Payless Opens Fake Luxury Shoe Store and Sells Discount Shoes at Designer Prices

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PAYLESSIPayless recently launched a social experiment to remind consumers they’re still relevant for affordable fashion – and they even fooled a group of people along the way to prove it.

The shoe brand anonymously invited a group of fashionistas to the grand opening of a new “luxury” store in Los Angeles called PALESSI and filled it with $20-$40 Payless shoes. The Italian-sounding name and former Armani store location fooled customers into paying top dollar for this low-cost brand.

PAYLESSI Payless shoe experimentAccording to Payless, approximately 60 guests attended the grand opening over two nights, and the shoppers forked out hundreds of dollars on Payless shoes that retailed for $19.99-$39.99 each.

However, Payless returned their money and let them keep the shoes. The shoppers were reportedly also paid a small stipend to attend the event and were recruited from the street and via social media.

Paylessi shoppers

To make the experiment more believable, Payless enlisted the advertising agency DCX Growth Accelerator to create the fake luxury store, complete with gold mannequins – along with an online website and Instagram page. Doug Cameron, DCX’s Chief Creative Officer, said the stunt indicates how powerful branding is in today’s society.

“We interviewed all these consumers who said they loved great styles but resented the elite prices that people would pay for industry fashion brands. We had an interesting opportunity to take a cultural position and said, ‘Let’s have Payless gently make fun of all of that and go back to this pragmatist position in culture.’ That seems to have tapped a nerve. The right cultural codes can completely transform the perceived value of just about anything.”

Have YOU ever bought an item from a cheaper brand that is actually the same or even better than the expensive name brand?

Here are a few examples of generic items we LOVE more than the name brand!

Now it’s your turn! Share below!

Join The Discussion

Comments 44

  1. Boymom

    THIS is awesome!!! Hahaha

  2. Denise

    Maybe I have old feet but I can always tell a good shoe from a cheap one😂

    • Mrs. G

      I agree!

    • Lindsey

      Right…let’s see how the held up after an evening or 6 months.

    • ssss

      So agree. My husbands just bought me a pair of louboutins
      and i xould weat those all day.

      • Steven Brien

        how many husbands do u hav

        • Sarah

          Lol! 😂😂😂

        • Veronika


    • Katrina

      I think it is ALWAYS worth it to pay for good construstion and quit, but so many now pay for fashion, with no real benefit in the long run.

      • JO

        Absolutely agree with you. I tell the young women I know to wear a good pair of shoe because in 20 yrs they will be sad and in serious pain. Cheap shoes cannot compare to Birkenstocks, Dansko, Rieker, Haflinger, Alegria, Aetrex, Keen, and many more! It has taken years for my feet to heal after wearing cheap shoes.

        • Julie B

          Totally agree! There is no substitute for good footwear. You pay the price in the long run, with plantar fascitis, bunions, and hip and back problems.

    • DrMom

      Although I agree about good shoes, I have had some of my favs from Payless…leather, wide width, sandals that lasted long after they stopped making them 🙁

  3. Kathryn

    I laughed myself into tears watching this video the other day! My favorite cheapies are too numerous to list.

  4. Melissa

    I’m in my 60’s. I remember when shoes and purses, even at the lower prices were made out of real leather, not man-made materials. I remember when shoes were worth repairing with a new heal. Now most shoes are throwaways after a couple years of wear, if that, and if you do want to repair a pair of shoes, finding a repair person is a difficult task. And most shoes and handbags, even the very expensive ones, are made out of man made materials. I’ve been shocked at some of the high prices that the designers are demanding for their man-made items that are so often no different than the lower end shoes. If you are a vegan and opposed to leather shoes & handbags, I get it. But my point is that we are being conned and encouraged to buy cheaply made and disposable shoes and handbags even while forking over money for designer products that may not be much better than the cheaply made ones. I am not at all surprised that Payless pulled this off, especially since so many consumers are entranced by “designer” labels rather than actual quality.

    • Stephanie

      Well said! I know people who have paid two to three thousand dollars on a purse that is really mostly plastic. I get that there is status, but it is glorified plastic coated canvas.

    • Stephanie Murphy

      For what it’s worth, there’s an old fashioned shoemaker in Flint, MI who handmakes boots. The shop is Sutorial, and his products are amazing.

      • Alecia

        That is awesome to know! I grew up in the Flint-area, but live a few miles north now.

  5. Emily

    Bearpaw boots are (in my opinion) higher quality than Ugg, and are a fraction of the cost. I love the rubber sole on bearpaw better than the foam soles on Uggs.

    • Jen

      Totally agree! At the beginning of winter, I spray my Bearpaw boots will waterproof coating to withstand the snow and salt. At the end of winter, I clean it and put it away. My Bearpaw boots are currently 5 years old and don’t look worn out much.

      • Emily

        I had purchased Ugg boots and they lasted only a few months, my bearpaws usually last 2 winters. 🙂 I live in Minnesota though, so winters tend to be harder on stuff!

    • Evelyn

      Absolutely not. Uggs feel completely different (and better)…if they felt the same I absolutely would buy them.

  6. Jen

    I regularly buy payless shoes and I am constantly getting compliments on them I always tell people they are from payless and they are shocked.

    • Sarah

      Me too! I walked in to a Payless one day and found a pair of Christian Siriano heels for $4! They fit perfectly and I get soooo many compliments every time I wear them!!

  7. Patricia Goff

    My mother called from Germany this morning and I didn’t understand what she was talking about. this is what she was talking about. LOL

  8. Ivan

    Surprising thing is the expensive name brand shoes don’t cost anymore to make than cheap ones like Payless sells. All about marketing as this shows.

  9. Rachel

    Ugh, Payless shoes kill my feet! I’ve tried so many but they seem to be too narrow. I really want to make them work!

    • riss

      Same here. When I was young and broke, I bought shoes from Payless, and my feet suffered. Now (older and not-so-broke) I save up to buy quality leather shoes. I need to be good to my feet because they carry my whole weight!

  10. Cara

    Just an FYI, Payless is offering 50% off of the Christian Siriano line today so most of the shoes pictured are on sale and if you search you might be able to find a 20-25% coupon to use online. I got 3 pairs of boots for $34 today. Happy Shopping!

    • Sam

      Thanks so much for sharing the deal! I got 3 pairs of cute boots for $34 shipped. Regularly $30-$40 each!

      • Cara

        That’s awesome Sam! I’m glad you got on the deal too!

  11. Tuni

    When I was new in the US and brand impaired …I would buy shoes from walmart Payless .. 20 dollars … use them for some time .. and go on to next pair .. when they got worn out .. my husband suggested to go for branded shoes .. the first one I bought was a Alfani peep toe from Macys for 60 dollars in 2009 . Genuine leather said so … 6 months started scraping off … although it was not a daily wear sandal .. next Michael kors flats for 99 … better performance .. lasted 8 months of regular use vs 6 months of Payless regular use … so in the end all the shoes lasted 6 mo the … I am back to Payless and I enjoy the variety I get every 6 months without breaking the bank … handbags show better value for me .. target brand bag for 40 dollars vs a coach/ mk for 100 sources from sales / discount stores .. I would say look at the quality .. just a branded name cannot guarantee u that … use reuse buy rebuy .. try try .. for 4:5 years and then I came to this conclusion …

  12. Michelle

    Brilliant PR, Payless. Brilliant.

  13. Jessica

    You can find name brand shoes at deeply discounted prices at stores like Ross, check the clearance section first. I must say Van’s shoes last forever & have great traction, good for those afraid of falls especially on rainy days.

  14. kharrington

    My husband told me about this and had a very good point. The question isn’t whether they sold the piece of crap shoes for top dollar, it is how many repeat customers they actually had.

  15. Courtney

    I’ve actually found Payless shoes, like the Dexter brand, to be better than many high end brands. I don’t buy based on price but rather what works for my feet. It’s surprising how many branded shoes don’t have arch support, different widths, etc. I have a pair of Tory Burch sandals that pale in comparison to my Crocs.

  16. Nubianqueen

    I shop quality my feet don’t care for man made material. I find good quality at TJMaxx & Marshall’s. My feet deserve quality leather. They got a good wake up thinking they were getting designer shoes that were from payless that just goes to show you they don’t know much about what they paid top dollar for in the past. A lesson learned

  17. Jill

    Collin, this would be a great feature for your site!! What “on the cheap” products can we share that we find eay better than the expensive counterparts.

  18. Mollie

    How about Cato’s?

  19. Lindsay

    Great marketing and brand positioning for Payless!

  20. Leavesbegintofall

    I don’t buy shoes from Payless because they’re Ridiculously expensive for a cheap shoe store. I can go to Marshall’s or just keep my eye on hip to save for a few weeks and get better deals on higher end brands with no problem. Why would I spend 25 or $30 on a random pair of shoes from Payless when I could spend 25 or $30 on a cute designer pair from Nordstrom rack or fancy sneakers from Nike, if I wait for a good bargain to pop up or post?

    • Dana

      I feel the same.

  21. Andrea Melton

    This reminds me of that short story The Necklace. A poor woman is going to some big event, and her rich friend tells her to borrow whatever jewelry she wanted for the event. She picked a diamond necklace, but ends up losing it at the event. She doesn’t want to tell her friend she lost her necklace, so she buys a new identical one on credit. She and her husband work like dogs their whole lives in poverty to pay the debt for the necklace. Finally, when she is very old, she tells her friend what happened. Her friend tells her the necklace was costume jewelry.

    • smellyann

      Guy de Maupassant, loved that story!

  22. James A Stiner

    Americans will buy anything if it’s marketed correctly, it’s a dog and pony show society. One glaring example comes to mind.

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