Payless scores with mock-up luxury shop
Payless ShoeSource created a viral sensation and earned widespread media coverage by opening a “fake luxury store” and duping fashion influencers into purchasing Payless shoes at exorbitant prices.
The store, named “Palessi” after a made-up Italian designer, Bruno Palessi, opened in a former Armani store in Santa Monica, CA. The company designed a luxury setting to support the ruse, displaying shoes on glass shelves and gold mannequins, launching a sleek website and Instagram account, and bringing in camera crews and velvet ropes for the grand opening.
The store was stocked with Payless shoes that typically sell between $19.99 and $39.99 but marked up with price tags between $200 and $600.
At two invite-only opening nights, the attendees bought $3,000 worth of merchandise — one paid $640 for a $36 pair. Payless returned their money, let them keep the shoes and paid them a small stipend to be featured in a Payless commercial.
The attendees were recorded raving about the merchandise. One said, “They are elegant [and] sophisticated,” according to a video posted on YouTube. Another said, “I could tell it’s made with high-quality material.”
They expressed shock when told the shoes were from Payless. One laughed, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” Payless launched an “Epic Holiday Deals” campaign featuring the scam and attendees’ reactions digitally and on TV on Thursday.
The effort was designed to bring back some attention to the chain that emerged from bankruptcy last year and remind consumers about Payless’ affordable yet fashionable message.
The experiment also drew attention to how price and settings can influence perceptions of quality. Philip Graves, a consumer behavior consultant, told The Washington Post, “If advertising has high production qualities, people will think it’s better.”
By all accounts, the attending fashionistas laughed off being fooled with the reactions shared widely across influencer circles. Lisa Contino, VP of marketing at Payless, told Adweek, “The way we look at it, it’s never not cool to get a bargain”
- Payless sold its discount shoes for $600 a pair at mock luxury influencer event – USA Today
- Payless Opened a Fake Luxury Store, ‘Palessi,’ to See How Much People Would Pay for $20 Shoes – Adweek
- They had us fooled’: Inside Payless’s elaborate prank to dupe people into paying $600 for shoes – The Washington Post
- Q&A: How Payless Brilliantly Bamboozled Fashionistas With Its Fake Luxury Pop-up, ‘Palessi’ – Adweek
- The Payless Experiment (version 1) – YouTube
- The Payless Experiment (version 2) – YouTube
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What lessons should be drawn from the attention received by Payless’ Palessi stunt? Are there ways to build on the effort and drive sales at the store level?