Armed with a list of studio requirements for class, most dancers don’t come to your store to browse for footwear. Still, dance retailers find value in creating eye-catching displays that show off the range of their shoe selection. “I’m a destination,” says Ashley Kelly, owner of Dance Depot in South Daytona, FL. “People come to me for something specific, but when they see what we offer, they usually bring [new styles] back to their studio and tell them about it.”
An attractive display of your shoe selection and fully stocked shelves will go a long way toward boosting sales and satisfying customers: When shoppers see you have a large inventory, they feel more confident that you can meet their dancewear needs. Plus, showcasing everything you stock can encourage extra sales among recreational dancers and even studios. For example, Kelly once had a studio pick up a new jazz shoe because a dancer saw it on her shelf and requested it for her competition team. Having a display that allows dancers to easily see your offerings makes the fitting experience more enjoyable for customers and easier for staff.
You can achieve similar results in your shoe department with some small changes to your shoe displays. Here, we turned to our most trusted sources to learn what fixtures and display techniques they use, and what storage methods work best. Take a look at the eye-catching designs they have created in their stores.
Close at Hand
Activity Pointe, Torrance, CA
Owner Vicky Lambert knows that pointe shoe fittings can take time. She intentionally arranged her merchandise so that almost all of her shoes could be stocked neatly in shelves on the sales floor, where she could easily access them. During fittings she uses a large basket to carry shoe options back and forth between the display and the stage area, where she fits dancers.
Lambert, who danced with Alvin Ailey before opening her store, holds all of her shoes in three large shelving units that measure four feet across and seven feet tall and are located on the right-hand side of the store, behind the cash wrap. Lambert and her friend, Jessica Simmons, a display coordinator for Anthropologie, worked together to design the shoe-fitting area. “We dedicated an entire summer to scouring antique markets to design the store,” she says. “I thought we would have to have shelving units built, but then we saw these shelves and thought they were perfect.” They found them at a unique furniture store in Los Angeles called HD Buttercup.
Shoes are stored in plastic bags rather than in boxes, so it’s easy for Lambert to see the style, and they take up less space on the shelf. “Plus I like the aesthetic of it,” she adds. “For a dancer, open shelves full of shoes are like being a kid in a candy store.”
For Each Shoe, A Shelf
Dance Depot, South Daytona, FL
Ashley Kelly mounted several black floating shelves on the left-hand wall of her store. Inspired by a display image she saw in Dance Retailer News that featured similar shelves, Kelly set out to create her own version. “I drew my husband a picture of what I wanted and found the shelves at IKEA,” she says. “He installed them.”
Each shelf holds a shoe that Kelly can easily reach when a customer comes in and is looking at options. “I wanted to put out one of each shoe that we carry, so we could easily access them to show people what we carry instead of pulling all the boxes out,” she says. She adds that displaying each shoe style has led to increased sales. Often, when dancers see a new style they like, they will tell their studio about it, which leads to increased orders from local dance teachers.
The rest of the wall is filled with open shelves that hold the majority of her shoe inventory. “As busy as we get during back-to-school, I can’t imagine running back and forth to get shoes,” Kelly says. “It would double or triple the amount of time we spend with a customer. While I would prefer to not have all the boxes showing, I have tried to make it look as nice as possible.”
Kelly doesn’t have room for all of her shoe inventory on the sales floor, but she does keep it stocked with one of every size, and sometimes multiples, of every style she carries.
Ennie’s Dancewear, Kenner, LA
“Intimate” is the word that owner Stacy Rouen uses to describe the shoe-fitting area in her store. She purposely kept the space small when designing her store in order to create a more personal experience for the customer. “This keeps the customer from feeling as though they are being herded through like cattle,” she says. “The tiny dancers feel protected and calm in smaller spaces, without a bunch of anxious people staring at them.”
Similarly, Rouen keeps her shoe display streamlined. She only showcases one of each style and color on acrylic shelves mounted to slatwall. “I display the different styles of shoes that I carry in the color options that we keep in stock. If I carry multiple brands of specific styles, I only display one,” she says. “I’ve come to realize that customers become overwhelmed with too many options staring at them. By adequately communicating with each customer, it is easy to figure out what they want and need.”
During fittings, Rouen will work with dancers to narrow down the style and color they need and from there will fit them in the right brand for their needs. “This level of customer service is superior to picking a shoe off a display, as is common in big-box stores,” she says. “Boxes on the sales floor encourage customers to help themselves. We cannot educate customers on how shoes should properly fit if they help themselves.” She adds that keeping her inventory off the sales floor adds to the boutique aesthetic. “Stacks of boxes on the sales floor feels more big-box,” she says.
Homey Details—Plus Rhinestones
Dance Happy Dancewear, Hamilton, ON
Dance Happy Dancewear is located in a building that used to be a home and features many noncommercial details (like a working fireplace) that make the space unique. Owner Stephenie Peters takes advantage of this for her displays. For instance, she uses the mantel to display shoes. “I wanted to retain much of the original feel of the house, so I decided the fireplace would be an easy and pretty way to display stock,” she says. “It happened to be the perfect size to show our shoes. It also was well-placed in front of our large mirror, for customers to try their shoes once fitted, and had convenient space in front for seating for shoe fittings.”
The mantel currently displays jazz slip-on shoes, two styles of half-sole lyrical shoes, three styles of ballet slippers and oxford tap shoes. Lyrical turners and gymnastics half-soles are hung on the facade behind the mantel, and Peters says that’s where she’ll display future new merchandise she brings in.
To make the fittings run more smoothly, Peters set out two pink, rhinestone stools. She also took pairs of discontinued tights and cut the legs off them to create socks for fittings. “We call them ‘cheaters’ and use them to ensure a proper fit, since most dancers will be wearing tights with their shoes,” she says. “They also double as a sanitary barrier between feet and shoes that are being tried on.”
An Alcove for Pointe Shoes
Dance Etc., Raleigh, NC
Dance Etc. stocks more than 6,000 pairs of shoes. It stores them in a back room to keep the sales floor clean and clutter-free and displays one of each style and color on tall shelves, so dancers can easily see their options. Dance Etc. has 10 shelves; each measures 30 inches wide by 12 inches deep by 72 inches tall.
Pointe shoes are also displayed on shelves in a small alcove that is dedicated solely to pointe shoe fittings. The alcove has a mirror and barre and large windows that look out into the store. “We find that our pointe shoe fitting room is unique—it allows the fitter to give the dancer their undivided attention and a professional fitting experience,” says manager Ariana Jones. “Pointe shoe fittings often take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, and because of how pointe shoes should fit, we never want a dancer to feel rushed or crowded. But our large, beautiful windows allow others, especially little ballerinas, to look in and see a dancer being fitted in pointe shoes.”
The main shoe-fitting area is located just outside the pointe shoe room and can accommodate two to three dancers at a time. Jones says that this allows dancers to browse the store more easily while they wait. “We find the space to be a benefit, because we can still see the store and the customers while doing a fitting,” she says.
It’s important to have ample seating not only for your dance customers but for whoever may be accompanying them. Here are a few of our favorite seating options for shoe fittings.
Director’s Chairs Stacy Rouen, owner of Ennie’s Dancewear in Kenner, LA, set up four director-style chairs in her fitting area, so there’s plenty of room for dance moms to watch and participate. Rouen says many tiny dancers often opt to sit on the floor for their fittings, and the chairs give their moms the perfect view of all the action.
Princess Chairs Dancingly Yours in Plainville, CT, crafted a stage of dreams for their tiny dance customers, complete with pink thrones. “Younger kids love to be fitted for their shoes and put on shows for all our customers,” says manager Megan Wolfe-Pelletier.
Storage Bench Benches have the advantage of seating more people. Those with storage compartments are all the more useful for Melbourne Dancewear in Melbourne, FL. “They are bookshelves that I bought at IKEA,” says owner Kitty Hatton. “We flipped them on their sides, had cushions made and use them to fit shoes.” Hatton stores children’s tap shoes in the benches, because they are one of her most popular styles.
Theater Seating Make your dancers feel like they are true Broadway stars by using actual theater seats in your shoe-fitting area, like those that Jamie Turner, owner of BackStage Dancewear & Gifts in Webster, TX, uses in her shoe area. —LB
Photos courtesy of the retailers