SANTA MONICA (CBSLA) — Social media influencers were stunned when they discovered the designer shoes they had paid $200, $400, even $600 for were actually from Payless Shoe Store.

The discount shoe retailer set up an extravagant pop-up shop recently, sandwiched between high-end shops in Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, and invited customers and social media influencers to take stock of its offerings.

(credit: CBS)

The reception was fawning and enthusiastic.

Reacting to a pair of black pumps with a floral print, one woman said they were “elegant, sophisticated.”

A man holding black high-top, lace-up sneakers with white soles said, “I could tell they were made with high-quality material.”

The difference was in the branding.

The pop-up shop purported to be for a brand called Palessi – an edited version of Payless – and the space it was held in was modern, with plush blue seats, lit-up displays that showcased the shoes to full effect. The center of the store featured a Romanesque statue, and shoppers were waited on by young, black-clad employees.

Payless shoes typically cost between $20 and $40. But some of the shoes sold during the pop-up shop went for as much as $600, and Palessi made $3,000 in sales in just three hours.

DCX Growth Accelerator set up the experiment for Payless, and Chief Creative Officer Doug Cameron believes it was a success.

“Well, we concluded that branding is a pretty strong force, if it’s able to get people to pay 18 times the price that they normally pay,” he said.

The shoppers got their money back, but were allowed to keep the shoes. Payless says it plans to use the footage from the event for upcoming ads.

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