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Timberland, Kenneth Cole & More Share What’s Selling in Europe

Why do shoes with white outsoles exceed sales expectations in Europe but are slow sales in the U.S.? At the recent edition of GDS, brands with transcontinental appeal shared how the bestselling styles in Europe are not always the ones flying off the shelves across the Atlantic.

About half of the men’s and women’s product that filled Timberland’s double booth at the show will cross over to the U.S., said Martin Schassberg, senior product merchandiser footwear E.U. North and Central for Timberland. Shoes and boots with white outsoles are likely to be part of that edited list. Schassberg said light color outsoles remain a strong trend in Europe, but the U.S. and Asia markets continue to prefer darker.

El Naturalista
El Naturalista

“It’s basically the same pizza but with a different flavor,” Schassberg said of the product for the two regions.

Similarly, buyers showed interest in Kenneth Cole’s Fall ’16 all-white sneakers for men, a break from the leather loafers and drivers the brand is best known for in the U.S. GDS was Kenneth Cole’s second show in Europe since inking a deal with Belgium-based LF Brands to produce and distribute men’s and women’s footwear in seven European countries.

LF Brands Managing Director Ruben Clijsters said buyers were especially drawn to men’s white lo-top sneakers accented with thick bands of metallic copper and gun metal—styles that seemed more appropriate for spring. Clijsters said the shoes were a surprising bestseller, but that buyers’ decisions continue to be influenced by unseasonable warm and tepid temperatures. Mid-tops sneakers and sneakers with crackled leather uppers were other strong styles.

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Kenneth Cole
Kenneth Cole

Ted Baker succeeded in translating its bauble-like aesthetic to a range of highly-embellished sneakers for women. A brand rep said white bottom sneakers with premium leather uppers were popular at the show, as well as sneakers featuring the brand’s signature floral prints.

Sneakers, or at least the comfort and fit of sneakers, were also a big story for Timberland. While the brand’s heritage work boots have experienced a renaissance in recent season in the U.S.—and helped kicked off a hiker trend across categories—Timberland Europe emphasized its SensorFlex technology at GDS.

Two season ago Schassberg said the company realized it would have to combine heritage with innovation in order to move forward. Plus, the brand needed to create new reasons to buy Timberland. “We are the root of our own problem,” he said, noting that Timberland makes virtually indestructible boots. The brand was also up against a new generation of consumer that have been brought up on and prefer to wear sneakers.

SensorFlex technology, which Schassberg said was pulled from the trail running category, features a three-layer EVA-injected sole designed to cradle the foot and adapt to uneven surfaces. It might feel like and be as light as a sneaker, but Schassberg said, “It’s still a boot to us.” Timberland expanded the technology into more than 160 SKUs and 15 families of product in Europe for Fall ’16, spanning hidden cupsoles sneakers to fashion-forward sneakers with zipper closures.

Dr. Martens
Dr. Martens

The appeal of Made in USA footwear varies from continent to continent as well. Schassberg shared that Timberland will launch a limited line of its iconic men’s 8-inch boot made with Horween leather from Chicago and manufactured in a small factory in Arkansas. The premium line will be available in the U.S., but he has high hopes for it overseas.

Just as European-made footwear holds a particular cache in America, Schassberg said European consumers bite at the chance to own something entirely made in the U.S. “We care more for premium products, that’s the difference,” he added.