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Stockists slam Start-rite web sales

Start-rite stockists have hit out against the launch of the kids' footwear brand's transactional website.

The kids' fitted footwear brand is to launch its first direct-to-consumer website next month, which will sell the entire Start-rite range.The brand expects to shift between 18,000 to 20,000 pairs each year via the site, with online sales expected to account for 10% of its business by 2010.

However, one leading Start-rite stockist said: "Start-rite is the Rolls-Royce of fitted brands but this will destroy what the brand stands for – fitting. This is really questioning whether kids need their shoes fitted at all and is also questioning why Start-rite spends so much time and effort training shop floor staff to fit the product."

Lawrence Martin of The Golden Boot in Maidstone, Kent, which has stocked the brand for 50 years, said: "It is a crazy route. It will devalue the essence of children's fitting and personal service. The fitting story is the bastion of what the brand is about."

However, Start-rite managing director David Attwood said he was committed to the launch and added that market research had signalled consumer demand for a transactional website. He added: "Our wholesale is still important and key to us. Fitting is also very important to us and we won't compromise on that."

Start-rite intends to combat the lack of face-to-face fitting online by offering a printable sizing scale, the option to buy a home-measuring gauge and a service where customers can send in photos of their child's feet which will be sized by the Start-rite team at head office.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Loads of stockists are going to be increasingly affected by brands selling on-line. Anecdotally, I know loads of people who used stores to try stuff on and then then hunt on-line for a cheaper supplier.
    Niche labels often sell their entire range on-line but their stockists only carry a few styles. Customers can google the label and discover more choice
    High costs to trade in 'Real life' mean retailers need as much margin as possible but if the same product is sold on-line at a lower mark up, customers will buy from 'Internet land' instead.
    We have dropped 3 labels recently as they sold on-line, undercutting us.
    We concentrate on goods that aren't sold on-line at all (except by us).

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  • Online footwear sales do generate a lot of returns by the very nature of the shoe. Sizing does fluctuate and what is even more frustrating is that size conversion charts are not consistent. When UK sizes are converted in to EU sizes there is a variance.

    Surely one conversion chart would help online footwear sellers.

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