When department store chain Belk surveyed shoppers prior to its overall redesign, it discovered two things: that 89 percent of its customers are women, and they all love shoes. At a time when retailers in general are looking for ways to reach a more targeted audience, information like this was invaluable. So when the Charlotte, NC-based company began its $70 million rebranding initiative and re-launched its e-commerce site, its shoe department received the biggest overhaul in store and online.
“From the research, we found out that our customer goes to shoes first. She looks at the assortment, she thinks about buying women’s shoes first. That was a wake-up call,” says John Belk, the company’s COO.
“Shoes are playing an increasingly important role at Belk,” agrees Dave Neri, EVP GMM. In addition to allocating more space in stores for shoe departments and remod- eling many to reflect the chain’s motto of ‘Modern.Southern. Style.,’ Belk has expanded its roster of brands. The store is taking a decidedly more fashionable approach to its merchandise mix by adding brands like Steve Madden, BCBG, Jessica Simpson and Sperry. The company is also expanding its private label, New Directions, to include shoes, and adding Via Veroli, a topline with an Italian flair.
Investing at a time when everyone else is cutting back has paid off: Neri reveals that www.belk.com is now the company’s largest selling door for shoes. —L.M.