Shoe Carnival wants to make shoe shopping a toe-tappin' good time. The company operates more than 325 family footwear stores in 30-plus US states featuring bright lights and neon signs. (It also sells shoes online.) In-store "barkers" bellow out specials and organize games soliciting customer participation to promote the "carnival-like" atmosphere the retailer hopes will edge out rivals. Shoe Carnival sells brand-name and private-label men's, women's (about 25% of sales), children's, and athletic (about 35%) footwear. After slowing its expansion in recent years, the shoe seller is back in growth mode, adding new stores and markets. The family of Chairman J. Wayne Weaver owns 25% of Shoe Carnival's shares.
Recent sales trends point to recovery in Shoe Carnival's business. In fiscal 2012 (ends January) the retailer's sales grew by about 3% vs. the year earlier period, after increasing 8% and 5% in fiscal 2011 and 2010, respectively. Same-store sales declined by nearly 1% in 2012. The company blamed the relatively-lower sales growth on the declining popularity of toning footwear (discredited by the Federal Trade Commission), although athletic shoe sales remained strong. Unseasonably warm weather throughout the nation depressed sales for fall footwear, particularly boots, as well.
Shoe Carnival's large stores (on average 10,800 square feet) stock about 28,500 pairs of shoes, with an emphasis on national and regional brands. The chain's two biggest suppliers are NIKE and Sketchers U.S.A., whose brands combined accounted for more than 35% of Shoe Carnival's net sales in fiscal 2012. Sketchers, a major supplier of toning footwear, was fined by the FTC for making bogus claims for its toning shoes.
After a hiatus during the recession, Shoe Carnival is growing again: adding about a dozen stores in fiscal 2012 (ends January). In the coming year the chain plans to double that number, adding about 25 new locations, most of which will be located in two new major markets for the chain: Dallas, Texas and Puerto Rico.
Royce & Associates owns about 12% of the company's shares, making it Shoe Carnival's second-largest shareholder behind the Weaver family. – less