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FN's Private Eyes

Our secret shoppers infiltrate six major department stores.

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Even in the world of high-end, luxe stores and dazzling designer brand names, it’s a consumer’s market.

Footwear News recently asked two secret shoppers to visit stores earlier this month in New York and Los Angeles to critique the shoe departments at six upscale department stores: Barneys New York, Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue. Melanie Kletter took on the Big Apple, while Anne-Marie Otey shopped Los Angeles and ventured farther south to the upscale South Coast Plaza mall for a wider selection.

Our shoppers were given a simple task: To find a fun, stylish designer boot for fall. They were both asked to also take notes on what they saw and heard inside the departments, including their observations on the best bargains — and there were many to be found — best fit, hottest looks and the quality of the service they received.

It’s not exactly a shocker that department stores have been slashing prices to drum up business, and our shoppers found plenty of customers eager to take advantage of the marked-down goods. Brian Atwood slingbacks were 60 percent off already reduced prices, at $225.

That’s not to say stores are shying away from more expensive shoes. Barneys New York was selling a Christian Louboutin yellow crocodile pump for $4,600. But stores varied in how much fall product they carried, and one retailer even featured a boot from 2008 in its display window.

In general, our shoppers found the service to be helpful and straight forward, with a few pushy salespeople clearly hoping to bank a commission, while others provided more aloof assistance.

What follows are the in-depth findings, experiences and opinions of our two seasoned shoppers.

 

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