Shoes for Crews, Fall/Winter ’98

Shoes for Crews’ win of a Silver Award could be considered a triumph of substance over style. While the judges have mixed opinions regarding the catalog’s design, they heartily approve of its solid service policies and selling copy.

A manufacturer/marketer of footwear and floor mats for food service and industrial workers, Shoes for Crews knows that more than anything else, its customers want to protect themselves from slipping on wet, greasy, or slick floors. So the catalog emphasizes the slip-resistance of its products, from its tag line (“America’s leading slip-resistant footwear and floor mats”) to the chart on the inside cover that shows an independent test of nine leading safety-shoe brands (Shoes for Crews comes out on top) to the testimonials (“In the three years of using Shoes for Crews, our Workers’ Compensation loss ratio went from 130% to 19%”) displayed on nearly every product page.

The product descriptions continue the theme, but they tout additional benefits as well: “Our SFC slip-resistant sole is matched with a classic English style wing-tip and updated to include cushioned insoles and a shock absorbent stitched-down outsole. The Executive Wing-tip is significantly more comfortable and safer than those old leather soled dress shoes in your closet.” As one judge puts it, “The copy is easy and enjoyable, and it helps simplify the product selection.”

The judges also like the “60-day wear and compare” guarantee, in which Shoes for Crews promises to make an exchange or give a full refund for shoes returned within 60 days, even if they’ve been worn. The panelists rave not only about the guarantee but also about its prominent display on each spread, beside the equally prominent promotion of the company’s 24-hour toll-free phone and fax lines and its acceptance of four major credit cards. The waiver of shipping and handling charges for standard delivery of orders larger than 12 pairs wins over the judges as well.

One judge is disappointed in the merchandise selection, however: “It’s a little weak in breadth, particularly when it comes to the mats.” Indeed, although the tag line promotes floor mats as well as shoes, the catalog dedicates just one page to selling only one type of mat.

And then there’s the design. Several judges praise the use of action photos and the way in which the prices are called out in bold red type. But at least one judge bemoans the lack of eye flow and goes so far as to call the design “awful.”

Another panelist, however, sums up the design as “not the classiest in the world, but effective” – an opinion supported by what the judges deem an “impressive” response rate. So while the catalog may not be pretty, its target market doesn’t care. Its audience values quality product and service, and on those counts Shoes for Crews apparently delivers.

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