After 60 years, Shoe Show Inc. decided it was time to play a bigger role in the retail conversation. Under the leadership of President Lisa Tucker, the chain of more than 1,110 stores nationwide, is taking a more aggressive approach to marketing to increase brand awareness.
According to Vicki O’Donnell, chief marketing officer and chief construction officer, the decision to step things up was driven in part by the discovery that some longtime customers are unable to identify the chain’s Shoe Show and Shoe Dept. banners.
“We’ve been quiet for too long,” O’Donnell said. “We have much to offer the customer, and we have very loyal ones. But there are a lot of people, even in our hometown of Kannapolis, N.C., who don’t know who we are and what we do. Yet ,when I say that we’re the store down the corner, they say, ‘Yes, I shop there all the time.’”
Despite Shoe Show Inc.’s historically low-key approach to marketing, business has continued to grow at a fast clip. “We’ve had record years over the last five years, with comp store growth up 8% and profits up by double digits,” Tucker said.
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While many companies spend millions of dollars on advertising, Tucker and O’Donnell agree pricey spots don’t always yield sufficient returns. “It was costing us more in some markets, and it was OK if we did it and OK if we didn’t,” O’Donnell said of previous marketing spends. “If anything suffered, it was our public awareness — but not the business itself.”
Today’s digital age has also compelled Shoe Show Inc. to get out in front of the public in a more prominent way. “We’re going to spend more money because we haven’t spent any for the past 10 years,” O’Donnell said, adding that the company recently hired Dallas-based advertising agency The Richards Group, known for high-profile accounts such as Chick-fil-A. “It’s time to toot our horn and be more out there. Everyone turns on the TV and hears about companies going broke or shutting their doors, and with the [opportunity] we’ve been given with Payless [closing], it was the perfect storm. We’re growing so quickly that now’s the perfect time to let people know who we are.”
The new marketing push includes TV, YouTube and Google ads, in addition to social media. O’Donnell personally handles all social posts, keeping the lines of communication between the stores and consumers more personal. She encourages customers to join the conversation by inviting them to comment on subjects such as who they’re rooting for during a sporting event.
The company also gets involved with the communities it serves, a fundamental part of the Tucker family’s ethos. Today, Shoe Show Inc. supports organizations that have included Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Bob and Carol Tucker Inpatient Unit at Hospice & Palliative Care of Cabarrus County, and the Tucker Student Center at Gardner-Webb University.
(Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Feb. 17 print issue of FN, which observed the 60th anniversary of Shoe Show Inc.)
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