Lots of brands reward loyal customers with fancy perks, but shoe retailer DSW is moving in the opposite direction. The retailer is asking its VIP members to compete to win a trip to an impoverished Caribbean destination where they’ll hand out mountains of donated shoes.
DSW, one of the largest partners of Soles4Souls, a charity that distributes shoes in impoverished areas all around the world, says the idea stemmed from members’ enthusiastic donation rates. It believes the contest is the first of its kind.
“When we relaunched our VIP program last May, we began giving people 50 reward points every time they donated a pair of shoes,” says Simone Pace, senior director of marketing strategy for the Columbus, Ohio-based chain.
Response from its 26 million members was so strong, DSW decided to go a step further. “We wanted to give members the chance to take the shoes that have been given to us by our generous customers, and see how they’re distributed,” Pace tells Marketing Daily.
“The shoes are given out in economically depressed areas and turned into microbusinesses, many owned by women. It changes their lives, and we wanted to give our members a chance to see that in person. We’re trying to bring the experience full circle.”
So far, the contest has generated an impressive 2,000 entry essays, which she says are being read by an internal team. “We’ll choose 10 people who we feel put the most heart and soul into their story,” she says. The winners and a guest will fly to the Dominican Republic, all expenses paid, for four days in August, and participate in handing out the shoes.
She says it’s another way the company is trying to differentiate itself. “People can buy shoes in many places, and our competitors run the gamut from online sellers to department stores,” she says. “But this isn’t something you can buy anywhere else. It’s an experience you can only get at DSW."
The company, which is also experimenting with adding W Nail Bar locations in stores, is doing well in a particularly brutal retail segment. While rival Payless ShoeSource recently filed for bankruptcy, DSW reported a 17% jump in sales in its latest quarterly results, with comparable sales rising 7.3%.