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Following apparel’s footsteps, celebs help tout shoes

BY CSA STAFF

When it comes to the celebrity fashion bandwagon, shoes are not left in the dust. However, unlike apparel, footwear requires utmost attention to design. Anyone can slap his or her name on a T-shirt label, but a shoe that leaves blisters will surely scar sales.

“Footwear has more of an emotional connection by brand than apparel does,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for The NPD Group. “When it comes to footwear, they [consumers] know that comfort and fit are critical to the equation. So, you have to earn your right to continuously try to sell a footwear brand.”

The variety of partnerships with star-studded names spans the retailing world. Payless ShoeSource works with runway designers to bring affordable chic to the masses. Steve & Barry’s rules celebrity and athlete designed footwear for the entire family. And Jessica Simpson has charmed Macy’s, Nordstrom and Zappos.com with her fashion-forward styles.

Payless merged into budgeted high-fashion territory when it partnered with three new up-and-coming designers: Stacey Bendet for Alice + Olivia, Laura Poretzky for Abaete and Lela Rose for Payless. Since the trio is just getting their feet wet with footwear, they have been working closely with Payless design experts. The results brought new shoppers and exclusivity, not to mention high demand for runway style.

Steve & Barry’s and celebrity collections go hand in hand. Not a season has gone by that the retailer hasn’t released a new line. Stephon Marbury, Sarah Jessica Parker, Amanda Bynes, Venus Williams and now Ben Wallace have their feet in the door when it comes to value shopping.

The consumers also relish that they can buy an athlete branded product at a good price. “Our celebrity partners work closely with our in-house design team,” said Steve & Barry’s president Andy Todd. “In some cases, like the Starbury and Big Ben on-court shoes, we also worked with leading athletic gear design firm Rocketfish to ensure the sneakers deliver all technical aspects needed for professional athletes and recreational players alike.”

“In every case, value is the greater component of the equation,” said Cohen. “When it comes to Starburys, the consumer loves the fact that they can buy an athlete branded product at a good price—they fit well enough, so price is secondary. Their purpose in life is about image and value. The consumer feels that they are getting that.”

Yet, if prices inch up—like in the case of the Jessica Simpson collection, whose boots run about $190 at Nordstrom—shoes must walk the walk when it comes to marrying fashion and comfort. Higher sticker prices take collections into the hypercompetitive shoe market rife with designers who build their names with shoe collections.

“Jessica Simpson is going to have to earn her price,” added Cohen. “Celebrities with high-end prices have a harder job convincing consumers that their product is worth the extra dollar.”

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BJ’s reports October comps increase

BY CSA STAFF

NATICK, Mass. BJ’s Wholesale Club today reported that sales for October increased by 9.2% to $663.8 million from $607.9 million in October 2006. Comparable-club sales increased by 4.8% for the month, compared with a comparable-club sales decrease for October of 0.7%, including a negative impact from sales of gasoline of 2.5%.

For the third quarter ended Nov. 3, total sales increased by 8.1% to $2.12 billion, and comparable-club sales increased by 3.4%. For the third quarter ended Oct. 28, 2006, comparable-club sales increased by 0.1%.

According to BJ’s, October sales increased in all major regions with the highest increase in Metro New York and the lowest increase in the Southeast. Food sales increased by approximately 5% for the month of October and 6% for the third quarter. General merchandise sales were approximately flat in October and increased by approximately 2% for the third quarter.

For the month of October, BJ’s reported that categories with strong comparable-club sales increases included coffee, dairy, frozen, juices, meat, milk, office supplies, produce, soda and water and televisions. Weaker categories versus last year included apparel, automotive and tools, cigarettes, prerecorded video, residential furniture and tires.

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Costco comps jump 9% in October

BY CSA STAFF

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco reported a big 9% jump in same-store sales in October.

 Leading the way was a 17% increase in sales at its international stores with U.S. sales jumping 7%. The increase beat the 5.7% average predicted by analysts for the month.

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