DSW has completely changed its stores and rewards program as it tries to take on Amazon-owned Zappos -- here's what it's like to shop there now

Arielle TschinkelDSW is shaking things up with a brand-new look and revamped rewards program.
  • DSW, in an effort to take on retail giants like Amazon-owned Zappos, is shaking things up with a brand new look and revamped rewards program.
  • We visited DSW’s “lab store” in Columbus, Ohio to check out the new in-store features, which include a concierge area for shoe repair, a full-service nail salon, and so much more.

In response to the growth of online retailers like Zappos and its parent company,Amazon, shoe and accessories giantDSWhas unveiled plans to completely revitalize its in-store shopping experience.

In the last year, DSW’s business had its high points, including three consecutive quarters of positive comparable sales in footwear, according to its Marchearnings report. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Sales and earnings took a dip in the fall of 2017 – causing the company’s stocks to do the same. CEO Roger Rawlins attributed this to “anunusually severe hurricane season” in an earnings release.

But the company is determined to win back customers who enjoy the convenience of online shopping, Rawlins and Simon Nankervis, DSW’s chief commercial officer, told Business Insider. DSW plans to achieve this by adding new in-store features, including a brand-new store design that blends fun with functionality, a concierge area for shoe repair and shoe donation, a full-service nail salon, as well as an overhaul of its rewards program (which currently boasts25 million members, according to a press release announcing the revamp).

Business Insider visited DSW’s “lab store” in Columbus, Ohio, to see the changes in person.

The DSW in Columbus, known as the Polaris store, is close to the company’s headquarters and is one of its largest stores, with space for more than 70,000 pairs of shoes.

Arielle TschinkelThe chain has more than 500 stores globally.

At DSW, shoppers will notice a new look as stores undergo remodelling. Nankervis told Business Insider that the sleek new design will no longer look like a chaotic “sea of shoes,” but instead make their stores inviting. New displays will showcase more available in-store merchandise, with shelf space for50,000 pairs of shoesinstead of the previous 30,000.

DSW is looking to provide a lively yet relaxing in-store experience by streamlining the browsing process.

Arielle TschinkelThe company is bringing its original concept of a shoe warehouse back to life, but elevating the experience.

The company is bringing its original concept of a shoe warehouse back to life, but elevating the experience so that shoppers can get what they want without losing the fun of shoe shopping.

Clearer signage, brighter lighting, and reverting to the original warehouse design will allow customers to peruse the items more easily.

Customers can shop their favourite brands all in one place at DSW’s shop-in-shop sections.

Arielle TschinkelConsumers can quickly access their favourite brands while shopping styles exclusive to DSW within the shop-in-shop sections.

The Polaris store currently features a shop-in-shop display by Nike, which is a fully separate section devoted to Nike merchandise. By changing out these shop-in-shop displays monthly, consumers can quickly access their favourite brands while shopping styles exclusive to DSW.

These displays will be changed out monthly in each store, highlighting the newest and most popular styles from top brands, Nankervis said.

The front of each store will feature a kids section, which will hit all stores in time for back-to-school shopping this summer.

Arielle TschinkelThe kids section will feature bright orange, open spaces for kids to play.

The company has never before created a designated kids section, and each one will be filled with bright orange, open spaces for kids to play. Nankervis and Rawlins said that they’re not offering child care, but will instead specialize in “child entertaining,” so that parents can feel safe with their kids browsing the store.

Clothing and accessories, including jewellery and handbags, will be displayed alongside shoes.

Arielle TschinkelDisplays of clothing and accessories will help customers visualise future outfits.

The displays will help shoppers to visualise their full outfit from head to toe.

Each aisle will feature additional in-line benches, for a more comfortable experience when trying things on.

Arielle TschinkelShopping for shoes will feel more open but intimate in the new design.

Shopping for shoes will feel more open but intimate in the new design, because with more options on display and more sizes readily available, it will be easier for customers to find the sizes they need. More seating allows for a more relaxing shopping experience.

Stores will also feature a concierge area called the Sole Lounge, a one-stop shop for pick-up, shoe repair, custom insole creation, and shoe donation.

Arielle TschinkelIf you have old, worn shoes collecting dust in the back of your closet, you can bring them to the Sole Lounge for donation, even if they weren’t originally purchased at DSW.

According to apress release, Margaret Standing, DSW’s director of corporate communications, said, “In-store shoe donations will benefit DSW’s philanthropic partnerSoles4Souls, which creates sustainable jobs and provides relief through the distribution of shoes and clothing in the US, Canada, and around the world.”

Stores will also have repair services, so if your heel is broken or your soles are worn down, you can bring them in for repair within seven days. In 2019, the company is relaunching itsapp, which will give status updates on your shoes as they’re being worked on.

At the Fit Step Pro station, shoppers can get custom insoles, with over 25 options for the perfect fit.

Arielle TschinkelGet a custom insole at the Fit Step Pro Station.

You can take them home in 30 minutes.

Shoppers can also relax and take advantage of new device charging stations while they wait.

The company is also testing out in-store nail salons.

Arielle TschinkelThe W Nail Bar in Columbus is DSW’s first-ever in-store nail bar.

DSW will partner with local salons to offer full-service nail treatments, including manicures, pedicures, and polish changes while you shop.

In an exclusive partnership withThe W Nail Bar, a family-owned salon in Columbus, DSW shoppers can enjoy the first-ever in-store nail bar, which offers nail art and gel manicures and pedicures so your colour won’t chip when you try on your new shoes.

Appointments are recommended, because the salon has seen a spike in popularity since its opening in December 2017.

Arielle Tschinkel

Owners Manda Mason and Lauren Hunter wanted to create a clean, comfortable environment forDSW Polariscustomers to enjoy their manicures and pedicures at this location, as they do at their other two Columbus standalone salons.

If the 2,000-square-foot Polaris salon continues to do well, DSW plans to expand and add nail bars in other store locations in the future, Rawlins and Nankervis said.

The retailer is also introducing its redesigned loyalty program, called DSW VIP.

Arielle TschinkelDSW VIP will now feature three tiers: VIP Club, VIP Gold, and VIP Elite.

Currently available to the company’s 25 million existing rewards members,DSW VIPwill now feature three tiers: VIP Club, which is free to join, VIP Gold, earned when you spend $US200 annually, and VIP Elite, earned when you spend $US500 annually.

All three tiers receive $US5 birthday rewards, while Gold and Elite can also give two $US5 birthday rewards to friends and enjoy early access to exclusive offers and events. All tiers also get free shipping on any purchase and free in-store returns, VIP Gold members get free online returns, and VIP Elite members get free two-day shipping on all purchases.

Eventually, the store’s new services, including nail salons, repair services, and shoe donation, will also earn DSW VIP members points toward future purchases.

DSW VIP members will also receive early access to exclusive styles, which will be in a separate display in each store.

Arielle TschinkelVIP members get a first look at new styles.

Rewards members can get a sneak peek of what will be available a week before other shoppers can snag them.

Checkout lines will also be streamlined and will offer drinks and snacks.

Arielle TschinkelChanges largely came from customer feedback.

Execs told Business Insider that most of these changes and upgrades came directly from customer feedback, noting that shoppers at DSW have a voice in their shoe shopping experience.

The leadership team wants shoppers to feel like a VIP from the moment they walk into a DSW.

Arielle TschinkelOnly time will tell if the company’s other 512 stores will see these upgrades, but if they prove to be successful in winning consumers back, it seems likely that they will.

As Michele Love, DSW’s chief operating officer and executive vice president, told Business Insider, “Our customersarevery important people, so we want every member to feel like a VIP when they shop at DSW.”

So far,four DSW storeshave been revamped in the Polaris model, including locations in Dadeland, Florida; Yonkers, New York; Oakbrook, Illinois; and San Diego, California, according to Forbes.

Four upcoming stores, including two in Florida, one in Texas, and one in Las Vegas, Nevada, will also get these design elements. Only time will tell if the company’s other 512 stores will see these upgrades, but if they prove to be successful in winning consumers back, it seems likely that they will.

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