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Footwear specialists step up a gear

Jessica Brown

The weak clothing sales figures for July from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) came as a surprise to much of the industry this week. Trade might not be setting the world alight, but neither is it wrist-slittingly gloomy.

London and luxury had a strong month, bolstered by an early Sale and then an influx of flush Arab tourists looking to spend ahead of the Ramadan festival, which took place this week. Mid-sized chains also appear to be reasonably happy with sales, leading some to question whether the leviathan store group performances were dragging down the overall survey.

Most startling was the BRC’s conclusion that footwear had put in its worst performance for a year. Anecdotally from the retailers Drapers has spoken to, nothing could be further from the truth, even though the warm weather directed customer attention towards lower-priced sandals. The consolidation in the sector a couple of years ago means most footwear operators are still benefiting from the market share fall-out. It should be noted too that hardly a week seems to go by without a thriving footwear company being put up for sale - at the weekend Jimmy Choo, last week Jones Bootmaker and before that, Office.

This week, Drapers visited Kurt Geiger’s new flagship in London’s Covent Garden, situated opposite the spectacular new Apple Store. Both stores look like they cost the earth and are must-visit experiences. Kurt Geiger in particular demonstrates just how far the footwear specialists have come in carving a niche for themselves away from the lower-priced fashion operators like New Look.

For indies, more sales are coming from footwear and accessories categories. Look out for our Footwear & Accessories Spring 11 Special, published on August 27. In the meantime, Kurt Geiger’s latest display and visual merchandising techniques should provide inspiration.

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