Payless Wants To Step Up To Chic

No longer content to be seen as merely a place to buy cheap shoes, Payless ShoeSource wants to be known as a seller of fashionable footwear, according to the RFI for the $60 million advertiser’s creative review.

“Payless wants marketing and advertising that will make the customer feel proud of shopping at Payless, thereby increase her . . . purchases, and to generate new customer interest in shopping at Payless,” the document notes.

With sales of more than $2.75 billion in 2003, the Topeka, Kan., firm is the nation’s top shoe retailer. Rivals include Famous Footwear, Shoe Warehouse and DSW, as well as department stores like Penney’s and Kohl’s.

“[The search] is an attempt to find a new avenue and spur some interest out there,” said Christopher Svezia, an analyst at Susquehanna International Group in New York. “Strategically, Payless hasn’t really carved out a niche for its retail chain.”

Replies were due back last week, and sources said six semifinalists were chosen: Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi and The Kaplan Thaler Group, both New York; Omnicom Group’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, Martin/Williams in Minneapolis and BBDO in Chicago; and independent Cramer Krasselt in Chicago will move to the next round. Some 16 agencies were initially contacted, sources said.

Agency visits are set for Feb. 15 and 17, with a cut to three or four finalists expected shortly thereafter and a decision in April.

Agencies either declined comment or referred calls to the client. The incumbent shop, Barkley Evergreen & Partners in Kansas City, Mo., was not participating.

The client did not return phone calls. New York-based consultant Joanne Davis had no comment.

Finalists will present ideas for the fall back-to-school season, per the RFI.