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Clarks set for online onslaught

Clarks is to shake up the footwear market by launching its first ecommerce site next April.

The retailer has hired former B&Q supply chain director Richard Houlton as head of multi-channel to drive its internet business.

It is assembling a team of 20 and is scouting for a partner to host the site, which will offer men’s and women’s footwear for home delivery or in-store collection.

Kids’ footwear is unlikely to feature because of Clarks’ high fitting standards, which would be difficult to maintain online.

Clarks’ annual sales were £972.7 million for the year to January 31. It could potentially grab a big chunk of online fashion spend, which Mintel estimates to be about £1.2 billion a year.

Despite having huge investment potential, Clarks has come late to the online market. Stockists such as Shoesdirect.co.uk, Schuh. com and Vivaladiva.com have benefited by selling Clarks product online.

One independent footwear retailer said the launch would be tough for bricks-and-mortar stockists. He said: “It could be a problem because Clarks’ spend will go elsewhere. Shoppers will try on shoes and then buy them online. But we’ll survive.”

Clarks declined to comment on the move.

CLARKS WEB FACTS

- “Clarks shoes” was a more common internet search term than “shoes” over the past four weeks in the UK

- 48% of those searching for “Clarks shoes” then visited the Clarks website

- Average time spent on Clarks’ non-transactional site is under four minutes, compared with nine and eight minutes respectively at Office and Faith’s online stores

Source: Hitwise.

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