Adverse weather and cautious shoppers have led to a flat start to 2018 for footwear independents.
With heavy snow and plummeting temperatures this week independents are reporting steady sales of boots but the weather has dampened demand for spring styles.
“Sales have been quite good recently,” said Stephen Walker, managing director of Exelby’s Shoes of Harrogate. “It is ticking over as we are still selling boots, but the spring stock is in and no one’s interested.
John Coxon, director of clothing and footwear independent Leggs in Darlington, said the year had started “very slowly”. He added: “At the moment, shoppers need a good reason to buy – such as a wedding.”
The quiet start to the year was reflected at Birmingham trade show Moda earlier this month, where independents noted the absence of key footwear brands such as Skechers and Dr Martens for the autumn 18 season.
“Both the brands and retailers at Moda were very cautious,” said Ed Martin, owner of Bells Shoes in Buxton. “I didn’t get the feeling there were as many people as previous years, when we have been unable to get to certain stands because they were so busy.”
Martin, who said he had a slight decline in online sales in January, has “cut back quite a bit” for autumn, reducing the amount of brands he stocks by 20% to 30%. Instead, he has bought deeper into existing bestsellers, including Rieker: “We are focusing on our most profitable brands.”
At J Shoes in Cornwall, which has two stores in Wadebridge and Padstow, the autumn 18 budget has remained the same as last year. However, buyer Jason Bosley said it had reduced pre-orders and is now buying more in-season lines to reflect the differing consumer demands in its two stores.
“In Wadebridge we put autumn styles in by mid-August, but there is no demand for them in Padstow until the October half term,” he explained.
Despite the unsteady beginning to the year, there is much optimism for spring, and the expectation across the board is that the better weather will boost sales.
“If the weather’s good, then trading will improve,” said Sarah Rutter, sales assistant at EH Spencer in Warwickshire. “We need a hot summer. We’re hoping for the best.”