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How Shoe Stores Are Weathering the Intense Winter Storms — Hint: It’s All About the Boots

Another major winter storm will begin sweeping across the country this weekend, bringing snow and a deep freeze to the northern states — and some southern regions that don’t normally experience such intense weather.

Winter Storm Uri is forecast to hit the Pacific Northwest later tonight and by Sunday night could bring near-blizzard conditions to parts of central and northern Texas (possibly as far south as Austin) before sweeping up to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast on Monday.

For some retailers, in major walking cities, those flurries are welcome news, as they drive customers into stores to get outfitted.

Bruce Wesley, owner of Wesley’s Shoes in Chicago, told FN, “We’re one of the few who is actually looking forward to the storm because we have some boots to sell.”

However, the outlook is less favorable farther south, in Austin, Texas. Lauren Menendez, women’s buyer at Karavel Shoes, said that winter weather tends to kill business in the area, since most people are unfamiliar with driving in snowy conditions.

“As soon as there is a little bit of ice on the ground, everybody freaks out,” she said, noting that store traffic has already slowed over the past couple of days. “I’ve had a few people coming in to buy house shoes, but that’s about it. People are hunkering down.”

Overall, boot sales are projected to increase an average of 18% in the U.S. this month compared with last year, according to Planalytics, which offers weather-based business intelligence.

Evan Gold, EVP of global partnerships and alliances, noted that February 2021 isn’t a record-breaking month for snowfall, but it certainly beats 2020. “We’re coming off a winter where we had very little snow, particularly last February,” he said. “This year, you’ve got much colder temperatures, and the snow is falling in major markets like New York.”

Winter storms alone aren’t the only reason for the increased boot sales this month. Gold pointed out that consumer behavior has changed in the pandemic toward need-based purchases, so some shoppers may have put off buying new winter gear until it was absolutely necessary.

That trend played out earlier this month, when New York City retailers welcomed a flurry of last-minute shoppers grabbing boots in the midst of a significant snow storm.

The challenge, though, for retailers is being able to capitalize on every sale, explained Gold. “Obviously, those that have inventory are going to do well — but also, those that have the supply chain or the capabilities to get it to the customer,” he said. “In the current environment, that means in-store pickup or next-day delivery or anything of that nature to make sure that the products can reach the customer.”

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