DSW (a.k.a. DSW Shoes or Designer Shoe Warehouse) is a paradise for designer shoe lovers on a budget. It's literally a vast, wide open warehouse filled with aisles upon aisles of discounted designer footwear. If you've never been in one, or perhaps have only shopped online, I'll honestly tell you that you're missing the whole experience.
The best part is when you first walk in and stare across thousands of pairs of designer shoes and catch that initial whiff of a sweet, leathery new shoe smell, something that could never be duplicated from shopping at your desktop. My heart always skips a beat when I walk into a shopping adventure like the ones that always unfold at DSW. My best friend and I often describe the sensation of walking into a DSW store as "coming home." It may be because we are both former employees, or perhaps because both of our homes are also filled with many, many pairs of glorious, discounted designer footwear. I will admit, I've learned a thing or two in my short but meaningful DSW shopping and working career and I'm happy to spill the secrets to anyone who shares in my passion for fabulous footwear.
Start at the Front
One of the few negative things I have heard customers say about DSW was that they were overwhelmed when shopping in the store. While this may be a reasonable complaint for a rookie DSW shopper, I'm here to tell you that if you look closely, DSW is actually one of the easiest places to shop in.
The front of the store, where the registers are located, is the best locale for scoping out their instructive signs. In fact, they currently look like miniature street signs that stand straight up into the air above the aisles. You can also view any special posters or clearance indicators from the front. And yes, the grand Clearance section is usually straight back—all the way in the back of the store, and it is definitely a place you'll want to go while you're there.
Walk in, scope out your desired category, and grab one of their handy big black shopping totes—trust me, you'll need the tote. If you're heading straight for the Clearance section, you should know that it is always separated into men's and women's styles and is then organized by shoe size, and you may want to grab two of those totes!
Become A Fan & A Rewards Member
My advice for scoring the best deals at DSW is to go into a store often (online is handy but not always the best place for those super savings - more on this later) and to not be afraid to chat up the employees. Employees are not only coached on how to make each customer feel special (done often by pointing out similar styles in your bag that may be discounted) but they're also trained to have some insider knowledge as to what's soon to be discounted and what's hiding in the back stock room. Plus, they can tell you about coupon and Facebook promotions that you may have missed in your inbox!
Speaking of Facebook, it is essential that you "like" them if you want more opportunities to save. The DSW fan page is one of the most exciting fan pages I've come across. They consistently have contests or special promotions and even give away free shoes on Tuesdays in a trivia contest that they call "Free Shoesday."
While you're at it, you should also join their free rewards program; as a Rewards Member you can earn points toward a Rewards certificate every time you shop. How many points you earn per dollar you spend has changed over the years but basically equates to you earning a $10 gift certificate for every $150 you spend. If you're a big spender, you may eventually qualify as Premier Rewards Member which means you'll enjoy added bonuses in addition to receiving frequent coupons and rewards certificates. Some of those perks include free next-day shipping for online orders, triple points shopping days every six months, and more.
You can use your rewards membership both online and in-store and you don't have to worry about keeping track of an annoying key tag either—your membership can be looked up by your name or phone number. This is really quite an easy system with perks definitely worth having.
Score Extra Savings In-Store
I mentioned earlier that when you're shopping in a store rather than online, you're more likely to maximize your savings, and that's primarily due to the grand Clearance section I've been speaking of. When you shop online, Clearance is the price you see, unless you have a rare coupon code that would knock some extra dollars off during checkout. Yet, when you shop in Clearance at the store, there are always extra savings that get knocked off during checkout.
In fact, they have a special colored sticker system to alert you of just how much extra you'll be saving. For example, green stickers may be an extra 30% off while purple are an extra 50% off and so on (FYI, yellow is always an extra 80% off!). Most people probably assume that, even though those additional savings aren't falling off during checkout, they're still factored into the price you see online, but that's not always the case. Many a time have I seen the exact same shoe online for nearly double what I paid for it in the store!
Although Clearance pricing is generally structured from a corporate level, individual store inventory still plays a roll, meaning your local DSW may even have a lower price on the same pair of shoes than my local store. When I worked as an Assistant Store Manager, one of the things I was in charge of was clearancing shoe lots when we had 3 or less pairs left of a select style. This often resulted in huge discounts on some of our newest inventory, and granted sizing becomes luck of the draw at that point, with thousands of shoes in stock at all times, your chances are still better than average on landing those blazing hot deals.
Just Ask for a Discount
It can also pay to simply ask for a discount; DSW offers fantastic customer service so, if you see something wrong with a shoe, like a stitch or gemstone missing, you may be able to land a defect discount. While defective merchandise is often non-refundable, you still be receiving a quality shoe at an exciting price, a win-win in my book! Did I mention that those colored Clearance tags rotate fairly often? That's right, 30% off shoes go to 40%, then 50%, then 70% and finally end up at an additional 80% off. It may also pay to simply ask when your store is planning their next Clearance rotation, they keep it pretty quite but if you're paying close enough attention you may be able to save a few extra dollars!