At an Upbeat Atlanta Shoe Market, Execs Share Advice for Retailers on Spring Buying

·3 min read

The Atlanta Shoe Market hosted a successful August event last weekend, with a 20% increase in attendance by both retail buyers and brand exhibitors at the spring ’23 product showcase.

Executives at the show expressed an overwhelming sense of optimism about the state of footwear, in spite of the fact that many companies are overburdened with excess inventory from this past spring, when consumer spending cooled just as product was hitting warehouses.

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The recent announcement that U.S. price inflation eased slightly in July was enough to lift their spirits, along with reports from the Labor Department that the country’s unemployment rate fell last month to pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, industry leaders said they are looking forward to a strong rebound to business next year — and even predicted a healthy fall and holiday season, despite heavy promotional activity.

Nevertheless, brand reps were quick to point out that supply chain issues persist and will impact orders and deliveries for spring ’23. Here are three pieces of advice they offered retailers to navigate the challenging ordering season:

1. Place Orders Early 

Noah Wheeler, CEO of Samuel Hubbard, said, “Our goal is to always be in stock on our core styles and colors, but you can’t get it right 100% of the time. That’s why we are encouraging our customers to place future orders for existing and new product this fall and next spring. And for new product, it’s essential to place orders early this season. Our factories are already booked through the end of the year so we won’t have the ability to chase demand.”

He noted that his team is doing its best to catch up on supply chain delays and predicted that lead times will improve next year “as factories catch up to the spike in demand from all of their customers.”

2. Stay Flexible and Communicate

Bruce Kaplan, EVP of Ara, said his brand has worked closely with its retail partners to find solutions when issues arise. “We had one retailer who has been a great partner of ours that was upset at late deliveries and felt they would be too late and wanted to cancel,” he recalled. “We completely respected that position but offered that for every shoe that he bought for the season, we had five great ones right behind it. While not the most desirable situation to be in, the buyer embraced this kind of flexibility, substituted alternative styles and the end result was having one of the best seasons he has ever had with us.”

To help stores round out their selections, Ara introduced three new sneakers at different price points: the Camden ($150), the Alexandria ($160) and the Ollie ($195).

3. Use All Your Resources

Matt Thibeau, channel manager at Ecco, also said he’s encouraging retailers to move quickly to secure their business for the season, especially for core products that are guaranteed sellers. “We have key items in spring — such as the Yucatan — and our Gore-Tex products in fall that have fairly predictable demand patterns,” he said.

But Thibeau also emphasized that store buyers should make use of all the tools at their disposal to help them maximize their ordering. “Use the B2B site to program out these purchases and use the meetings with their reps to address new product offerings,” he said.

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