If anyone knows comfort footwear, its Robert Schwartz, C. Ped, president and CEO of Eneslow Pedorthics in New York City. Year after year the pedorthist has been helping to keep his client’s feet comfortable and well-supported. A New York institution for over 100 years, Eneslow Pedorthics employs roughly a dozen pedorthists to help customers find the best shoe for their given foot concern. Vamp recently spoke with Schwartz to see how business was going, and to talk trends in the comfort footwear market.
VAMP: How has business been this spring?
Schwartz: Business for first quarter was ahead of last year.
VAMP: What styles are selling the best?
Schwartz: Walking shoes from Finn Comfort, New Balance and SAS continue to be strong.
VAMP: We’ve had some wacky weather this spring, has it affected sales? What are customers buying?
Schwartz: Wacky weather always affects sales. The lack of warm weather has virtually shut down the sandal business to date. The lack of winter and snow in Q1 prevented boots from doing well.
VAMP: What sort of trends are you seeing in comfort footwear these days?
Schwartz: The trend is still focused on core products and colors. We are focusing on exclusive brands that we are importing from Europe to help turn our business around profitably.
VAMP: Younger consumers are a growing portion of the comfort footwear market. What sort of issues are you seeing with them?
Schwartz: Plantar fasciitis is the number one reason a younger demographic shops with us.
VAMP: Many comfort brands are pushing to become more fashionable, while still including comfort benefits. Have you noticed a change in styles from brands recently?
Schwartz: Brands are updating their presentations more with color and material interest rather than new product updates. So far, that is a successful formula for us.
VAMP: Are longstanding comfort customers increasingly prioritizing style as well?
Schwartz: Not especially. They like fresh interpretations of proven silhouettes, and brands they know and trust.
VAMP: What do you make of “comfort heels”? Can they offer the same benefits as flats?
Schwartz: Most women are better off with some heel. One and a half to two inch heels are the sweet spot. Flats are not for everyone. The comfort starts with the fit of the last.
VAMP: With so much business shifting online, how has this affected your operations?
Schwartz: It has resulted in a drop in business year over year for the past few years. Most of our American distributed vendors have become our competitors, taking share from us and forcing us to find our niche elsewhere.
VAMP: The comfort footwear customer is traditionally older–have they made the move online with you?
Schwartz: Our online presence has helped bring our customers into our stores after they do their research online. This demographic wants personalized professional service at the fitting stool. Our ecommerce business is a tiny part of our total revenues.