Jones Looks to Woo Consumers with New Concept

NEW YORK — Even as retailers face the most challenging environment in years, Jones Apparel Group is bullish about its new store concept, Shoe Woo.

The multibranded store is a first for the company and features all its fashion footwear brands, including Enzo Angiolini, Joan & David and Nine West, and select handbags. Easy Spirit, which targets a more casual customer, is the only brand not included in the mix.

After 10 months of development based on customer research — including focus groups and shopping analysis — the first Shoe Woo location opened quietly on Oct. 4 in the Menlo Park Mall in Edison, N.J. The initial response has been “spectacular” said Jay Friedman, president and CEO of Jones Retail Group, without disclosing sales numbers.

“Assuming the numbers hold up,” Friedman said, the firm plans to open a handful of Shoe Woo doors in 2009 and 2010 in mall and street locations. And Shoe Woo-branded products could eventually be added to the mix.

Friedman said the concept has economic efficiencies. “It gives us the ability to be more productive and showcase our brands that don’t have freestanding stores,” he said.

The Menlo Park Mall store boasts full-length mirrors with decals of little black dresses that customers can use while trying on shoes, according to Stacy Lastrina, Jones’ EVP of marketing. Shopping bags are inscribed with “You’ve Been Wooed,” and the store’s entrance bears a Shakespearean quote: “She’s beautiful and therefore to be wooed.” To entice moms, rolls of stickers are available at the cash wrap.

The idea, said Friedman, is to have the customer spend time in the store. “We didn’t want customers to do one lap and leave the store,” he said. “We intentionally built the store with nooks and corners, so you want to walk around and explore.” There is no perimeter shelving, and all merchandise is displayed on furniture and fixtures situated throughout the space, which features plush seating and giant custom shoe sculptures.

Friedman stressed that Shoe Woo will not take the place of the firm’s branded units.

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