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Footwear sector hopes trade steps up in spring

Retailers and suppliers across the footwear industry are hoping for brighter weather to kickstart spring sales following a particularly tough end to the winter season.

Gola Classics spring 16

Gola Classics spring 16

In the last week of February, footwear sales in UK stores plummeted by 12% year on year, the BDO High Street Sales Tracker showed. Multiples, independents and brands echoed this, saying trade has been “disappointing” so far this year.

“We’re all glad to see the back of the winter and the delivery of new spring stock. We’re waiting with bated breath to see how the season kicks off,” said Graeme Nichol, sales director for footwear supplier 33 Joints.

“Our customers had a tough autumn and that has been reflected in the autumn 16 order books, as a lot are still having inventory issues. Women’s footwear is tough and we’re in need of some new trends in men’s footwear, as it has become a bit stale out there.”

Charles Clinkard, owner of the 33-store eponymous chain, said trade was “quiet”, and like-for-like sales were down 10% year on year in February. However, margins were up as more full-price stock was sold than Sale.

He added: “Let’s hope we get some nice spring weather and that the European Union referendum does not totally derail consumer confidence.”

Robert Carder, director of two-store independent Robert Carder Shoes in Godalming, Surrey, and East Dulwich, south London, agreed: “It would be nice to get the season off to a reasonable start with some warmer weather sooner rather than later.

“We’re still suffering. It has been very tough through January and February. Footfall has been poor and there is a general reluctance to purchase. Easter is early this year, so it would be good if things picked up before then.”

John Saunders, chief executive of the British Footwear Association, said: “People have had a very tough autumn season and this has had a negative effect on cash flow, but things have picked up slightly in March. The worst thing that could happen would be a cold Easter as that bank holiday weekend usually gets the season going. My greatest concern is if we end up with another non-event spring and summer.”

Some said they have seen green shoots, despite the tough trading conditions.

The managing director of one footwear multiple said trade had improved “slightly” this week: “It’s not too bad. Trade is still fragile but slightly better than it was in February.” He added that both in-store and online sales were “up and down”.

Tony Evans, managing director of footwear supplier Jacobson Group, said: “Although I think UK retail trade is still difficult, we have had a great start to the season on Gola Classics, women’s especially, with repeat orders being received daily.”

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