Another Canadian Contender to the Zappos Throne

Competition to sell shoes online in Canada is getting hot!

Competition to sell shoes online in Canada is getting red hot!

The average Canadian woman, according to today’s interview guest, buys 12 pairs of shoes a year.

I’m not a shoe fetishist, but if I didn’t have a toe injury that prevents me from wearing sexy heels, I just might join them!

A little over a year ago I ran an interview titled Canada’s Answer to Zappos Shoes?. The company was a small start-up growing out of a bricks and mortar location in Vancouver.

Canada: A Land of Opportunity for Online Shoe Retailers

Since then another Vancouver-based start-up has zoomed past them to capture top spot in the race to sell shoes online in Canada. ShoeMe.ca president and co-founder, Sean Clark, points out in today’s interview that there’s a great opportunity for retailers wanting to sell shoes online in Canada.

Only 2% of footwear in Canada was bought online in 2012 and most of that was from US firms shipping across the border. In the US 17 – 20% of shoes are now bought online, and the figure is in the high teens in Europe, says Sean.

Zappos left the door wide open when it withdrew from the Canadian market 3 years ago.

Another aggressive competitor for Canadians’ shoe money is JustFab.ca, which, despite the .ca domain, is actually an American-based company. It is promoting heavily online in Canada though, and was the first name that came to my teenage daughter’s mind when I mentioned having interviewed an online shoe-seller.

And, of course, many store-based shoe-sellers are now starting to sell online.

Will ShoeMe.ca Become the Canadian Zappos?

The answer isn’t clear.

They are certainly off to a great start, and they’ve got a superb team of investors and advisors with strong online retail experience backing them.

  • They are pumping a lot of money into online advertising, and they clearly know how to do that very effectively.
  • They understand logistics; at one point Sean even says “we are a logistics company“.
  • They have enough investment money to carry a large inventory, so selection is a competitive advantage, for now at least.

Which Wins: Data or Heart?

But I got the feeling that Sean doesn’t yet have a clear direction for the company. Zappos has based its success on building outstanding relationships with its customers and staff. It’s all about the people at Zappos.

It isn’t clear what it is all about at ShoeMe. In the interview Sean says, “we are a data company and shoes are the widget, right now, that we’re applying it to.” Somehow that just doesn’t create warm fuzzies in a prospective customer’s mind. (Though it may in an investor’s mind!)

So the question is whether the company will find a focus that resonates with its Canadian customer base. If not, they run the risk of struggling to compete if another company with deep pockets and a strong understanding of logistics and online marketing decides to go after their market.

Either way, as someone who’s been agitating for the past 15 years for more Canadian companies to sell online, it is exciting to see this growing competition in the Canadian online space.

What Do You Think?

What makes you choose who to buy shoes from online?

 

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