With customised shoe trailblazer Shoes of Prey last week appearing on the brink of collapse, retailers have some key lessons to learn.
The news shows that even e-commerce retailers aren’t immune to tough market conditions — unless they reinvent themselves.
As one of the first retailers to lead the way in customised online shoes, launching in 2009, the e-commerce retailer was one of Australia’s original start-up successes. But this week the Aussie start-up announced it was halting orders to consider all of its future options.
Co-founder Jodie Fox last Monday announced that the company is facing “struggles” after being unable to “crack mass-market adoption,” leading to the decision to pause orders and assess “all of our options” to either sell or reboot the business with big changes.
“When we started Shoes of Prey back in 2009, we couldn’t have dreamed that we would have the opportunity to share in such an incredible adventure. And you were the most wonderful people to have that adventure with,” Fox said.
“Today we’re pausing to consider our options for the future of our business, and we have stopped taking orders. We have reviewed all of our orders and if we see that we are unable to make your shoes, you will be fully refunded. ”
News from the front x pic.twitter.com/TKBGAGUGmG
— Jodie Fox (@jodiefox) August 28, 2018
Dominique Lamb, CEO of the National Retailer’s Association, said that the announcement indicates that even e-commerce retailers aren’t immune to tough market conditions.
“Shoes of Prey were an absolutely success story and the founders of the experiential and customisation market, certainly online. What we’ve got to remember is online is still growing – from 7.1 earlier this year to 8.5 per cent – and it’s predicted to go up to potentially 20 per cent in the next 5 years,” she said.
“What happened with Shoes of Prey is they diversified what they were doing and had a number of external lines to those lines they started with, which then started to dilute their customer base. We’ve got to remember that what they’re selling is quite a high-end level of shoe wear and it has a following, but they diversified into sneakers and things like that. That’s when we started to see it become quite shaky.”
Russell Zimmerman, Chief Executive of the Australian Retailers Association said the start-ups closure is a testament to the tough market conditions facing retailers – with sales again flat-lining for the month of July, according to recent ABS data.
“Every retailer is well aware in process of innovating and also fair to say there’s some good e-commerce who hasn’t don’t well, particular shoes of prey who just announced halt to retailing,” he said.
The news comes as a lesson to other retailers – both start-ups, new entrants and existing retailers – to re-evaluate their business, to ensure that their model is relevant and tailored to a specific niche market, Lamb said.
“This is definitely a reminder that really important if you are a start-up or entrepreneur or moving into the digital space, or even omnichannel, that it’s really important to get the basics right and make sure you are focusing on what the business is, which demographic you are selling to, what the consumer wants and what the market is doing because when you take your eye off the ball sometimes you can lose control and that’s when we see businesses struggle.”