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Steve Madden Struggles With Its Women's Shoe Business

The company's sales took a hit this quarter.

Although Steve Madden is making plenty of moves to grow its business — acquiring fellow footwear brand Dolce Vita in August and booking celebrity collaborations, for instance — sales for the third quarter of the year, which wrapped up on September 30, were "disappointing," execs said on the earnings call Thursday morning. Net sales maxed out at $392 million, down from $394.8 million last year. 

Unfortunately, sales got sequentially weaker over the course of the quarter, with August and September faring worse than July. Revenue from Steve Madden's retail channel flatlined, at $48.7 million versus $48.9 million at the same time last year, while wholesale came in at $343.3 million relative to 2013's $345.9 million -- excluding Dolce Vita, wholesale dropped 4.9 percent. Thanks to the difficult fall, company execs said that spring wholesale orders aren't likely to be "gangbusters."

The team noted that although no one geographic region is performing significantly worse than another — California is relatively better than the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic, but none are what they "would consider satisfactory" — certain products have been flagging. Tall shaft boots aren't selling as well as expected, nor are dress shoes. On a whole, the all-important women's category is giving the company the most trouble right now.

Sneakers are doing well at the moment and will likely continue to perform well in the spring, although the team acknowledged that "traditional" sneaker companies like Converse and Vans provide stiff competition for shoppers' dollars. In fact, Steve Madden execs seemed optimistic about spring in general, noting that there have been "encouraging signs" that the season will deliver some fresh trends to the footwear industry. What those trends are, they wouldn't say, lest other brands jump on them, too.

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