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Reader's Choice 2008

You headed to the polls this year and made you voices heard.

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TOP RETAIL OPPORTUNITY: The Web

No surprise here: 63 percent of survey respondents said that online stores offer the best chance for future success, over brick-and-mortar stores. In a write-in portion of the survey, many noted that shoppers are turning to the Web more often now because of the convenience and selection and to avoid the cost of travel. In addition, they said online incentives, such as free shipping, are a big draw.

SECTOR THAT SUFFERED

High-end Women’s After years of relative immunity from the stock market’s fl uctuations, the high-end segment began to see some softness this year, especially in the women’s arena. Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents said it was the worst-performing sector. While some luxe retailers were able to offset that weakness by offering more moderately priced labels, shoe designers faced a dismal dilemma: how to keep prices low when materials are going up and up and up. Many designers scaled back their production and expansion plans for 2009, while others continued to hold out hope for a quick economic recovery. Here’s what footwear insiders had to say about the fall of the high-end women’s market:

• “It was so robust, it had the farthest to fall.”

• “Luxury buyers felt the pinch because of Wall Street.”

• “Markdowns are built in to the moderate market. The high-end market depended upon women being able to use their houses as ATM machines, and when that dried up, so did their spending.”

• “Consumers don’t have the luxury cash or credit to buy higher-priced items. They’re opting for less or alternatives.”

• “With consumers feeling the pinch, ‘perceived value’ is being challenged like never before.”
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