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In October 1997, Wolverine Worldwide bought Merrell, a niche hiking boot brand with modest sales. Two years later the brand, and a single shoe, the Jungle Moc, doubled sales for three straight years for the Rockford, Mich., company.

So what do you do if you are Keith Anderson, director-marketing outdoor group, who oversees the Merrell brand? For starters, you don't live in the past.

"While it was a huge springboard for us, we moved drastically beyond the Jungle Moc," says Mr. Anderson. "It was so over the top successful you would almost be foolish to think you could do it again." (Mr. Anderson credits two Merrell product development executives-Clark Matis and Charles Willis-for inventing the hybrid shoe that started it all.)

Sales growth at Wolverine remains in the double digits, passing $1 billion mark this year. A store-within-a-store program is the biggest marketing expenditure today, with spending anywhere from $16,000 to $40,000 per store to create a permanent presence at more than 153 stores.

"It's been the best return on ROI we've ever seen," Mr. Anderson says. "In stores where we've put in a shop, we've seen sales increase anywhere from 80% to 300%. That's fueling our growth now more than anything and is a lot cheaper than newspaper ads in the end."

At Little's Shoes, a 20,000-square-foot store in Pittsburgh, several permanent 8-foot display walls carry dozens of Merrell styles. "It is a hot brand in our store now and sells like crazy," says Rocco Trocida, general manager.

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