VINELAND — Dusharm’s Pro Foot caters to a fickle crowd — young, fashion-conscious consumers who like to express their individuality in their footwear.
Dusharm’s sells sports apparel and sneakers, but not just any sneakers. It specializes in hard-to-find releases of brands such as Nike Air Jordans that have a following among collectors and fans of the brand.
To reach these customers, this second-generation Vineland business is going where its customers are — on social networks such as Instagram and Twitter. The store even uses Twitter to actually sell its products and spark interest in its hard-to-find shoes.
“There is a whole subculture that collects these brands,” said store manager Anita Pepitone, of Vineland.
Nike distributes a limited number of its latest shoes each month, meting out a handful every few weeks to stores such as Dusharm’s. These are shoes such as the colorful Air Jordan cleats worn by Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
In the past, these limited releases would create long lines outside shoe stores or even occasional violence such as the fights over Air Jordans that broke out at stores across the country during Christmas 2011.
Now, when Dusharm’s gets a new batch of highly coveted shoes, it tweets its product list to customers and sells them on a first-reply, first-served basis.
“We don’t know what sizes or quantity we’ll get until we get them. The release date is not always a secret,” Pepitone said.
Customers have until 3 p.m. that day to pick up their shoes or lose them to other buyers, she said. Some customers groused about having to sign up for Twitter. But overall, it has proven to be an effective sales model.
“They wanted to minimize the negative press and maximize their exposure,” said Sandy Becker, a marketing expert who teaches at the Rutgers Business School.
Becker said for this sales strategy to work, it must be democratic and fair to prevent resentment among customers who missed out.
“It builds interest in who they are as a brand. They offer so many varieties and so many choices. It’s almost an ongoing interest. What are they going to come out with next?” Becker said.
For those wanting a more custom look, the store works with a Vineland company, D@ Prince Customs, that hand-paints shoes. Team manager Crystal Giannascoli, of Vineland, commissioned a World Series theme for her shoes when the Phillies won the world championship in 2008.
“It all depends on how big a sneakerhead you are,” she said.
Dusharm’s has a variety of other shoes, many with NBA tie-ins to such names as LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony.
The store is owned by Kerry Dusharm, a former Vineland resident who now lives in Florida. He grew up watching his father, Butch, run the store when it sold sporting goods to local athletes.
Butch Dusharm sold the store in 1992, but its new owners faltered during the recession. Kerry Dusharm bought it and reopened it in 1995 and changed its focus from bats and gloves to sneakers, fitted hats and sweatshirts.
Dusharm’s completed a major renovation this year to update its look with bright colors, an open floor plan, back-lighted shelves that highlight each shoe, a new sound system and hardwood floors.
“We rebranded Dusharm’s with a new logo. We want people to recognize us like the Nike swoosh,” Pepitone said.
The store also replaced its large blocky outdoor sign with the more sophisticated look of a boutique.
While the store focuses on urban wear, it still caters to many sports teams. The store can order athletic gear, cleats and varsity jackets for teams and leagues. Along with high-end basketball shoes, the store sells orthopedic walking shoes, hiking boots and sandals called slides.
“We brought in more yoga pants and apparel. I want to collaborate with the local gyms to do some cross-marketing,” Pepitone said.
Contact Michael Miller:
Dusharm’s Pro Foot
Location: 925 E. Landis Ave., Vineland
Owner: Kerry Dusharm
Founded: 1981, since 1995 under Kerry Dusharm
Revenue: Not disclosed