Despite numerous headwinds and a choppy third quarter for many major shoe companies, the overall mood last week during the FFANY Market Week and Footwear Show New York Expo (FSNYE) was upbeat, as companies met to preview the fall ’23 collections and strategize about the coming year.
Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), which hosts the seasonal FFANY trade show, summarized the outlook: “It’s interesting — you have an economic environment that at best is uncertain. We have the world’s most forecasted recession headed our way at some point. We also have lots of excess inventory and the consumer is threatening to pull back.
“But resiliency is what really comes to mind when I think about the shoe industry. We’ve been through a lot the last couple of years, and the brands with purpose and strong product offerings are well-situated to weather any turbulence,” he added. “So that led to a positive outlook for the market week itself and for the months and weeks ahead.”
During this past year, one of the biggest problems facing shoemakers was supply chain slowdowns that delayed product arrivals.
For some vendors at FSNYE, though, what keeps them up at night is not shipping issues anymore. “We are not worried about shipping at all,” Randa Hajjar, head of wholesale for Camper in U.S. and Canada. Instead, Hajjar is looking to the effects of inflation on the brand’s business. “We have cut in a couple of places to maintain our growth, but we’re opening up new customers and more people are resonating with our marketing efforts, so we are not too concerned.”
And according to Marty Rose, an agent and distributor for footwear label All Black via his company MJ Rose Associates, shipping issues are mostly resolved. “Especially now since we’ve invested in air freight so we could avoid cancellations due to ships being stuck at the port, we are not concerned about boats lined up at the port,” Rose said.
Some brands at the show did point to concerns around excess inventory, particularly how it will impact retail orders for fall ’23. But they said that their direct-to-consumer channels and drop-ship businesses have so far helped offset some of the cancellations by bigger clients.
What Rose is concerned about, however is what’s going on in mainland China. “We source most of our leathers from Italy, but we get soles and other parts of our shoes from Chinese vendors and they’ve had constant lockdowns,” he said. “So now it’s a different kind of supply chain issue.”
For the fall ’23 season, fashion and casual boots were back in full force at many brands, including Dr. Scholl’s and Camper. At Lamo, the company was introducing new chukka and laced boot versions of its Lamo-Lite series. Camper also showed updated takes on its best-selling unisex boot styles this season in new colorways. And Manitobah Mukluks was offering an expanded collection of men’s and women’s winter-ready styles after seeing heightened consumer interest in its purpose-driven mission.
Other major trends stories for the season were ’70s-inspired corduroy materials spotted at Birkenstock, Dr. Scholl’s and others. And loafers and Mary Jane styles, seen at All Black and Andre Assous, could be poised to make a comeback for fall, as more consumers look to update their office wardrobes.
The return to normalcy was welcomed by the organizers and attendees at FFANY and FSNYE, who told FN they were glad to be back together in-person.
“We had an unbelievable turnout last week,” said Phyllis Rein, president of FSNYE. “The show was extremely vibrant and buzzing all three days at the Park Lane New York. Retailers were delighted to be back to in-person to touch and feel product as well as converse face-to-face once again.”