DSW Pivots to Athleisure, Away from Dress


The Designer Brands-owned retailer is making merchandise moves to keep in step with the times, moving toward athletic and kids’ footwear styles and its Top 50 brands and away from dress and seasonal offerings for now.

“We are focused on optimizing our assortment to mirror the demands of the customer both now and in the future. The historical success of our dress and seasonal businesses, coupled with our new found market share in athleisure sets the foundation for us to be a stronger player in footwear,” CEO Roger Rawlins told analysts yesterday. “This will enable us to reach an even broader customer base as a one-stop shop.”

In Q4, DSW generated a 9.2-percent, year-over-year increase in Point-Of-Sale dollars for the sports leisure footwear segment and a 16.1 percent POS dollar improvement in performance athletic. Overall athletic comps were up 19 percent in the fourth quarter, helping the banner generate 46 percent of the period’s sales from the category. Now, athleisure makes up 50 percent of DSW’s Spring ’21 assortment at the expense of some other categories, including dress, whose sales slid 61 percent in the final period.

“We have a lot of customers who have made the decision to not buy dress but have transitioned into the athletic, athleisure space,” Rawlins said.

The athleisure segment is part of DSW’s “Top 50” brands that will account for 75 percent of the retailer’s inventory purchases this year, up from 60 percent in 2020. On the storefront, the 519-door retailer, which closed five locations in Q4, has eyed 65 U.S. stores for closure over the next four years as leases expire. The list includes 24 doors that are eligible for foreclosure in 2021. Eight new DSW stores, contractually committed to before the pandemic, will open in the U.S. this year.

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