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10/18/2013 / Published Work

From Columbus Business First: DSW masters language of shoes

Copyright 2013 Business First of Columbus Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.
Published Oct. 4, 2013
By Colleen Marshall

As my husband and I were jockeying for closest space a few years ago he complained that there is no reason for anyone to have four pairs of red shoes. There was a very good reason: I had not yet found number five.

There are those who walk among us who have a deep and fulfilling relationship with footwear. These people understand that red flats, red open-toed pumps, and red wedge-sandals are completely different and unquestionably necessary shoes. It’s part fashion sense, part personal statement, and if the shoe-obsessed are honest, it is in large part emotional fulfillment. DSW Marketing Vice-President Kelly Cook says, quite simply, “Shoes make people happy!” (She must be ecstatic because she admits to owning more than 400 pairs of shoes.)

Cook and the team at Columbus-based DSW tap into that never-ending quest for shoe satisfaction in a book released earlier this week called Do You Speak Shoe Lover? It’s a kicky, quirky mix of shoe testimonials, fashion disasters, and touching first-person shoe memories. Who knew that in his early days with the Atlanta Braves baseball legend Hank Aaron was expected to buy his own cleats? He recalls having to borrow a pair from a teammate and after hitting two homeruns refusing to give back what were destined to be his lucky cleats.

It is everyday shoppers, however, who speak the language of shoes and pepper the book with photos of their favorite shoes complimenting their favorite outfits, descriptions of shoes they can never live without, and memories of a mother who cut into the family budget to buy her daughter a shiny pair of Mary Janes.

DSW founder Jay Schottenstein, a self-described shoe lover, recognized the inexplicable bond some people have with footwear and found a way to turn shoe love into shoe profit. He envisioned a user-friendly shopping experience, with the shoes stacked in long, self-serve aisles that invite you to spend your time trying – and buying – the shoe of your dreams. He opened the first Designer Shoe Warehouse in Dublin, Ohio in 1991. At the time, Europe had the big-name designers, but Schottenstein had the very American idea of buying in bulk and selling at a discount. It is a very American success story, with DSW now 350 stores strong and carrying the lines of 400 designers. In July of 2005 its initial public offering sold more than 16 million shares at an offering price of $19 each. The stock is now valued at more than four times that amount.

It can be said that DSW changed the way we shop for shoes, helping women recognize the difference between Louboutins and a Jimmy Choo. Importantly, DSW helped American designers get a foothold in the burgeoning shoe market. The cover of the book features the Revolvir Pump designed exclusively for DSW’s book by famed American designer Steve Madden. One word: fabulous.

The Shoe Lover book is also the next step in DSW’s successful marketing strategy that already involves a continual two-way conversation with shoppers. Shoe lovers go on line to browse, dream and make wish-lists. DSW sends alerts when a desired shoe goes on sale, or when the stock is getting low. Shoppers then happily buy the shoes and post pictures of themselves on DSW’s Facebook page – look at me in my new suede pumps!

My husband recently bought an expensive precision tile saw. He is very happy with it, but shockingly has not taken a single picture of himself using it to share with the good people at Home Depot. Some people do not know how to shop.