The mood at Informa Markets Fashion’s Coterie and Magic New York trade shows this week was optimistic, with many brands bullish on fall 2023 as volatile shipping and inventory concerns seem to be stabilizing.
But just like at this season’s Micam and Atlanta Shoe Market trade shows, rising costs and worries of a recession are top of mind for many in attendance.
As VP of global sales at Cougar Janelle LeBlanc puts it, purchasing power is still high despite talks of a recession. “In most cases freight rates have leveled off, which have offered us the ability to mitigate our costs, so we don’t have to necessarily pass those on to our retailers,” LeBlanc told FN.
“In general, I think the bigger problem right now is the inventory levels that retailers are still contending with given the supply chain irregularities and some brands producing too many units over the last few years,” LeBlanc added. “For us, we are being impacted by the mild winter we are seeing this season. Luckily, we were able to pivot easily to more rain styles.”
But the inventory woes plaguing larger shoe brands right now spell opportunity for smaller labels like Queens-based footwear company Lilith NYC. “I think a lot of retailers are looking to independent brands to fill their shelves with new products,” Lilith founder Sarah Sukumaran told FN. “It’s good news for us.”
Sukumaran, a Nike alum, started her brand during the height of COVID and learned quickly that producing in China during a pandemic isn’t the best option. She moved her production to Portugal and has since left supply chain and inventory issues behind – for the most part. “Believe it or not, my biggest issue is paper,” Sukumaran admitted. “You’d think paper shortages wouldn’t affect footwear, but I’ve had to search for new packaging suppliers because of the problem.”
At Spanish shoe brand Victoria, it’s a similar story. While the brand hasn’t reported any sourcing issues, it is seeing tremendous interest from buyers. “We have opened up about 100 new accounts since I have been working in New York these past few weeks,” Juan Sevilla, international sales agent for Victoria, said. “We’ve only been selling in the U.S. for two years now and a lot of buyers are looking for new product. It’s great for us.”
And for some footwear brands like Paraboot, the only issue it is facing is turning away customers. “We are unable to sign new retailers since our factory in France is at capacity,” North American sales director Cameron Shirvani said. “Our craftspeople can only hand stitch so fast, so we are limiting orders this season and working with some larger department stores on exclusives.”
As for show management, Kelly Helfman, president of Informa Markets Fashion, said the overall vibe on the trade show floor is optimistic. “Of course, everyone is realistic with what is happening with the economy right now, but overall people are excited to be back post pandemic and are learning how to evolve their businesses to adapt to the environment,” Helfman said. “Even at Vegas last week and here in New York now, a lot of great buyers are back at our show and are ready to write orders.”
Helfman did note that there were over 800 exhibitors at Coterie this season, with close to 90 footwear brands on the floor. Magic New York had over 300 total vendors with nearly 50 shoe brands exhibiting this February. “Coterie is up 30% year-over-year for this edition, which is a great sign that more and more brands are back and ready to do business.”
Helfman added that buyers are writing differently now, though, given the state of the market. “Some brands have been telling me that the days of buyers writing huge orders are over, for now,” she said. “With these more conservative orders, vendors are now shifting strategies to limit distribution and add additional revenue streams to diversify their businesses.”