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Retailers try to get a foot in the door with shoppers looking for shoes

Delaware Public Media

Shopping for shoes is a longtime back-to-school tradition. This year, there’s a shift in the market since Payless ShoeSource filed for bankruptcy after 63 years in business and started shuttering 2,500 stores.

Payless was the sixth largest seller of children’s shoes, with 4 percent of that market. That’s a lot of feet and other discount retailers are stepping it up trying to capture those customers.

The NPD Group, a retail analyst, says Walmart, Target and Kohl’s are well-positioned to fill the void because many Payless customers already shop there. Still, with sports leisure footwear accounting for 60 percent of footwear sales for kids, specialty stores will have a leg up.

“Athletic footwear specialty, sporting goods stores and mass merchants will grab the bulk of sales,” Beth Goldstein, NPD’s executive director and fashion footwear and accessories analyst, told Footwear News, a trade publication. “But based on year-to-date momentum, branded shoe stores, shoe chains and off-price retailers will likely grab a bigger piece of the pie this year.”

In another trend, Crocs are surging in popularity among teenage girls, according to a survey by Piper Jaffray. Among middle-class girls, Crocs ranks 13th among favored footwear brands, leaping from 30th place in 2017. That’s good news for investors, with Crocs stock leaping 30 percent in the past year.

Because kids’ sizes change frequently and getting the right fit is important, they are mostly likely to find their shoes in stores. Last year, 80 percent of school shoes were purchased in brick-and-mortar retail spaces.

Kohl’s is promoting footwear from Nike, Crocs and Vans. Target is offering $9.99 ballet flats for girls in leopard print and glitter finishes. Walmart is selling teen favorites Doc Martens and Ralph Lauren combat boots through its website.

Velcro-closure sneakers are also getting trendy with kids far beyond kindergarten. Some come with grownup-size price tags. Veja sneaks, found at Nordstom, sell for $130-$150. Cole Haan’s design is priced at $150. And designer Stella McCartney is showing an  Eclypse Hook-and-Loop velcro sneaker that retails for $685. 

Eileen Smith Dallabrida has written for Delaware Public Media since 2010. She's also written for USA Today, National Geographic Traveler, the Christian Science Monitor and many other news outlets.