Skip to main content

What FFANY Brands Are Saying About Price Pressure in 2020

For brands at FFANY, the only certainty is uncertainty when it comes to pricing in the seasons ahead.

As the United States and China grapple over trade, businesses that source internationally—that is, virtually every major American shoe brand—have had to adapt their supply chains to hedge their bets against paralyzing specter of uncertainty.

With little hope for a trade deal that could alleviate some of these concerns, brands have begun to take matters into their own hands.

Lacking a large sales force, All Black’s situation is “a little different,” Marty Rose, a principal at M.J. Rose Associates and distributor for high-end footwear brand, told Sourcing Journal. “We make money of course, but I don’t have to have this cushion that has to be built into the product to pay a lot of commission.

“So we’re able to adjust,” he said. “We’ve absorbed the uncertainty.”

This is one of the reasons why All Black’s prices, which can run more than $200 for a pair, have remained effectively unchanged for the upcoming season, Rose said. All Black is also in the process of rerouting its production out of China and into Taiwan to more permanently alleviate any tariff pressures. Even then, the supply chain is still subject to Chinese import duties, Rose said.

“I don’t want to say we’re excluded completely but it’s not hurt us,” Rose said. “But even with the move to Taiwan, the Taiwan factory will still have to pay tariffs to get the materials from China or wherever.”

Bearpaw’s vice president of product and CEO are both traveling to China next week to work on negotiations with suppliers as the brand tries to sort out where its pricing is headed, Edna L. De Pamphilis, global marketing director, said. Due to this abnormal level of uncertainty, Bearpaw decided against publishing prices in its most recent catalog. Normally, Bearpaw’s prices range from around $50 to $129 for taller boots.

“We don’t want to penalize our partners,” De Pamphilis said. “But, we know that value is important to our customers and we want to continue that story. It’s just finding the right balance.”

Related Stories

Bearpaw has begun to explore new categories and open up its seasonal footwear offering to include more spring options and the brand expects those positions to add viability to its business model, De Pamphilis said. However, one of its biggest advantages, she said, is that its core product—comfortable, fleece-lined footwear—is a staple during the holidays and in cold weather.

French Sole, which has operated a partnership with Nicky Hilton for the past three seasons and is most famous for its ballet flats, has been able to insulate itself from some pricing pressure by offering a higher level of flexibility than most brands.

“The thing that makes us unique and makes us viable is the fact that we can do really small runs of made-to-order shoes,” Barbara Lefkowitz, general merchandise manager for the brand, said.

French Sole’s factory partner in Spain is typically able to get its hands on any material and color that a prospective buyer might want, giving the brand more chances to make a sale, Lefkowitz said. Regardless, a generally promotional environment, spurred on by added pressure driven by the growth of e-commerce, has been a challenge for French Sole, she added.

“I’m old enough to remember when they were sales,” Lefkowitz said. “And now it’s just kind of a perpetual sale.”

Even talking about prices presents a challenge for many brands. But with 2020 looming, brands have had to take that necessary step, no matter how painful.

“It’s a tough topic to broach but to stay in business you have to,” Renee Newman, vice president of sales of strategic accounts footwear at Aetrex, told Sourcing Journal, adding that being upfront about pricing challenges is better than having to redo negotiations after orders are set. “Integrity is everything, you want to make sure you manage that.”

Very few FFANY brands seemed to have a foolproof plan to sidestep increasing prices and duties. Instead, it appears that a mindset of “sticking to the fundamentals” and working to add newness and excitement to product lines has taken over. In this way, brands don’t have to worry about taking the wrong step and ending up in position worse than the footwear industry’s current quagmire.

“There’s definitely a lot of talk about that,” Vanessa Bolieiro, Camtrade Footwear’s product development manager, said, noting constant supplier negotiations focused on offsetting increased costs. “There’s still a lot of unknowns. But so far, we have some really good relationships with our suppliers and they’ve been very cooperative and understanding.”