TUPELO – For many, once retailing is in their blood, it’s hard to get it out.
And Brandon Davis is not an exception.
He started working at Shoe Country when he was 15 because it was a job he enjoyed. Now 17 years later, he’s the owner of Shoe County Warehouse, which opened in 2015 and late last year consolidated with its namesake original.
“I was in the stockroom wearing blue jeans when I started in 2001,” Davis said. “You kind of get it in your blood, then you become family.”
It didn’t take long for Davis to work himself out of the stockroom and onto the sales floor.
“Everybody wore khakis while I was wearing jeans. I wanted to wear khakis and sell,” he said. “I had relatives who were salesmen, plus there were other family members who were in the shoe business, too.”
One day, the store was especially busy, and Davis took it upon himself, as he describes, “to bust through the wall and sell shoes. It paid off because it was the last day I was a stock boy.”
Ironically, he was wearing jeans on this day, admitting he’s come full circle on his thinking.
“I like jeans better now,” he said with a laugh.
Shoe Country was started by Tony Dickerson in Nettleton. A math and social studies teacher, Dickerson started selling furniture on the side, then bought a small inventory of shoes. That morphed into the store in 1974. He moved Shoe Country to the West Main Shopping Center in Tupelo in 1979.
Following his death in March of last year, the three remaining partners in the store, who worked with Dickerson, hired a retail consultant to look at the operations. He recommended that they consolidate into a single location. After some negotiations and an amicable parting of ways, Davis emerged as the sole owner of the business.
Shoe Country closed in December, and Shoe Country Warehouse, which had been in the Tupelo Commons retail center on North Gloster Street, moved into a larger space in the same development.
“We opened and closed a few stores over the years, and we just learned to get better as we went along,” Davis said.
Using that experience, he kept the top 20 brands at Shoe Country and the top 20 brands at SCW and put them all under one roof at the new Shoe Country Warehouse location.
“It’s worked out amazingly well,” Davis said. “We’ll have an old customer from Shoe Country come to find her SAS in wide that we’ll sit down with her and measure her foot like we did over there, and then we also have the customer who just wants to find the pair of Sketchers that fits.
“So the customer now has the best of both worlds – the full-service like they had at the old store, or the self-service if they prefer.”
The new Shoe Country Warehouse offers men’s, women’s and children’s shoes.
“It’s all about offering the best selection, size and service,” Davis said.
About a dozen employees work at the store, which occupies 7,500 square feet. It’s 50 percent larger than the previous space in Tupelo Commons and three-quarter the size of the old Shoe Country store on West Main.
Most of the shoes are on the sales floor, which allows customers to see the more than 12,000 shoes at SCW without having to worry about what might be in the back.
That makes for a lot of shoes, particularly for an independent shoe store battling against the big box stores and other shoe retailers.
But Davis said there’s a method to the madness.
“We overbuy on purpose,” he said. “A lot of people buy one color in a shoe; we’ll buy four. We want our customers to have options.This is our life and we enjoy it.”
Davis said that he learned much from Dickerson as well as his former partners about running the business.
The main focus was customers. They were – and must be – first and foremost.
“If you don’t take care of them, we all starve,” Davis said.
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