Nordstrom is rolling out in-store shops for Shoes of Prey, an Australia-based online firm that enables women to design their own shoes.
It’s a partnership that plays to the growing trend of product personalization, and to two of Nordstrom’s strengths — shoes and customer service. Starting Nov. 17 and through the first quarter of 2015, shops called Shoes of Prey Design Studio at Nordstrom, averaging 250 square feet, will open inside six Nordstrom doors: Bellevue, Wash.; Paramus, N.J.; Pentagon City, Va.; Oakbrook Center, Ill.; Fashion Island, Calif., and San Francisco Centre.
Nordstrom has invested heavily in new technologies and online businesses, and since early 2011, has acquired HauteLook and Trunk Club and taken a stake in Bonobos, suggesting Shoes of Prey could become another investment. However, executives sounded cautious, saying it’s something that might be considered further down the road. Michael Fox, the chief executive officer of Shoes of Prey, told WWD, “We talked to them about that. It’s definitely something to be considered, but not initially.”
“We’re just starting out with our partnership, but if they asked us to consider investing in their business, we would certainly take a look at that,” added Scott Meden, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager of the shoe division. “We want to serve customers in different ways and deliver highly relevant, personalized experiences. We hope the Shoes of Prey Design Studios in select Nordstrom stores will enhance our service experience by allowing customers the chance to play shoe designer and create completely customized shoes.”
Meden said he regards Shoes of Prey as “a great resource for customers who wear hard-to-find sizes since Shoes of Prey carries sizes 2½ to 15.” Nordstrom considers sizes five and under, and 10.5 and higher, to be extended sizes.
Asked if he believes women will take the time to come to a store and design their own shoes, Meden replied, “Yes, we certainly hope so. Shoes of Prey already has a successful business” at David Jones in Australia, where the brand put up its first brick-and-mortar shop as a test 18 months ago. However, the deal with Nordstrom marks the first significant brick-and-mortar presence for Shoes of Prey.
At the Shoes of Prey shops, “Women will be able to see and touch materials and leathers,” Meden said. “There will be about 60 sample shoes on display that we hope will serve as inspiration. Dedicated salespeople can help customers edit through the process and help them make decisions. Customers will also be able to try on different lasts in different sizes. It’s a creative process.” There are also many color options.
“Consumers are looking for something different and want to have more input into the design, and not just shop for shoes off the shelf,” said Fox. He acknowledged that customizing shoes and enabling women to get sizes, colors and styles they might not readily find is still a niche trend, but a growing one.
Asked if women would want to knock off a designer style, Fox said, “On the site, they definitely don’t focus on that. If you tried to do that, you wouldn’t get a perfect knockoff because our designs are templated. We have standard lasts, standard patterns and standard colors. Most of our customers are either looking for something really specific, quicker than they would find in stores, or they’re creative and want something unique to them.”
Since the Sidney-based company started, Fox said four million pairs of shoes have been sold on the site. Fox said online, it takes 30 to 40 minutes to design and purchase a shoe; in stores, 20 to 30 minutes, due to a team member helping the customer. The site offers 12 shapes, more than 170 fabrics with different colors and textures, five heel styles, 10 heel heights, 13 toe styles and 13 detail options, such as bows.
Nordstrom is among the retailers that view personalization as increasingly important. The Seattle-based department store offers made-to-measure men’s suiting, monogramming and, in women’s shoes, custom Attilio Giusti Leombruni cap-toe ballet flats. “We’ve also explored customization in areas like online product recommendations and relevant e-mail communications to give the customer an enhanced shopping experience,” Meden said.