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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