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Shoebuy.com Targets Designer Customers

Footwear vendors upbeat on new site.

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NEW YORK — While many argue that the luxury customer is retreating, Shoebuy.com is banking on demand for high-end brands and has launched a new Website, Designer.Shoebuy.com.

“People might be tightening their belts, but that doesn’t take away their desire to buy luxury products,” said Bill Pryor, COO and co-founder of the IAC-owned Shoebuy.

For Shoebuy, the term designer doesn’t necessarily mean high priced. “What defines luxury? You can’t base it on price point. It’s about the representation of the designer or premium lifestyle,” Pryor said.

The site, which went live last week, offers more than 150 designer names, including Hugo Boss, Stuart Weitzman, Kenneth Cole and Corso Como. Men’s, women’s and kids’ brands are represented on Designer.Shoebuy, with price points ranging from $55 for pumps by Michael Antonio to $450 for loafers by Bally.

Pryor said the company first tried to segment the designer offerings within its main site, but soon realized its designer customer wanted a unique presentation. The result, he said, “is an edited, more pared down format. We wanted to achieve the type of shopping experience you would get on New York’s Fifth Avenue or Boston’s Newbury Street.”

As such, footwear is positioned in “brand boutiques,” which help express the lifestyle rather than simply product. Technological features, including slideshow imagery and editorial commentary, enhance the shopping experience, said Pryor. Like the original site, Designer.Shoebuy’s services include free shipping, free return shipping and user reviews.

Although there are no shortages of e-tailers specializing in designer footwear, vendors said that niche positioning of brands — designer or otherwise — is the future of online retailing.

“It was a challenge for us not to get lost in all the brands on Shoebuy,” said Jim Biolos, CFO at Farylrobin, which is now offered on Designer.Shoebuy. “Any online retailer that is not segmenting their business is going to fail. The best retailers are thinking about customers in very targeted ways, and we want to place our bets with those retailers.”

Bob Galvin, president of The Camuto Group — whose BCBG Maxazria, Jessica Simpson and Vince Camuto brands are among those on Shoebuy’s new site — argues that the company’s unique take on the designer category gives it a leg up.

“Shoebuy is saying that designer brands don’t have to start at $500. It’s more about the attitude, design and aesthetic than the price,” he said.

That tenet has proved helpful, since much of the company’s site was built from labels already present on Shoebuy.com. But, Pryor said, the new site has been able to attract new labels, such as Bally, and increase penetration in current labels with premium divisions, including 1883 by Lucchese.

In addition, Pryor said he believes that non-footwear categories, such as handbags and jewelry, could be a boon on the designer site. “Since we’re targeting a luxury consumer, it’s all about a lifestyle,” he said.

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