Yet Barr said these proficiencies are limited to a small number of retailers, and are more aspiration than reality. He added that it's easier for brands that sell directly to the consumer to tap into this strategy, as they have more control over their supply chain.
For department stores and other wholesalers, however, it gets tricky, with vendors feeling the aftershocks. One example is accessories brand Steve Madden. Though the company's wholesale footwear sales increased 2.7 percent in the first quarter, CEO Ed Rosenfeld told analysts that its wholesale accounts "continue to be pretty darn cautious."
"It's even more challenging … in terms of getting those upfront orders, because when the retailers are a bit cautious, what they're trying to do not only with us but everybody is to place fewer orders upfront and to try to chase more in season, so that they can take less risk and essentially push some of the inventory risk onto the brand," he said.
In particular, management told analysts at Sterne Agee CRT that department stores are being thoughtful on initial orders for fall boots and booties. And many of the orders that shipped in the second quarter last year are being postponed until the third quarter this year, analyst Sam Poser said.
Other brands that lean heavily on wholesale accounts face similar challenges. Following Deckers' earnings report last week, Poser warned that even if a retailer places an order for the company's Ugg boots, it could be canceled if winter gets off to another warm start.
On the flip side, Barr said retailers can't be too timid when placing their orders. If the temperature were to plummet in November and a retailer ran out of winter coats, they'd be giving up sales to a competitor.
"Let's take last year and flip it around — what if we have a really cold winter?" he said.
"If you enter the holiday with tremendous fear, all you're going to do is come out on the losing end."