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E-commerce

Shoes.com founder talks growth, recruiting talent and returns

In 2012 Sean Clarke opened an online shoe store operating from his parent’s basement in Canada. Today, Shoes.com employs more than 600 people and is projecting $1 billion in revenue by 2019. Ahead of the Online Retailer conference in Melbourne next week, Internet Retailing caught up with Sean to talk growth, recruiting talent and returns.

Internet Retailing: How were you able to scale the business so quickly?
Sean Clark: We invested in hiring a great team, we acquired two very profitable businesses in the US, and we continue to put our customers at the heart of our business. These three things have helped propel the business very quickly. It’s been an incredible ride so far, and in many ways it’s only just beginning!

IR: What are some of the challenges facing e-commerce in Canada?
SC: Access to talent and the investment in the necessary technology are two big issues facing Canadian e-commerce. That said, we see tremendous potential in the Canadian market – we believe that Canadian shoppers deserve the same quality of service and access to product as our neighbours to the south, and we’re looking forward to making this a reality in the coming months and years.

IR: You now offer two hour shipping in Canada, what systems did you have to put in place to enable that?
SC: In order to build out the 2-hour delivery program, we’ve established strong partnerships with a number of local, bricks and mortar retailer across Canada. This program is enabling a growing group of store fronts to benefit from our technology, operations, and marketing without the costly overhead that comes with running a successful e-commerce business.

IR: As a footwear retailer do you have a high rate of returns? And, how do you manage that cost?
SC: We aim to get the right shoes on the right feet, but of course every online footwear retailer struggles with the issue of fit. We are currently looking at a number of different solutions that address this issue, one of which is 3D scan technology. We believe this type of technology will reduce returns dramatically.

IR: What’s your advice for other online retailers who have aspirations to operate globally?
SC: Focus on adding value to your customers, no matter where they are. Operating globally is an ambitious goal and for you to be successful you must first perfect your value propositions at home.

IR: Shoes.com offers free shipping to Australia and New Zealand on orders over $100, how big is the Australian market for you?
SC: The Australian market represents a large opportunity. Given the cultural and language similarities to Canada the barriers to entry are comparatively lower than other countries. We welcome the opportunity to service the Australian customer with high quality product and a superior online shopping experience.

Sean will be speaking at Online Retailer Melbourne, on March 16 to 17, 2016. 

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