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Published 25 January 2013 12:27, Updated 30 January 2013 21:57
Shoppers can design their own shoes at the new Shoes of Prey concession at David Jones’ Elizabeth Street store in Sydney.
Start-up Shoes of Prey has taken space on the shop floor of David Jones’ flagship Sydney store in a rare collaboration between a major retailer and an online competitor.
The Shoes of Prey concession, which allows customers to design their own shoes online and also look at physical swatches and samples, opened on Thursday with a prime position in the women’s shoe department on the fourth floor of the Elizabeth Street women’s store.
David Jones head of merchandise Donna Player told BRW the partnership helped the department store create the best possible shopping experience for customers.
“It’s all about women and shoes – I think it’s going to be a winning combination,” Player says. “It provides another reason for customers to come and visit our store and some excitement and theatre to surprise and delight our customers.”
The partnership taps into a trend for retailers to embrace an omni-channel strategy. As retailers such launch online and mobile stores, as David Jones did before Christmas, the physical stores remain relevant by focusing on the shopping experience rather than just serving a transactional space.
Player says the Shoes of Prey concession is about serving David Jones’ core customer rather than a way to reach a new market. It is arguably a natural fit because of the David Jones branding as a specialist in high-end fashion but also helps position the 175-year-old retailer as innovative.
Player says product customisation is an interesting trend and she believes the Shoes of Prey outlet is “unique” for department stores in Australia and probably the world.
The concession, which is prominently branded as Shoes of Prey and immediately obvious as you exit the lifts, is decorated with bright “flowers” made from high heel shoes. Player says it was important to strike the balance between being visible but also slightly off the main walkway to create a more intimate environment where customers would feel comfortable sitting for some time.
Rather than a traditional retail concession, the area blends online and offline retail experiences. Shoppers sit on cushioned stools at a round table and use one of six tablets to design their own shoes, just as they would on the Shoes of Prey website. The difference is that they can also browse fabric and leather swatches and physical samples of different designs of heels and trimmings to get a better idea of the final product.
When BRW visited the store on Friday morning, the shoppers browsing the shoe department showed interest in the concept. However, the Shoes of Prey staff member was trying to sort out “teething problems” with the Telstra wifi connection.
Player declined to reveal commercial details but says it is a “standard arrangement”, adding that there are no plans to expand the concept to other stores but it was possible if it succeeded according to the “usual criteria of sales and profitability”.
The founders of Shoes of Prey were unavailable for comment on Friday but on Twitter the company described the new concept space as “spectacularly innovative”. David Jones also promoted the new outlet on its Twitter account.
Shoes of Prey co-founder Michael Fox has previously told BRW he was interested in partnering with a department store retailer. He believes bricks-and-mortar presence would give customers a more tactile shopping experience and help them trust that the finished product would match their vision.
The company also runs “shoe parties” at its office in Sydney’s Surry Hills where groups design shoes as a social event.