DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse Launches Unique Shop-in-Stores

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With DSW Inc. winding down the operations of the Town Shoes chain, they are turning their focus to differentiating their Canadian DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse operations. Compared to Town Shoes which was a full service retailer, DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse is a big box off-price shoe concept with everyday savings of up to 40% off suggested retail prices.

To attract 2018 holiday shoppers and former Town Shoes customers, DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse is launching a unique shop-in-shop boutique called, What’s the Occasion?. The boutiques opened on November 1, 2018 in store at the DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse Heartland Town Centre, and Vaughan Mills locations in the Greater Toronto Area as well as nationally online.

This shop-in-shop boutique is a specially curated selection of footwear and accessories that mirror special-events including prom, semi-formals, weddings, bridal showers and holiday parties. Each category has style appropriate special occasion shoes including evening flats and high-heeled specialty sandals at a variety of price points to engage shoppers of all budgets. A variety of well-known national brands will be featured including Marc Fisher, Jewel by BadgleyJessica Simpson, Caparros, Guess, N by NinaNicole Miller, Madden Girl, American Glamour and Adrianna Papell


An immersive shopping experience is created both in-store and online as the shop is merchandised by the following categories: To the Wedding, Theme Party, Holiday Party, To the Work Party, Men’s Dress and Necessary Extras. For in-store shoppers there is a dedicated section within the store that is themed with dressing-room style décor. The section is decorated with a full sized mirror and a large round ottoman encouraging shoppers to try on shoes along with overhead chandeliers to create extra sparkle. The space is framed with white faux brick paneling to separate the space as the remainder of the store has exposed wood paneling.

For online shoppers, specific shoes are displayed in lifestyle poses by models that incorporate appropriate fashions to illustrate a complete look. This allows customers to easily visualize how the shoes will fit the occasion and provide inspiration for fashion choices. For example, in the Holiday Party category, online shoppers are directed to the American Glamour Platform Pump. This ease of shopping encourages a high click-through-rate and will translate into a high conversion (sales) rate as well.


For most off-price retailers, the shopping experience is a treasure hunt. Items are merchandised by commodity and often a full size range is not available. Although shoppers in the off-price segment are motivated by value, there is a shift towards pairing value with a shopping experience.

Also DIG360’s David Ian Gray noted that off-price stores are not for everyone. Those who “shop with a plan” will find its unpredictability off-putting. This strategy by DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse in opening a shop-in-shop boutique allows them to differentiate from their off-price competitors by creating a lifestyle shop with a full size range even in an off-price environment.

To further increase consumer engagement, What’s the Occasion? is an omnichannel strategy with both an in-store and online presence. This creates a unified experience for shoppers. As DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse offers In-store Pick-Up, this can help to drive shoppers to the store and potentially increase their basket size. In the event shoppers are unable to find something in-store, the e-commerce platform has the entire assortment along with style tips that may entice a purchase. The main off-price retailer in Canada, TJX Companies Inc., owner of Winners, HomeSense and Marshalls does not currently have an e-commerce presence in Canada. This first out of the gate strategy for DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse may be the edge it needs in a saturated off-price and footwear market in Canada.

There are currently 27 DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse locations across Canada along with a Canadian e-commerce site. The physical stores are approximately 15,000 to 25,000 square feet and carry men’s and women’s designer brand name shoes and accessories. The DSW Kids department is available in 19 stores with footwear and accessories for toddlers through teens.

Article Author

Christopher Lui
Christopher Lui
Christopher Lui is a Human Resources and Marketing Professional with over 10 years of experience in project management and working on multi-stakeholder projects in both public and private sectors. He has management consulting experience in areas such as strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, and change management.

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