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Old Navy is stepping up its footwear presentation for toddlers and kids in a strategy timed to bolster back-to-school business.

The assortment in kids and babies’ footwear has grown by 25 percent, and 150 locations within the 1,000-unit chain have reset kids and baby footwear into one “Shoe Shop” section geared to make the shopping easier and shine a brighter light on the category. Most Old Navy stores have toddler and kids shoe sections in two different departments or store levels, versus having one combined shoe section.

“The expanded experience is best seen in our top 150 stores and we will continue to test and adjust and roll out elements of the new experience as we see how the consumer responds, but we have some elements of the Shoe Shop in all 1,000 stores,” Andres Dorronsoro, vice president and general manager, Old Navy kids and licensing, told WWD. “We will look to roll out in more stores [beyond the 150 so far] as we see how the customer interacts with us.”

The pumped up assortment is geared to service a broad range of customers, Dorronsoro said. “We have great slip-ons with glitter, great lace-up sneakers, really cute booties and boots, mini-me’s inspired by mom’s boots,” said the executive, citing a few key styles. “In boys, there are really cool textured high-tops with mixed fabrications, cool lace-up low-top sneakers, and really fun slip-ons. There are also classics that look great with khakis or uniforms and items that look stylish with jeans or dresses.” Old Navy has added size 6, which is a transition size going from toddlers to kids.

From Old Navy’s updated girls’ footwear line. 

With the shoe remake, “We were very deliberate in thinking about our apparel.”

Old Navy has also stepped up on the visuals. “Through our mannequins and through our visual imagery in windows, in displays and online…we give the customer outfitting cues when shopping the physical or digital store.”

The expanded shoe presentations, ranging from 250 to 700 square feet, are adjacent to kids and baby apparel in the back of the stores which, according to Dorronsoro, “allows for easy outfitting and a concentrated area to shop for footwear.” Hopscotch areas and graphic floor mats to measure shoe sizes have been added to certain stores for an element of fun.

From the new Old Navy girls’ shoes line. 

 

With the new format, about 30 linear feet has been added per store, though Old Navy’s kid and toddler shoe displays “have always been a key element to our floor set, so combining the categories into one convenient presentation allows us to maximize our space in a way where we don’t need to dramatically downsize any of our apparel categories.”

Asked if there are any plans for changing men’s and women footwear, Dorronsoro replied: “Men and women’s footwear is always evolving.” He didn’t cite any specific projects. “In general, we believe that footwear is a growth opportunity for us.”

All the merchandise at Old Navy — shoes, accessories and apparel — are under the Old Navy label, though the store does sell some third-party cosmetics, candy and beverages by checkouts. It’s possible Old Navy one day brings in third-party labels to a larger degree. “There’s nothing to share at this point,” Dorronsoro said. “Nothing is on or off the table.”

From the new Old Navy girls’ shoes line. 

Old Navy, Dorronsoro said, has been “updating all of the key categories that are important in a child’s wardrobe.” He singled out denim, playwear and active. “We believe we have created the softest, most comfortable jeans in the marketplace. Our girls ballerina and boys karate jeans feature innovative technology that is soft and moves with you.”

“For the last couple of years, we have really focused on distorting key categories and reinventing” specifically in footwear, denim and activewear in kids, he said. “In thinking about opportunities for our kids business, we really believe there is a void for great quality, style and value in footwear that can coordinate with apparel with an easy one stop shopping experience.”

Many retailers see b-t-s business occurring in waves, a few weeks before school begins and a few weeks after schools are in session. “Every year we see kids having a more [say] in the purchasing decision,” Dorronsoro said. “They shop with their moms before school and then they’ll run back to Old Navy when they see what the other kids in school are wearing.” This week, Old Navy stores are pretty much fully loaded and ready for b-t-s. The new shops launched last Friday, along with marketing efforts.

While the range of styles is broad, prices, according to Dorronsoro, have been contained, starting at under $20 with a few styles priced over $30.

He acknowledged that the footwear presentation “probably was not as consistent as we could have been. We moved shoes around. Often times footwear played a secondary role…For the key back-to-school period, we wanted to provide an easy experience for mom and a fun experience for kids.”

From the new girls’ toddler footwear line. 

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