Shoes Rule When It Comes to Store Profits

Merchants expand shoe departments to woo shoppers
The new unisex shoe department at Barneys New York in Manhattan Photograph by Tom Sibley

Slinky evening gowns have long commanded designer runways. But operators of upscale department stores say that another fashion staple matters more when it comes to profitability: shoes. Pricey women’s footwear boasts gross profit margins as high as 50 percent, while women’s apparel has a maximum of 45 percent, according to retail consulting firm Kurt Salmon. Better yet, shoes are less prone to markdowns because footwear fashions often cross seasons—women now even wear boots in the summer—and demographics, with styles such as ballerina flats appealing to teens and grandmothers alike, says Deborah Rudinsky, a footwear-market analyst for trend forecaster Doneger Group.

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