If Baltimore-based retailer Shoe City, which has been around for 65 years, were an actual person, he or she would be the coolest 65-year-old in existence – a social-media-savvy streetwear fanatic. Because even though the company gets older with each passing year, it always manages to stay right on trend with the latest footwear and apparel for men, women and kids. Now in its third-generation of family leadership and celebrating its 65-year anniversary, Shoe City President Greg Greenberg reflects on the lessons passed down by his recently retired father.
“Ted Greenberg has been an incredible mentor for me by instilling a hard-work ethic and a passion for the business,” Greg Greenberg says. “Without his knowledge, guidance and direction, Shoe City would not be where it is today. He leaves behind a great legacy, but his vision will continue on.”
Two years ago, when Greg Greenberg stepped into his current role, Shoe City continued that vision by embarking on a five-year plan to remodel its existing stores while expanding its door count. The company currently operates 33 stores in Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia, as well as an e-commerce site (www.ycmc.com). Shoe City will expand to 36 stores by the end of this year. And as for the remodels, the company has 11 stores displaying its new concept so far and will have 20 reflecting the new look by the end of this year. Marketing Manager Brett Foelber says the design has brought new life to the forward-thinking company.
“The new store model is more of a boutique concept of an exclusive shopping experience,” Foelber explains. “When we remodeled our legacy stores, our long-time customers who saw it for the first time often turned around to check where they were.”
Shoe City created an aspirational VIP atmosphere for its customers using natural accents such as woodgrain floors, granite countertops, brick walls and stone fixtures to provide a high-end yet neutral backdrop for its products. It also upgraded its lighting to LED, which not only saves energy but provides a better spotlight for its merchandise, as well.
As Shoe City continues to renovate its stores and open new ones, the company is also revamping its customer loyalty program to better engage with its customers. It also continues to communicate with customers who have ordered products or registered online via email blasts about exclusive launches, deals and events. For its 65th anniversary, Shoe City showed its appreciation to customers by giving away prizes for one day to the first 65 customers in each store. With the many changes Shoe City has embarked on, it also designed a new, fresh logo epitomizing a new take on its classic downtown Baltimore backdrop that has been the retailer’s image for some time. To celebrate, Shoe City emblazoned the new logo onto a 9Fifty New Era snapback cap.
“I think the progress we’ve made as a company with our remodels, updated logo, marketing, among other initiatives allow our customers to connect with us easier and view us as a premiere retailer,” Foelber says. “We’ve seen huge returns and loyalty from our customers by improving our image.”
Most Valuable Partners
The recent efforts pay off in the vendor community, as well. As Shoe City makes strides to expand its customer base, the brands that it carries reap the benefits. Greenberg says that retro footwear is a big hit in the market and players such as Jordan, Nike and Converse continue to perform strongly. Also, Timberland Boots’ numbers hiked higher this year than in previous years, according to Greenberg. Shoe City continues to build relationships with these vendors along with other valuable brands the retailer carries, such as Puma, New Balance, Adidas and Reebok, to “support their products and collaborate on marketing to strengthen our position in the industry,” Greenberg says.
Greenberg says one of the keys to Shoe City’s success is having the right product. Ensuring that means the company is hitting the pavement, speaking with customers who are leading and following the latest fashion trends. In addition to targeted focus groups, Shoe City’s buyers travel to stores once a week to interact with customers and sales associates to discover what consumers are looking for next. Shoe City’s social media involvement is another tool that lets it know what is on customers’ minds. A simple “like” on Facebook or YouTube and a “double-tap” on Instagram gives Shoe City instant feedback as to the merchandise its customers prefer.
In addition to having the right product, Greenberg insists that another key to its success is having the right people to deliver superior customer service that matches Shoe City’s products and environment. It holds quarterly training sessions with its sales team using the Four Steps to Selling training program as Greenberg continues to encourage the customer-first attitude set out by generations before him.
“We take a lot of pride in welcoming our customers in and giving them an incredible shopping experience,” Greenberg says. “Our customer service and friendly atmosphere have played a huge part in our longevity over the past 65 years.”