Naturalizer’s brand makeover lifts sales

One look at the revamped Naturalizer catalog and it’s clear that these are not your mother’s Naturalizers. The St. Louis-based manufacturer/merchant of women’s shoes has been working for more than six years on a brand repositioning that involved overhauling the product line, updating its logo, redesigning stores, and giving its catalog and Website a makeover.

The changes paid off: Vice president of marketing Warren Colter says that sales for the spring 2005 catalog — the first after the repositioning was unveiled — were up 11%, with response up 34% and return on investment up more than 150%. With the spring 2006 catalog, ROI rose 40%, and ROI for the summer 2006 book was up in the high double-digits as well.

Introduced in 1927, Naturalizer used to target mature women for whom comfort was more of a priority than style. But during the past eight years it has succeeded in winning over younger women. Today its average customer is 40-45 years old — 15-20 years younger than the average customer a decade ago — and seeking footwear that is stylish as well as comfortable.

“We looked at our growth prospects and asked what was needed to grow the brand,” says Colter.

Style and substance

The first thing Naturalizer decided to do was to upgrade the quality of materials used in its shoes, switching from synthetic materials to leather. The company also analyzed fashion trend data and transactional product data to introduce more-fashionable styles.

In spring 2005, Naturalizer redesigned its catalog — which has an annual circulation of 4 million-7 million — to include softer, feminine imagery. Catalogs now use props and backgrounds tied to the accompanying lifestyle photographs as backdrops for its product photography. Pagination analysis revealed the book’s optimum page density, which is four to six items, as well as the proper pacing to increase both interest and shelf life.

Around the same time, Naturalizer began making over its 291 stores to reflect the new brand standard. Targeting aspirational customers, stores were redesigned with a softer color palette of beige, chocolate, and coral.Large copper-framed mirrors and a tree were also introduced in each location. “The store feels lighter even though it’s the same square footage. It’s more inviting, softer, more feminine, and warmer,” says Colter. Remodeled stores are outperforming those not yet remodeled.

And this past spring Naturalizer revamped its Website to reflect what consumers see in the stores and catalog. The site features more pictures — at least eight views of each product, compared with two prior to the redesign — as well as style and trend pages updated to complement the new direction of the brand. To promote the Website’s upgraded “wish list” function, Naturalizer launched a weekly Wish and Win contest, which it promoted in its stores and catalogs, as well as online. Website traffic is up more than 40% from last year, Colter says, and business is up about 50%.

Naturalizer’s opt-in e-mail database has tripled during the brand reinvention due to “more disciplined” e-mail campaigns, says Colter. Customers now receive e-mails letting them know of special promotions and birthday discounts, among other messages. Naturalizer also works with a consultant to append rented e-mail addresses to the names and mailing addresses it has gathered at its stores or through catalog orders. The company also builds its file by asking its retail and online customers for their e-mail address.

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