StyleTread bucks Asian gold rush to expand to New Zealand

An online retail expert says New Zealand can be a lucrative market for start-ups as long as they localise their offering, after online shoe store StyleTread announced its New Zealand launch.


StyleTread, founded in 2010 by Mark Rowland and Bjorn Behrendt, is an online shoe store featuring more than 65,000 shoes and accessories, and has grown to more than 70 staff.


The Sydney-based business prides itself on service, attracting more than one million visitors per month and 60,000 Facebook fans, as well as having a repeat buyer rate of more than 40%.


It has also introduced a three-hour delivery service in Sydney.


Earlier this year, StyleTread attracted a $12 million investment from Melbourne-based venture capital firm Starfish Ventures.


StyleTread has now launched in New Zealand, offering free next day delivery, a 365-day free returns policy and a dedicated website.


According to Rowland, “New Zealand shoe lovers have told us they want StyleTread operating on their shores, and we have listened”.


“We are excited to offer free next day delivery and a 365-day free returns policy to our Kiwi friends. There is something for everyone,” Rowland said in a statement.


Michael Fox, co-founder of online shoe store Shoes of Prey, also in Sydney, says his business expanded into New Zealand and Asia simultaneously.


“For us, because we ship directly from China, we can ship to anywhere in the world,” he says.


“We only offer payment in seven different currencies – we do offer payment in New Zealand dollars. We chose that as one our currencies.”


Fox says New Zealand is an attractive market because of its cultural similarities to Australia. He also believes a lot of media coverage is “shared” between the two countries.


In addition, Fox says New Zealand consumers are generally more appreciative of new services than, say, consumers in the United States.


“It’s amazing to compare the difference between US consumers and New Zealand consumers,” he says.


“US consumers are so used to having great customer service, and will return a pair of shoes and think nothing of it.”

“New Zealand consumers will say, ‘I can’t believe you ship your shoes to New Zealand and we can pay in New Zealand dollars’. They’re so appreciative of it all.”


However, that’s not to say there aren’t challenges associated with the New Zealand market.


“I used to work for Super Cheap Auto. They launched in New Zealand and one of the mistakes they made early on was assuming it was identical to the Australian market,” he says.


“For something like auto parts, cars in New Zealand are very different to the cars in Australia because of the different import laws, so [Super Cheap Auto] suffered a bit initially.”


Fox says it’s important to research your particular product category before entering a new market, and to tweak your offering accordingly.


“Facebook and some other businesses use New Zealand as a testing market – it has a western population and is a relatively small size,” he says.


“New Zealand is not as connected to people elsewhere in the world, which makes it a good testing country. But I’m not sure how much that applies to retailers.”


“It’s closer to Australia than any other market, but don’t think of it as just another station to Australia.”


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