Payless gets influencers to pay hundreds for their footwear in fake luxury store gag

Payless had fashion influencers pricing the brand's affordable shoes in the triple-digits when the company opened a fake luxury store in Los Angeles, as part of an advertising campaign.


Payless transformed an old Armani store into"Palessi," a fake luxury footwear brand complete with its own Instagram account. - Via Payless/Palessi

Arriving in posh Santa Monica, the budget footwear company took over the space of a former Armani store, lining the walls with their $19.99 heels and $39.99 boots, according to a report by AdWeek. The space was now "Palessi," a luxury footwear brand complete with its own Instagram account, and ready to hold its grand opening. 

In partnership with agency DCX Growth Accelerator, Payless invited a slew of influencers to shop Palessi's debut shoes. This is when the gag truly took hold: attendees with an alleged nose for designer wares began to appraise the cost-effective shoes at incredibly inflated prices, with the highest offer at $640 – a 1,800 percent markup –, according to AdWeek.

Within hours, Palessi reportedly sold nearly $3,000 in product, although all fooled influencers were paid back and given free shoes once the trick was revealed. As part of the campaign, Payless filmed several reactions from Palessi's opening day attendees, capturing both their initial glowing reviews and subsequent astonisment for use in the company's holiday ads. 

According to representatives from the footwear company, the trick was meant to show that their shoes are more than capable of catching the eyes of the fashion-forward in an age of e-retailers and designer footwear hype. 

“The campaign plays off of the enormous discrepancy and aims to remind consumers we are still a relevant place to shop for affordable fashion,” ​said Payless CMO Sarah Couch. 

Ads put together from the Palessi opening will run on stations like Bravo, Lifetime, TBS, Telemundo and USA, as well as online, on sites like YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.

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