As part of its continuing efforts to shore up its online offerings, Sears says it is launching Sears.com Shoe Experience Website, a 450-brand emporium that it will push through social marketing efforts.
The retailer hopes its microsite, hosted by fashion stylist Francesca Mills, will blend the feeling of blogs, social media and commerce with more engaging -- and even useful -- commentary. For example, a well-known mom blogger runs down the ins and outs of back-to-school shoe shopping.
The content covers trends for fashion, kids, fitness, and work. It even includes a feature called "Personal Shoe Shopper," which allows users to upload photos of an outfit as well as their style parameters, and within 24 hours, they receive a selection of shoes.
In addition to a presence on Facebook, the Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based chain is also promoting the site on Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo.
People have become increasingly receptive to buying shoes online: A recent Consumer Reports survey found that 90% of those who bought shoes online were happy with the experience, with category leader Zappos also No. 1 in customer satisfaction.
And it looks like department stores may be regaining favor, at least among younger shoe shoppers. A brand-new report from NPD Group, the Port Washington, N.Y.-based market research company, finds that teens up to 17 -- avid consumers of athletic footwear who are buying 20% of shoes in the category during the back-to-school season -- still say buying shoes from mass merchants and discounters is their first choice. But they are increasingly open to department store shoes.
"For male teens, department stores have moved up four places this year to the number two place for converting shoppers into buyers of athletic footwear," NPD reports. "Department stores also moved up in the ranking among female teen shoppers and by two places, from number six last year to number four this year."
Sears made two unrelated announcements, hiring David Friedman as SVP/president, marketing, overseeing all marketing for the company. Most recently, he had been president of Razorfish's Americas unit.
And it's kicking off a nationwide Santa talent search, looking for "five very unique Santas, each with their own special approach to Christmas," to appear in holiday promotions through the end of the year.
The casting call, looking for everything from a Savvysanta to a Procrastisanta, involves uploading a one-minute video. Santas will be selected in early October and will earn $50,000 each for their appearance in the ad campaign.