What’s Hot & What’s Not — Tracking Brands & Trends at Comfort Retail Stores

What’s selling at comfort retail stores this week? Here, four key retailers weigh on in winning brands and top trends and talk about what’s not moving.

Justin Sigal, president, Littles Shoes, Pittsburgh

Top Three Brands:

On Running: “Everyone loves them and gets a second, third, fourth pair. It’s the comfort, colors and slip-on Cloud style. They like the ease as well as comfort of the slip-on and a great travel shoe.”

Rieker: “Great styles that feel great and look great. The collection is broad with everything from sandals to athletic and dress-casuals. It hits a broad audience.”

Birkenstock: “The business is still exceptional. It’s a brand with a longevity since they feel good. They also do a nice job of updating their colors.”

Top Trends: “Whether people are getting a bright color in their sneaker or sandal, they want to have fun. That goes for men, women and kids.”

Not Selling: “Over the last few years, I’ve seen flip-flops die. You always have to have some, but scaled back. They’re inexpensive, so I’m not sad to see it go.”

Hot Take: “Business is good. People want to get out again and are coming back to brick-and-mortar. We do a nice job of [offering] unique things from Europe that you can’t find everywhere else. While everyone was [shopping] on the internet and it’s still great, [there’s] now a better balance.”

Luis Altoro, co-owner, Comfort Plus Shoes & Footcare, Leawood, Kan.

Top Three Brands:

Birkenstock: “It’s always been strong for us, but now it’s also [due to] millennials shopping for them. Grandparents are coming in to buy them for their [grandkids]. A lot of grandparents relate to them and even wore them in their high school days. The brand has also done a great job of social media to drive in inquiring minds.”

Samuel Hubbard: “At least half of sales have been [generated] by a spouse who’s been into the store to get [herself] shoes, then thinks so much of the brand she drags her hubby in. Samuel Hubbard has also done a remarkable job of marketing, driving customers into my store all the time.”

Finn Comfort: “It’s my bread and butter. They help keep the lights on. People appreciate the anatomical support that comes with the shoe and they last forever. Customers [realize] while they cost a little more, they gain a lot more in the big picture.”

Birkenstock metallic sandal.
CREDIT: George Chinsee

Top Trends: “Color. At this time of the year we’d be [selling] more sandals,, but because of the wet weather [sandal sales] have been a little tepid.”

Not Selling: “Vionic. Their flip-flop had always been their bread and butter.  However, by expanding their collection with so many styles, they bit off more than they could chew. I have to [carry] a smattering of each [category] for the customer who walks in and had seen [a style] on QVC. I find it odd that a vendor would participate in [that venue] and expect retailers can do five easy payments and free shipping. That doesn’t work for me.”

Hot Take: “I’m doing well. We didn’t over extend ourselves. We went to the dance with the [brands] that [are successful].”

Beth Weingarten, co-owner, The Shoe Spa, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.

Top Three Brands:

Naot: “It’s our number one brand. They’ve improved their styling, the shoes are incredibly comfortable and well-priced.”

Attitudes by Paul Mayer: “It’s classic, while not necessarily a comfort shoe.“

Beautifeel: “It continues to get stronger based on their designs. They have one of the prettiest heels I’ve seen in years. It has adjustability, comfort, and was still sexy.”

Top Trends:“Athleisure looks such as espadrilles. Everything is trending to a more casual look.”

Not Selling: “I still have to have heels, but as a comfort store I have less and less. The dressy category is becoming less important.”

Hot Take: “We had a really good season, about 10% ahead [year-over-year]. We offer service and have a strong online presence. I’m also blessed with a loyal clientele because we care. People have a lot of problems with their feet and they’re tired of a limited selection in department stores.”

Alan Miklofsky, CEO and president, Alan’s Shoes, Tucson, Ariz.

Top Three Brands:

New Balance: “Performance-athletic is doing well for our business, but our athleisure segment, about 20% of total athletic, is growing faster for us than performance.”

Brooks: For both New Balance and Brooks, widths have proven popular with more mature consumers. They’re also willing to buy the top tier product due to the comfort bells and whistles that come with these styles, said Miklofsky.


Top Trends: “For women’s, it’s sandals. Comfort slides and thongs are outperforming sandals with backstraps. Cork footbed sandals also continue to perform well for us.”

Hot Take: “Customers continue to buy closer to season, which makes it difficult to ramp up or down and that impacts turn and GMROI. Business volume is challenged by the changing [shopping] patterns of customers that may include where they get their shopping advice, to how easy it is to buy shoes online. As a result, we are continuing to work on our customer service initiatives which set us apart from big box and department stores.”

Watch this video about what Iris Apel thinks of the latest shoe trends.

Want more?

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