Shoes spin-off for Schnee’s

Sep 01, 2007 9:30 PM  By

Nestled in the American Rockies, hunting products retailer Schnee’s is a Montana landmark that’s had a catalog for nearly 20 years. The multichannel merchant is setting off on a new path with its spin-off title Shoes for Life.

The 40-page Shoes for Life catalog, which dropped the first week in August, sells casual shoes for the family with an active lifestyle. Although Schnee’s would not disclose the mailing quantity, it is planning three additional mailings of the book this fall. The company’s core 72-page Hunting Collection catalog, which also sells some footwear along with its outdoor gear and apparel, mails five times a year to hunting enthusiasts.

The shoes spin-off idea came about from the company’s retail customers, according to Jon Edwards, president/CEO of Schnee’s (pronounced shnays, and German for snow). “We have a loyal group of customer who visit Yellowstone and Bozeman, Montana each year, and they’ve been asking us to create something that would allow them to take a little something home with them,” he says.

The spin-off is also the latest move designed to grow Schnee’s multichannel efforts. It started with one store in 1974 and now has three. Last year, Schnee’s purchased a local landmark, The Powder Horn, a 12,000 sq.-ft. hunting products store that had been serving Bozeman residents for more than 50 years. The Schnee’s Website went live in 1998 and was redesigned in 2005.

No matter the channel, Schnee’s prides itself on old-school service. In the catalog and online, Schnee’s duplicates the old-fashioned shoe sales clerk. For example, each customer service rep undergoes what Edwards calls “fitting stool” training, which comes in handy for answering customer queries regarding sizing and fit. CSRs also learn about shoe construction and materials used. “Our CSRs are trained as if fitting customers on the retail floor,” he says. “Purchasing shoes via mail order and online is a hurdle for customers, so we want to do everything we can to try to overcome that.”

Though it’s too early for results, Edwards foresees a time when Schnee’s will mail additional spin-off titles designed for hiking and backpacking. “We think this is a business that we can grow in the future and provide another channel in which to attract customers,” he says.