Boots and Athleisure Looks Top Buyers’ Fall 2019 Shopping Lists at Atlanta Shoe Market

There were few fashion surprises at the Atlanta Shoe Market, with boots and athleisure looks continuing to dominate the fall footwear story.

Retailers attending the event, held over President’s Day weekend, were freshening up their boot assortments with Western-inspired looks, while some were shopping for taller silhouettes.

“We saw Western in Europe,” said Joel Sigal, co-owner of Little’s Shoes in Pittsburgh, who was rounding out his assortment with taller styles including riding boots. However, he noted, “Booties are still going to be the trend.”

Tall boots were also on Jessie Luchouer’s shopping list. The co-owner of Looch & Quigley, Eijay, Ga., noted while she liked the versatility of short boots, which can be worn casually or with dresses, “Tall boots are something that has been missing from our store.”

Kelly Tabor, co-owner of Good for the Sole, Columbia, S.C., was on the hunt for boots with unique touches. “I have plenty of [styles] in black and brown,” she said. “I’m looking for boots with extra details.” Included on her shopping list were short to mid-calf silhouettes.

At Cook’s Sports in North Wilkesboro, N.C., store manager Brook Sloan, noted she planned to pull back on her boot buying this season due to increased consumer interest in sneakers.  “The sneaker trend is coming on hard,” she said. “I had a lot more people looking for them.”

Pumped-up sneakers was the way Simon’s Shoes in Brookline, Mass., was opting to go. According to co-owner Michael Kerstein, he was putting the emphasis on athleisure looks on aggressive bottoms. “I’m looking for some sort of height,” he said, referring to platform and flatform bottoms.

However, it’s not just fashion-athletics that are driving sales. Performance brands such as On running shoes, have been a strong seller at Comfort One in Manassas, Va., according to Garrett Breton, VP. “Women are still wearing yoga pants, and [these] styles support that [trend].”

Athleisure styles are are also a strong performer at Reyers Shoe Store in Sharon, Pa. “They’re cute and comfortable,” said President Mark Jubelirer. “The world is dressing down. They’re modern everyday casuals.”

While there’s no sign the athleisure movement is letting up anytime soon, Jubelirer said women are beginning to once again make room in their closets for dressier looks. Customers have been coming into the store looking for dressier styles, he noted, adding many brands have walked away from this side of the business.

Among the brands filling the void for dress shoes is Phoenix Footwear, which offers the Trotters and Softwalk brands, EVP Bruce Kaplan, agreed, there’s been a dearth of dress shoes. There’s been an overcorrection in the marketplace.” He noted, “People don’t want to be casual all the time. [Women] can’t live in sneakers alone.”

Pumps, however, need to be updated with more contemporary heel shapes that will appeal to a younger consumer. “Block heels are more modern and comfortable,” said Jackson.

At Valley Sole in Huntsville, Ala., co-owner Julie Pierce said there’s recently been an influx of shoppers asking for dress shoes, particularly on the higher-end. “The economy has picked up,” she said, prompting consumers to look for unique, different looks. “Tailored looks work with jeans for going out to lunch, at work, or on a date with their husbands.”

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