Buying Shoes That Sell: A Sneak Peek Into the World of Retail Shoe Buying, Part 2

Published by Susan Reed on Feb 01, 2019
Elastomeric Material Solutions

A member of our Rogers’ marketing communications team had the opportunity to work for a brief stint on the shoe buying team of one of America’s largest retailers. As Rogers is a major supplier of cushioning materials to the shoe industry, we thought it would be fun to learn more about her experience from the “other side of the desk.”  Macey Streeper, who now works as a Marketing Communications Specialist for Rogers, willingly shared some aspects and insights from her former job with us during a recent interview.

Balancing comfort, Technology, and Fashion

INTERVIEWER: How does a buyer decide whether or not to stock a specific shoe?

Streeper: When choosing an individual shoe, we’d consider whether or not it would be ‘on trend’ for the next season. I was there for about three months at a good time because I got to buy for two seasons; the spring to summer season and the fall to winter season. Basically, we had to determine if the shoe was ‘on trend’ or if it was a classic style that would be usable for the next season. Obviously, the shoe had to visually appeal to the customer and, for comfort shoes, it had to feel good in the hand. You had to be able to hold it and squeeze it and feel some comfort aspect. This is because when a customer is shopping in the store, that’s the first thing they do — they pick up the shoe and if it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be comfortable they’re less likely to try it on.

Footpetals

INTERVIEWER: What did you look for in putting together a good assortment?

Streeper: For the entire assortment, we’d strive to achieve a mix of styles that are classic and styles that are a little more trendy or seasonal. We would also look for a mix of colors. We’d focus on the everyday colors like black and brown and, during the summer, white. But then styles with trendy colors, fun patterns, rose gold, and other accents would be taken into consideration. We were always looking to achieve a good balance in our assortment.

INTERVIEWER: What role does comfort play in the shoe market?

Streeper: Comfort shoes have come a long way. There used to be no style involved in the design process and now there are a few styles we ordered every season that were considered ‘old faithful’ because they were that comfortable. They were known to be comfortable but we were always pushing the edge of trendy styles in comfort shoes. It was a bit of a give-and-take. Stylish sells better than comfortable, but they’ll also be returned if they’re not comfortable.

INTERVIEWER: Does technology help in the buying decision?

Streeper: Technology helps a lot. It’s hard for both the shoe buyer and the customer to tell whether a shoe will be comfortable. It can feel comfortable momentarily in a store or in a showroom, but unless you have some technology and data behind it, it’s difficult to be sure the comfort will last. Comfort shoes needed to stay comfortable in order to stay sold. It was a benefit to the shoe brand if we knew the shoes contained PORON® cushioning or if it was mentioned on the brand’s website – Kenneth Cole or Ariat for example.

INTERVIEWER: Can you give us an example where technology helps sell the shoe?

Streeper: I got to be part of the buying process for the Foot Petals brand of shoes which are targeted for comfort and have a good technology story. Foot Petals® is a brand that promotes PORON cushioning for its aftermarket cushion inserts. They started their company by selling these shoe inserts. Their website promotes the fact that PORON material provides superior shock absorption that never goes flat, and that the lightweight breathable material keeps feet cool, dry and comfortable with every step. The benefit that you get by adding Foot Petals inserts to any other shoe is now the technology is present throughout the entire shoe. Technology to sell shoes is even present in the stores’ comfort shoe displays.

INTERVIEWER: You mentioned you depended a lot on trends to figure out which shoes to buy, so how are those trends set?

Streeper: With the fashion industry, high-end fashion shows decide the major trends about a year out. They present the new designs which then lead to trends for colors, materials, and finishes. That all trickles down into what we would see in shoe trends. I always felt that shoes were one step behind because we would need to see what was going to be trendy on the rest of the body to know what kind of shoes would complementing those trends. But colors and materials, like metallics or suede, would all be decided ahead of time. There were also popular styles like mules and knee-high boots that we would buy without even seeing an example in-person because it was a new trend to keep up with. No matter what, it wasn’t so much relying on customer needs as it was just responding to the fashion industry.

Visit Foot Petals for more information on their line of PORON® enhanced inserts.

For more info on Dillard’s, visit www.dillards.com.

Read part 1 of our interview with Streeper here.

Read part 3 of our interview with Streeper here.

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Footwear

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