Shoe shops need new formats to beat off rivals, says Verdict

Footwear retailers are suffering from high levels of competition from clothing chains, and should develop new store formats to catch up with rivals, according to a report by Verdict Research.

The hardest hit shoe specialist is Dolcis, which has been placed in administration, while at the time of going to press Stead & Simpson had sold its Famous Footwear chain this month to supplier Jacobson Ventures, the first part of the planned sale of its business.

While there could be a knock-on effect for the designers involved with the shoe chains, retail design specialists remain an important factor in saving this ailing market, by creating fresh concepts and making shoe shops stand out among the competition, says the report.

At the end of last year, Dolcis unveiled a new-look store in Glasgow (pictured), designed by 20/20 Design, which included a refreshed logo and interiors. This concept was set to be rolled out across all outlets, but the demise of the store has placed this in doubt.

‘The new concept aimed to help Dolcis redefine its business and get back on the retail track,’ says 20/20 managing director Jim Thompson. ‘The store in Glasgow opened and was a great success but the business struggled and the concept hasn’t been rolled out.’

‘Footwear is a very difficult market at the moment,’ explains Thompson. ‘Fashion retailers sell the outfit and the look, but footwear retailers can only link themselves with the look and sell accessories or the shoe.’

Stead & Simpson announced a fresh store format earlier this month, with design by Caulder Moore, despite plans to sell. The first new-look shop is due to appear in the spring.

Colum Lowe, managing director at Caulder Moore, declined to comment on the specifics of the job, but, he says, ‘As far as we know, there will be roll-out, but the information is confidential.’

He adds, ‘Some of the shoe retailers’ shops are not massively inspiring compared to fashion chains. They don’t reinvent themselves as much as high street shops, but ambience is very important for customers. If you go into a shoe shop most of the merchandise is black and brown, so you have to create this ambience without being overt.’

According to Verdict Research, footwear retailers are unable to raise price because of the high levels of competition. As a result, even the UK’s largest footwear specialists continue to suffer despite the growing appetite for shoes.

‘Footwear retailers need to approach a more modern look to keep up with the clothing retailers, which have been investing a lot in their stores in general, says Verdict Research retail analyst Carol Ratcliffe. ‘The clothes retailers have got really nice environments and have been putting money behind their store design. While many [shoe retailers] have already invested in developing new store formats, they need to accelerate these efforts to catch up with the rising standards set by clothing specialists.’

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