Internet mall caters to shoe-lovers

MILWAUKEE – A Chippewa Falls, Wis., company once known for men’s work boots is tying its fortune to shoe fashionistas who buy the latest styles on the Internet.

Mason Shoe Co., which celebrated its 100th anniversary two years ago, has relaunched its fast-growing site with a new look and new shopping tools.

“We realize women really love shoes,” said Adrienne Hartman, Internet director of Shoemall. Mason always has sold shoes directly to consumers. In the early days, the sales were made by door-to-door salesmen. Later, the company switched to catalog sales, and it put its catalogs on the Internet in 1999. By then, women’s shoes had emerged as the faster-growing part of the business.

“We’ve basically reinvented ourselves,” said Dan Hunt, chief executive officer of Mason.

Shoemall, now Mason’s fastest-growing division, racked up $45 million in sales in 2005. The company doesn’t reveal total sales.

The product offering through Shoemall is a big expansion for Mason. The site has 10,000 styles under 400 brand names. Brands include Crocs, Steve Madden, Merrell, Franco Sarto, Clarks, Camper, Rocket Dog, Naturalizer, Donald Pliner and Aquatalia. The site also has men’s brands, including Stacy Adams and Bostonian.

As part of the fall marketing push for Shoemall, Mason has just mailed its first Shoemall catalog and has hired Laughlin/Constable of Milwaukee to create the company’s biggest ad campaign.

But the new ad campaign is aimed squarely at women, with the tagline “We know how much you love shoes.”

One of the ads says: “We recently heard of a woman who has 29 pairs of black shoes. That’s right. Only 29.”