Retailers Finally Got the Memo: People Don’t Want to Buy Boots in the Summer or Slippers in the Winter

There was a time when you could walk into most stores in mid-July and be greeted by displays of boots and cozy sweaters, ready for shoppers to get a head start on the approaching season. Now, however, most consumers don’t want to wait to wear their new purchases — and retailers are beginning to wise up.

One sign that buyers and merchandisers are adjusting their calendars? Boots are hitting (virtual) shelves later than they have in the past. During the third quarter of 2018, only 20 percent of boots arrived in July, compared with 30 percent last year, according to Edited, a retail technology and data company. Retailers held off on launching most of their stock until August and September, when shoppers were more likely to be thinking about refreshing their wardrobes for fall.

What’s more, the strategy seems to be working: boot sellouts rose 29 percent in September, compared with the same period in 2017, the researchers found. One reason for this may be that with styles arriving later, they run less of a risk of getting stale on the shelf by the time it actually gets cold out.

Plus, when shoppers do place an order these days, they tend to want immediate gratification — which is hard to get when it’s 80 degrees outside and you’ve just bought a pair of suede over-the-knee boots. In one recent survey of 2,000 consumers, Accenture found that 53 percent said they wore new items within a week of purchase, and 15 percent said they wore them that same day. These numbers were even higher among 18- to 24-year-olds, signaling a shift among young people toward a buy-now, wear-now mindset.

Shifting a retail calendar that’s been ingrained for decades isn’t easy, of course, but with increased competition from direct-to-consumer brands (who tend to excel at immediacy) and markdowns cutting into profits season after season, retailers need to serve shoppers what they want to buy when they want to buy it.

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