Designer Brands (DBI 4.60%) is piloting a program to sell DSW shoes in Hy-Vee grocery stores, though because of the coronavirus pandemic it will first start by offering them for sale on the supermarket's website.

Expanding beyond groceries has been a tactic numerous supermarket chains have explored over the past few years, including Hy-Vee, which began testing apparel sales at one of its Minnesota stores and selling Joe Fresh clothes and shoes at others.

Designer Brands has also sought to expand its offerings, experimenting with nail salons in its DSW stores. During the current crisis, though, says it is imperative it "pivot to operating as a dot-com-only business."

Woman on couch with numerous pairs of shoes

Image source: Getty Images.

A different way of doing business

The pandemic has certainly shown companies the value of taking an omnichannel approach to retailing as numerous businesses have been forced to close, even if grocery stores are absolved because of the essential nature of their business.

It may point to a solution for future growth for Designer Brands. CEO Roger Rawlins said the experiment positions the company "as the plug-and-play solution to grow in the footwear category."

When the pilot program finally debuts in the 120 Hy-Vee test supermarkets, it will feature some of Designer Brands' top-selling shoes in a pallet format.

Hy-Vee chairman, CEO, and president Randy Edeker said in a statement, "Quality footwear and accessories will always serve as a top need for the American consumer, which is why we've made these solutions available to our shoppers."

Some states, though, are only permitting supermarkets to sell essential goods during the coronavirus pandemic, in an effort to limit consumer browsing in stores. Customers are growing angry at such limitations; protesters recently held a massive rally in Michigan to voice displeasure at the controls the governor imposed that go far beyond what most other states have imposed.