As Shoppers Reach ‘Peak Stuff,’ DSW Vegas Store Pushes Dazzle, Like A Giant Shoe Vending Machine


DSW is adapting the engagement-builds-shopper-bonds ethos of its Columbus, Ohio, innovation lab store to a new location in Las Vegas with splashy features befitting the Vegas strip, like a video tunnel that simulates swimming under water.

The 11,500-square-foot store in the Showcase Mall, nearly half the size of the average 20,000-square-foot DSW unit, is an outgrowth of the retailer’s mission to forge an emotional connection with consumers via experiences and services, like the custom in-sole shops at the Columbus store, expanded assortments, such as the addition of kids’ footwear, and more exclusive shoe collections that customers can’t find anywhere else. It’s a strategic positioning that CEO Roger Rawlins says “Amazon can’t touch.”

Building off that foundation, the Las Vegas store goes for sensory immersion, with features like a “video tunnel” designed to make customers feel as if they’re flying over a city, swimming under water, or walking through a desert, when in reality they’re traveling down an escalator on to the DSW sales floor.

The store also features a “Shoevator,” or shoe elevator, akin to a giant shoe vending machine. Customers order shoes via app or a store kiosk from a display wall featuring three elevator lifts that operate from a mezzanine over the sales floor. A store associate picks the ordered shoes and then sends them in a numbered bin via the Shoevator to the sales floor, where the consumer picks it up.

DSW, with more than 500 stores in 44 states, is angling to stir shoppers’ self expression and cater to their service needs, pivoting beyond merely selling stuff – which alone, often no longer cuts it for retailers these days, Rawlins told me.

Indeed, choice-rich shoppers who can now get anything online have reached “peak stuff,” according to a new study from YouGov and FreshRelevance.

“With retail changing at lighting speed, DSW has had success differentiating by creating experiences that engage customers in-store,” Rawlins said. “The services we’re testing at our Polaris lab store in Columbus — nail bars, repair services, and custom inserts — all give consumers a new reason to visit the store, drive traffic and help us acquire new customers.”

“Our new Las Vegas store was another great opportunity to innovate by creating unique experiences you can only find on the Vegas strip,” he said. “Inspired by our warehouse conveyor system, the Las Vegas store’s ‘Shoevator’ is another reinterpretation our warehouse heritage, much like the new store design and fixture package we’ve been testing in Polaris and in other markets.”

Almost one in four (22%) of shoppers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that offers related amenities like personal stylists or a makeover, the FreshRelevance/YouGov findings revealed.

Experiential retail is particularly key for brands targeting Millennials, now the nation’s biggest buying group, who are more inclined to buy from a retailer that delivers a unique experience in relation to their merchandise assortment, the survey found.

DSW’s CEO seems to agree. Rawlins said in May: “We are a firm believer that if you are a brand of brands, and not finding a way to differentiate your model, you will go away.”