If the shoe fits, Hy-Vee is hoping consumers will want to buy it at a supermarket.
Hy-Vee in April announced its partnership with DSW Designer Shoe Warehouse, but the launch was pulled back a bit due to the pandemic.
Now the shoes are in the stores and the marketing campaign has begun.
Why would a regional supermarket chain and a national shoe chain tie themselves together?
"People go to grocery stores a lot more often than shoe stores, so we wanted to put our product in front of shoppers more often," said Bill Jordan, chief growth officer for Designer Brands, which owns DSW. "Customers today are looking for convenience. They want to get as much shopping done in as few places as possible."
It's not the first partnership for either company. Hy-Vee's first fashion dive began in 2016 with the apparel brand F&F. Midwesterners were skeptical of the unknown European fast-fashion brand so last year it was replaced with Joe Fresh, a line with stronger appeal to moms with young kids.
Hy-Vee launched the DSW pilot online and in more than 120 of its stores, including all Twin Cities stores. The display started as a simple pallet format, and has since launched to larger displays.
In August, designated store-within-a-store sections ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet will replace the small displays. The Brooklyn Park Hy-Vee will get the first designated DSW section, and about 10 more stores will get the section later this year.
Hy-Vee remains committed to fashion retail partnerships as a way to attract consumers who are not only time bound but also attracted to places such as Target, Walmart or even Menards that offer one-stop shopping.
"Quality footwear and accessories will always serve as a top need for the American consumer, which is why we've made these solutions available to our shoppers," Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker said in a statement.
Supermarket analyst Phil Lempert of Supermarketguru.com thinks the third time may be the charm for Hy-Vee.
"Hy-Vee's missteps with F&F and Joe Fresh was all about branding, not merchandise or pricing. Shoppers didn't know those brands," he said. "DSW is a good solid brand that does have a lot more awareness. DSW is also known for discounts, and as we [are in] a recession could be a good draw into the Hy-Vee stores for both current shoppers and those who are shopping at other stores."
Two shoppers who patronize both Cub and Hy-Vee were split on the idea as they shopped Monday at Cub in the Minneapolis Quarry.
"Hy-Vee sells clothes and makeup so why not sell shoes?" asked Thomas Lutz of Minneapolis. "I'm fine with it, but some shoppers might find it distracting. I hope they have a seating spot to try them on."
Lili Korbuly-Johnson of St. Louis Park won't go to Hy-Vee for a shoe run anytime soon.
"It's not appealing to me," she said. "Shoes don't belong in grocery stores."
The idea came about when Edeker and Designer Brands CEO Roger Rawlins met at a conference. "They started to talk about innovation," said Jordan. "The two of them are among the most innovative in retail and they wanted to see how they could work together."
Hy-Vee was one of the first in the Twin Cities to offer conveniences such as drive-through pharmacies, a post office, dry cleaning and small kitchen appliances for its customers.
DSW was one of the first retailers to group its shoes by end use such as sandals or high heels rather than by designers such as Nine West. It also was among the first to sell its shoes open-style with boxes on the sales floor.
Hy-Vee's DSW collection includes hundreds of styles that will change with the season. Women's sizes range from 6 to 12 and men's from 8 to 13, in half sizes. Kids shoes will come in full sizes only.
Once the store-in-store departments are built, the space will carry about 200 styles.
The line can also be viewed in the Aisles Online section at Hy-Vee.com.
For safety and security, shoe returns are set aside for three days. Shoes tried on in the store but not purchased are put in a "try-on area" for disinfection.