How DSW Is Expanding Globally in a Climate of Shrinking Retail

While many retailers are downsizing their portfolios, DSW Inc. is charging ahead with expansion opportunities.

The Columbus, Ohio-based footwear chain last week opened its first store outside North America. The shop is located in the Muscat Grand Mall in Muscat, Oman, and features an assortment of sandals, dress, casual and athletic footwear, and accessories for men, women and children. Among the featured brands are Nike, Adidas, Birkenstock, Toms and Franco Sarto.

The location was developed with DSW’s Dubai-based franchise partner, Apparel Group.

The two companies announced their union in August 2016, with the intention of bowing 40 stores throughout the Persian Gulf, in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

Their first locations were expected to debut in Q1 2017; however, Simon Nankervis, chief commercial officer for DSW, told Footwear News that the initial ramp-up took longer than expected. “It’s been challenging to open a multibrand store there because we had to coordinate with all of our vendor partners,” he explained. “But now that we have all our partners on board, we expect to open additional locations at a regular pace.”

Nankervis said the companies chose to debut in Oman because “it was the right location at the right time.” Other advantages of the market are that its population skews young (Euromonitor pegs the median age at 29) and families tend to be large, offering opportunity for DSW’s children’s business.

To cater to the needs of Oman customers, DSW broadened its assortment of sandals to suit a desert climate. It also has adjusted its marketing strategy due to the country’s restrictions on promotions. “[Our messaging there] is about the assortment — we’ve introduced 80 new brands to the marketplace,” said Nankervis.

DSW reports that the store is already meeting expectations, and additional locations in the Gulf could open in the next 12 to 18 months.

The firm also aims to bolster the business by launching a branded e-commerce site for the Middle East in Q1 2018.

“E-commerce in the Middle East has low penetration — the majority of shopping is focused around brick-and-mortar malls,” said Nankervis. “But digital search in those markets is incredibly high, so we see an opportunity to communicate with the customer even before they come into the store.”

Closer to home, the retailer continues to expand its footprint in North America. It currently has 510 doors throughout the U.S. and 24 DSW Canada locations.

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