Footwear retailers’ stock rooms are filling with winter product and many are using discounts to drive sales, which have dipped following a good start to the season in September.
The chief executive of one footwear multiple said: “It has been an awful couple of weeks and the mild weather means we haven’t got in with boots yet.
“Boots take up a lot of space, so retailers will want to see a nice churn to get them out of stock rooms from a logistics point of view. If we haven’t had a cold snap in the next three or four weeks you might see some retailers delaying stock coming into stores.”
He maintained that it was still too early to discount and expected many to hold on to stock for Black Friday promotions.
However, Charles Clinkard, owner of the eponymous footwear chain and UK distributor of Gabor, said he is launching the first promotion of the season because his competitors are already on Sale.
“Clarks has just launched a 50% off Sale and Office is at 20% off, so this weekend we are sending a mailout to our best customers offering them 20% off in-store and online,” he said.
“Our numbers are down this week because our competitors are on Sale, so we’ve had to respond. We had a good back-to-school and September, but we have hit the buffers. This week, in particular, has been very challenging.”
Daniel Rubin, founder and executive chairman of Dune, said: “The season started well and, although the last couple of weeks has tailed off a bit, it seems to be picking up again this week with ankle boots leading the way.
“People are definitely still cautious and becoming more like Americans in that they’re looking for a bargain.”
Suppliers reported nervousness in orders, with last year’s mild winter season a painful reminder of what could happen if the cold weather doesn’t kick in.
“Our business is about weather and it’s killing it at the moment,” said Derry Curry, managing director of high street footwear supplier Park Lane Shoes. “We are getting some repeat orders but only on short boots; those who have invested heavily in long boots must be beside themselves.”
“We haven’t had any [order] cancellations but people are very late ordering this year; they are being careful as things are tight.”
Graeme Nichol, sales director of footwear distributor 33 Joints, which supplies the Firetrap, Blowfish Malibu and Original Penguin brands, said while retailers had traditionally been able to claw back sales in the longer winter season, last year sales never really recovered from the mild autumn.
“Retailers are now aware that it may not always come good in the end, so there is a bit more nervousness about,” he said.
“We have some great new and interesting things people want to buy, but they still have stock rooms full of stuff they need to pay for.”