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Retail Guide: Comfort Shopping List

With sales still sluggish, comfort shops are buying smarter and keeping inventory levels lean to ensure a better bottom line.

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Phil Aved

Photo By Courtesy Photo

SHOES ON FIRST, Napa, Calif.
Phil Aved, owner
Store count: 1 (2,300 sq. ft.); est. 1999
Hunting for: “We’re certainly not going to buy basics. Basics are for fill-ins. I’m looking for about 30 percent of my sales to be in other than basic merchandise.”
Strategy shift: “We’re being very cautious. If a company doesn’t stock goods, then it has to be one that can yield extra-high margins. Brand names have diminished in their importance.”
View on the economy: “It is what it is. We’ve 
[taken precautions] by not overbuying and forcing our margins down. And we’ve [created] a profitable situation by cutting every expense to the bone and sticking with what works.”
Lesson learned from holiday ’09: “Don’t depend on Black Friday.”
Current bestsellers: “Ugg, Rieker and Arcopedico. We also did a nice job with clogs, and we had a great boot season with high-top styles from Laura Evan.”
Best price point: $140 to $160 for shoes,  $190 to $225 for boots
Spring ’10 forecast: “Keep your wallet in your pocket and wait. I went into spring with 80 percent of my spring money left. We’re going to try to stay strain-free the first half of the year, regardless of whether the economy bounces back. There’s going to be a long-term change in [consumers’] buying habits.”
Hottest new brand: Rieker
Next big thing: “Color.”

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