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Hot Trends & Customer Service Were the Key Selling Points for Shoe Vendors at the Atlanta Apparel Show

Footwear brands at the Atlanta Apparel trade show this week were in relationship-building mode as they met with boutique owners from across the Southeast and other areas of the country.

As a selling point, several vendors were emphasizing their fulfillment services, such as open-stock inventory for reorders and drop-shipping to customers.

“You have to have services like drop-shipping. COVID put that into play big time,” said Michael Letow, an account executive with Flojos, which also owns Volatile and Sbicca.

He added that having open stock is mutually beneficial for both his brands and the store owners, especially in today’s increasingly competitive retail environment, where e-commerce sites and direct-to-consumer brands are eating up more and more of the consumer dollars.

“Our retailers can buy what they want when they need it, so we’ve got a bigger presence on the [sales] floor because they’re buying more styles,” Letow explained. “And our retailers save money because they don’t want to buy another case if they’re not selling [size] 6s or 10s. It’s been a big game-changer for us.”

Atlanta Apparel trade show
Atlanta Apparel hosts eight events throughout the year.
CREDIT: Jennie Bell

Michael Katz, founder and owner of Matisse Footwear, said the secret to succeeding in the marketplace today boils down to customer service.

“It’s so basic and it goes back to the beginning of the customer-vendor relationship. You just treat people fairly,” Katz explained. “We’re all customers, in a way, and we all want to be treated with respect. Nobody wants to feel like they’re calling an airline and they’re on hold for four hours. This isn’t brain science — you  just do the best you can. Not all [the shoes are] going to be perfect. If they were, we would all be long retired.”

Katz’s formula appears to be working. He said that heading into the fall season, Matisse sales are “way ahead” of prior estimates. “In the pandemic, our business continued to grow because shoes are an inexpensive, feel-good purchase. Everybody can afford to do it. People buy them and it makes them happy, and I think we’re still seeing that kind of behavior.”

At the trade show, Matisse had plenty of “feel-good” styles on offer for fall ’22, including heels and sandals in vivid colors and shimmering metallics, with blinged-out hardware and embellishments. Eye-catching looks were also on display at Chinese Laundry and Dolce Vita.

Another prominent trend at the event was Western, which was interpreted in a range of price points at brands including Antelope, Bed Stu, Sbicca and Sofft. Clogs and lug-sole boots remain popular looks for the season as well.

Antelope fall 2022 Western boots
Antelope’s fall 2022 Western boots with handcrafted embellishments.
CREDIT: Jennie Bell

And vendors said the comfort/athleisure vibe, which has dominated the market for the past two years, is still resonating for fall. At Bernie Mev, for instance, the brand continues to grow its collection of casual knit sneakers, adding new colors and more rhinestone and bow accents. And Asportugueses, a Portuguese brand distributed by Bos & Co., is introducing a line of cozy quilted nylon boots on its signature cork soles.

At the latest edition of Atlanta Apparel, more than 75 footwear brands showed off their fall collections in temporary booths at the trade show, which encompasses ready-to-wear, jewelry, accessories and footwear, and which opened April 11 at the Americasmart in downtown Atlanta and concludes today.

Caron Stover, SVP of apparel for International Markets Center, said,  “We showcased the largest amount of temporary exhibits ever this April at Atlanta Apparel and we anticipate the market’s continued growth. Our attendees brought the energy day one and were pleased with the breadth and depth of Atlanta offerings. We are aready looking forward to the next market in June.”

Atlanta Apparel hosts eight events throughout the year. The next show is scheduled for June 8-11, 2022.

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