Eighteen months after rescuing Shoe Studio Group from administration and making it part of Dune Group, chief executive John Egan has ambitious expansion plans for the footwear business.
Gone are the baby blue and black branding and catwalk trend-led heels of two years ago. In its place are patchwork quilted stools, shoelace chandeliers, angled shelving and vintage furniture, all displaying a crafted artisan-inspired collection of casual footwear dominated by flats and wedges with a handwriting that suggests they were manufactured in Spain or Portugal, even though most of it is still made in the Far East.
Pied a Terre, the other label Dune Group took over when it rescued footwear concessions business Shoe Studio Group, serves a more premium customer who, Egan says, “understands style and quality”, and is aged between 30 and 55.
“She wants a beautiful court shoe in top-quality materials but she doesn’t want Prada because everyone else has got that,” he adds.
The merger of Shoe Studio into Dune created a footwear group with a £150m turnover and 185 department store concessions, including in House of Fraser, Fenwick, John Lewis and Debenhams, as well as 46 standalone stores, 42 of which are Dune.
Operating profits have swelled from £1m to £7.3m since the acquisition, helped to some extent by the low-priced stock the deal brought in.
Egan believes the company can increase sales to £200m over the next three years, largely because it has moved away from third-party brands to its own labels, investing in label-specific design and brand teams to ensure each collection has a unique proposition and target customer. Egan admits it has benefited from the demise of rivals like Faith and Dolcis.
Three-point expansion plan
Egan, with group chairman and Dune founder Daniel Rubin, has developed a three-point plan to reach that goal, built around growth in UK department stores, international expansion and ecommerce.
“Office and Kurt Geiger are doing very well but their model is a multi-branded model. We are in control of our own destiny,” explains Egan, citing difficulties retailers have with distribution rights over brands in international markets.
The business has 21 Dune stores overseas in markets including Russia, the Middle East and, more recently, Libya, which are run by franchise partners. “We can get that number to 120 within three to four years,” says Egan. “We are looking at Asia and Australia. In Europe, the maths don’t work for franchise partners, so we will go direct.”
Egan is investing in technology to drive ecommerce and conversion rates. He plans to give store staff iPads so they will be able to access stock and place orders for customers at the point of trying on. He says: “You have to enable customers to order and buy from you in whatever way they want to.”
Dune’s conversion rate. Industry standard averages 4%
of group sales come from the Dune chain
of group sales come from men’s footwear