Payless steps to Barkley as shoe market shuffles

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Hoping to hold onto its footing as the nation's largest family footwear retailer in the shifting marketplace, Payless ShoeSource has moved its $80 million ad account to Barkley Evergreen & Partners, Kansas City, Mo.

Barkley will handle all marketing functions for both Payless and its Parade of Shoes chain, which has 222 stores that sell mid-price women's shoes. Barkley was the incumbent on Parade of Shoes.

With the combined account, Barkley will handle strategic planing, creative, public relations, media planning, sales promotion and event marketing.

TN Media -- a sibling of former creative shop FCB Worldwide, Chicago, under True North Communications -- is making a pitch to retain media buying FCB continues with international projects.

Payless, with same-store sales up a scant 0.6% for the first 10 months of its fiscal year, has faced stiff competition this year as retailers such as Just for Feet -- which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection -- began holding clearance sales.

At the same time, Kmart Corp. and other mass merchandisers have begun to push competing brands, such as Thom McAnn.


Payless is predicating growth on four areas: revenue from the recently acquired Parade chain, added stores in Canada, expansion of a partnership with retailer ShopKo Stores and an online initiative.

Barkley picked up the estimated $10 million Parade of Shoes account a year ago and made several changes to the advertising that helped turn comparable-store sales around. "Shoes. Style. Inspiration. Parade" became the theme for the women's shoe chain's campaign. TV spots airing in Chicago and New York show how shoes can change a fashion look.

Barkley "has done very well with Parade and will be applying their ideas to the overall Payless brand," a company spokesman said. "We needed a fresh approach."

The spokesman said Payless has yet to determine if the switch to Barkley will result in a change in its media mix.

In 1998, Payless spent $63 million on advertising, the bulk -- about $54 million -- on network TV, according to Competitive Media Reporting. Through June, measured spending was $34 million, with $29 million in network TV.

Barkley's founder and CEO Bill Fromm said the shop's biggest challenge is to find ways to get consumers to make an extra trip to Payless instead of buying at Wal-Mart, or to Parade of Shoes instead of a department store. "We've got to engage the consumer and give them a reason to come in," he said. The reason, he said, "can't only be price."

With the win, Barkley expects its billings to increase to $300 million next year.

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