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May 12th, 2009

Retail Trends: Exclusive Hole-In-The-Wall Gallery Shoestores

Advertisers use many methods to attract consumers. Think back to seventh grade Health.  Remember all of those different persuasive methods? The Bandwagon Approach screams, “Everyone else is doing it!” The Celebrity Endorsement cashes in on fame.  Showing a beautiful person enjoying a product implies that whoever buys said product will somehow (magically) become more attractive as well. Well, a shoe store named RSole in University City, Missouri is successfully implementing a lesser-known method of attracting customers: secrecy.

You’d probably walk right past RSole.  After All, its entire storefront consists of a frosted glass wall with a few product peepholes and a nearly invisible door.  RSole caters to the “Sneakerhead” crowd, and chose to keep its existence almost secret so that trendsetters would spread word of its location and coolness by mouth. Owner Barry Pener conceived of the store after noticing more and more Sneakerheads buying the most expensive, exclusive shoes–almost treating their footwear as art.  Pener opened RSole after learning of boutique sneaker stores in New York and L.A..  He decided on an anonymous storefront at the suggestion of Manhattan designer Carol Tobin.  Ms. Tobin came up with the idea of  a secret store after stumbling on a very successful anonymous store in her neck of the urban jungle.

The inside of RSole looks more like a museum than a shoe store.  Carefully angled lights are absorbed by black backgrounds, showcasing shoes as one might showcase statuary. LED light squares in the floor act to guide customers through the store.  The color and brightness of the LEDs may be adjusted by the staff.  RSole was quiet for the first three months–it took that long for people to discover the store. Now that the elite shoe buyers in and around St. Louis have heard of RSole, the store is selling about 2,000 pairs of shoes every month. One pair can run over $500.

In this uber-digital age, when shoe shopping is so easy to do online, a secret storefront shoe store somehow only seems cooler for its quaintness.

Top photo, showing an exclusive sneaker store in L.A.’s Little Tokyo, by Marc Berry.

Via CNN Money.


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One Response to “Retail Trends: Exclusive Hole-In-The-Wall Gallery Shoestores”

  1. Colleen Says:

    From the photographer: “Thanks so much for using and crediting my picture. Great article! In case you are interested, that store is called RIF LA. See”


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