increased store traffic. “Anytime the consumer has more money in their pocket, we have a chance of getting it,” he said. “However, it could be a while for them to grasp how much more they’ve got.”

Not quite as positive about a surge in sales was Murphy. “Consumers will take care of what they have to [first],” she said. “Hopefully, next will be shoes.”

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