Payless Opened a Fake Luxury Store, Palessi, to See How Much People Would Pay for $20 Shoes

The answer? A hell of a lot

The work earned millions of impressions on a tiny media budget.

If you serve fast food on white tablecloths in a tony-looking restaurant, people sometimes think it’s haute cuisine. (At the very least, it tastes a lot different than it does when you’re scarfing it down from a drive-thru bag).

It turns out you can do the same for bargain kicks by showcasing the footwear against the kind of chic backdrop usually reserved for luxury labels like Jimmy Choo and getting people to pay outrageous markups.

That’s what Payless did recently in Santa Monica, taking over a former Armani store and stocking it with $19.99 pumps and $39.99 boots. The chain, via agency DCX Growth Accelerator, invited groups of influencers to the grand opening of “Palessi” and asked their opinions on the “designer” wares.

Party goers, having no idea they were looking at discount staples from the mall scene, said they’d pay hundreds of dollars for the stylish shoes, praising the look, materials and workmanship. Top offer: $640, which translates to an 1,800 percent markup, and Palessi sold about $3,000 worth of product in the first few hours of the stunt.

Payless, or Palessi, did ring up those purchases but didn’t keep the money. Influencers got their cash back, along with free shoes. Their reactions caught in the short- and longer-form ads—those shocked “gotcha” moments—are fairly priceless.

The retailer “wanted to push the social experiment genre to new extremes, while simultaneously using it to make a cultural statement,” said Doug Cameron, DCX Growth Accelerator’s chief creative officer. “Payless customers share a pragmatist point of view, and we thought it would be provocative to use this ideology to challenge today’s image-conscious fashion influencer culture.”

Payless CMO Sarah Couch says the chain aimed to tackle the brand’s perception issues head-on at a time when retailers are feeling more heat than ever from giant ecommerce sites.

“The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” Couch says.

UPDATE: Want to know about how this stunt came about? Check out our new Q&A with Payless marketing vp Lisa Contino and Doug Cameron, chief creative officer at DCX.

Ads will run on cable TV networks like Bravo, Lifetime, TBS, Telemundo and USA and on social channels like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram through the holidays.


Agency: DCX Growth Accelerator
Concept: Doug Cameron and Tommy Noonan
CCO/CW: Doug Cameron
ECD/Art Director: Tommy Noonan
CD: Mauricio Alarcon
Account Director: Patrick McCormick

Client: Payless
CMO: Sara Couch
Brand Manager: Lisa Contino
Creative Director: Jeff Vandeven
Creative Services Manager: Cheri Bernand
International Marketing Director: Bernardo Meza
VP Marketing: Dominic Bonadio

Production Company: DCX Cultural Studios
Director/Executive Producer: David Logan
Assistant Directors: Doug Cameron, Tommy Noonan
Line Producer: Kelly Scott
Production Manager: Jerry terHorst
Production Coordinator: Jonathan D. Ortiz
Production Designer: Ricardo Jattan
Director of Photography: Shane Collins
Camera Operator: Andrew Sanchez
1st AD: Cody Boessen

Editorial: Beast Editorial NYC
Sr Editor: Brian Sanford
Executive Producer: Melissa Lubin
Post Producer: Michael Beltrame
Asst Editor: Joseph D’Amato
After Effects: Christian Matts
Colorist: Lez Rudge w/ Chimney
Audio Mix: Peter Holcomb w/ Sound Lounge
Online Conform: Scott Bravo w/ Beast

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