Shoe Catalog Is Anything But Pedestrian

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Flipping through a copy of SimplySoles, a catalog of designer shoes for women, it quickly becomes clear that its creators have a passion for shoes. And they're not alone. Based on the results of the catalog's first mailing in August to 30,000 households, a second edition drops this week to 60,000 names.


SimplySoles, Washington, DC, looks anything but pedestrian. Most pages feature just one pair of shoes photographed large enough to make out the fiber on a pair of tweed pumps that appeared in the fall edition. This lets the browser "see all the details, almost as if the shoe is there," owner Kassie Rempel said.


Rempel got the idea for SimplySoles after being unable to find parking near the trendy boutiques in Washington that carry the designer shoes she craves.


The business was started with two types of women in mind: those in metropolitan areas with limited shopping and/or parking (not Los Angeles or New York City), and those in rural areas who are passionate about shoes but who lack local access to chic footwear.


The first mailing "confirmed our theory that women living in areas without access to these shoes want a more convenient way to purchase them," she said.


Several smaller cities that she and her staff had never heard of -- such as Lookout Mountain, GA -- became hotspots for the first catalog. These rural customers made up SimplySoles' largest customer group from the first mailing.


The catalog's selection of designers includes Bettye Muller, Delman, Taryn Rose, Christian Lacroix and Marc Jacobs.


"We excluded Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik because they have a buzz around them and you can find them in a number of places," Rempel said. "The shopper looking for these shoes is most likely looking for just these shoes."


SimplySoles' target consumer is interested in a well-made, well-designed shoe. She may be into fashion but she has her own individual style, Rempel said.


The shoes range in price from $65 per pair to $420.


The best-selling line is Taryn Rose, which was created by an orthopedic surgeon. Each pair is handmade in Italy. The consumer interested in this line is usually older than 30 and "wants the luxury of the most comfort possible when it comes to fashionable footwear," Rempel said.


The second edition of the catalog has 36 pages, just like the first. It includes 37 styles while the first showcased 34. The new edition also features a few handbags, shoe bags, foot cushions and foot and leg lotions that didn't appear in the first.


Rempel didn't raise page count because she wants to keep the shopping experience pleasurable.


"What can become overwhelming when shopping is the exhaustive selection, which inhibits shopping," she said.


Rempel also won't increase the catalog's frequency beyond twice yearly.


SimplySoles will continue to target affluent metropolitan and rural consumers. It also eyes people who might be housebound by renting the list of a maternity and baby products catalog.


The simplysoles.com site was updated recently to allow for more traffic. This was necessary because the company started marketing the site independently of the catalog in October via ads in fashion-based newsletters.


"This has been extremely successful in generating brand awareness for SimplySoles," Rempel said.


The site now gets a consistent number of orders from customers who never received the catalog.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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