Expanding overseas continues to be a top priority for multichannel sellers—to the point where they’re investing in additional expertise and infrastructure.
Luxury-fashion etailer My-Wardrobe, for instance, appointed former Harrods Direct director David Worby as its global chief executive, effective July, to lead the company’s expansion into emerging markets. His appointment comes in a year that has seen London-based My-Wardrobe, which launched in 2006 as a destination for “affordable luxury”, extend its international presence in Australia, Europe and the Middle East. In the last 12 months, My-Wardrobe opened an office in Sydney, which will now be the springboard for its planned expansion into New Zealand and Singapore later this year. It also opened an office in Norway and since launched a localised website for Norwegian customers with Swedish and Danish sites set to follow within six months.
Extending its reach into more new territories, My-Wardrobe opened an office in Dubai this year, with a view to grow its sales in the Middle East. Its website for the region is currently in English, but a spokesperson for My-Wardrobe confirms a fully localised version will be unveiled within 12 months. After Dubai, the online retailer plans to open up in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It’s all about “getting support for nuances”, says the spokesperson, and in the Middle East the main issue when shopping online is trust, she explains. Based on information gathered by the local office, My-Wardrobe knows its customers in the Middle East would prefer using prepaid cards over credit cards and My-Wardrobe will introduce support for those methods soon. “China is a little further away,” she says, adding that My-Wardrobe first needs to ensure everything is in place, “from product, brand mix, translation, payment method, and crucially, sizing”.
Undeterred by the breadth of the Chinese market, Stanley Gibbons is in the midst of a full-scale international push. The stamps and collectibles specialist, which recently reported a sales increase of 35 percent to £35.7 million in the year ended 31st December, says its new Hong Kong office, opened this past September, contributed £500,000 of sales and generated a profit in its first quarter of trading. Further expanding its reach in the region, the company developed trading relationships in greater China during the last financial year, enabling a further £500,000 of sales directly into the Chinese market.
As well as an eye on China, Stanley Gibbons is also preparing an assault on the US market. In a statement, chairman Martin Bralsford said the business had completed its initial investigation into opportunities in the United States, which “still represents the biggest collectibles market in the world”. This year will also see Stanley Gibbons explore the potential of opening new offices in Switzerland, Singapore, Monaco, Gibraltar and Brazil using a franchise-like model.
The American dream
Although the trend appears to be for retailers to expand into emerging markets, the US remains a hotspot. Some marketers, like Naked Wines and Aurora Fashions for example, are expanding to both the US and other, less-saturated territories, at the same time.
To enable it to develop its business, Norwich-based Naked Wines is investing £5.5 million to set up 22 new winemakers and help grow existing winemakers. The investment will see the business expand internationally with offices in the Napa Valley, California and in Australia. The NakedWines.com website will now be able to serve Australian customers and from later this summer, American customers too. In addition, Naked Wines will invest funds into vineyards located in Australia and the west coast of the US.
Aurora Fashions has also identified Australia and the US as lucrative markets and launched its Coast, Oasis and Warehouse websites into the two regions in May. Aurora is using the www.andotherbrands.com tabulated site to house all three of its brands, following the success of the site in Germany, which has been live since August last year. The launch will be followed by four other European countries later in the year, which will each have tailored language and payment methods.
Despite the market’s maturity, there is clearly plenty of opportunity for growth in the US. One company that has been active in the States for almost two years is plus-size apparel title Simply Be, which delivered a 500 percent sales growth in the US in the year to March 2012. Sales from Simply Be USA were £4.8 million, up from just £800,000 the previous year. Seeing the potential for its other brands to make it big across the pond, parent company N Brown has confirmed it will trial its Marisota womenswear and Jacamo menswear offerings in the USA—initially through the Simply Be website. It has also appointed local digital agencies to accelerate online customer recruitment activity.
Targeting the Eurozone
Closer to home, and despite the ongoing monetary crises, Europe remains an attractive proposition for many retailers. Mobile Fun, an online retailer of mobile accessories, announced the recruitment of Teresa Gualtieri to manage the set-up of Mobile Fun’s Italian office. Mobile Fun Italy will be the company’s sixth international website in the past four years and joins Mobile Fun’s already established presence within the UK, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
Commenting on Mobile Fun’s overseas expansion, the company’s head of international Richard Moore says, “Our strategy of sharing the experience and resources of our UK team with the local knowledge and skills of native-speaking managers has certainly paid off. Our first UK-based international manager, Vanesa Nunez, flew back to establish our Spanish office well ahead of the 12 month period we had initially anticipated. This has dramatically reduced our initial funding, to produce an early and lucrative return on investment.”
With international sales accounting for more than 25 percent of total orders, Moore adds that plans are in the pipeline for “a number of international sites across Europe and the rest of the world”.
Footwear retailer Schuh is another to cross the English Channel with its first foray into international territories. It launched a French version of its website in May and appointed an additional customer service team comprising four French speakers based at its Livingstone head office to deal with customer enquiries. The retailer has also secured a Paris phone number for customer calls and will provide a local address in France for returns.
To promote the site, Schuh will send a series of emails to its 3,000-strong French customer base featuring a “sign up a friend” message. As part of the launch, Schuh has partnered with French postal carrier La Poste and will use its So Colissimo service for deliveries. Schuh will assess how it is received in France before further expanding into Europe.
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