Like many women, Tanya Williams possesses a zeal for shoes that borders on obsession. Unlike many women, it led her to quit her corporate job and launch an online custom-made shoe business. Shoe Fair Online talks shop with the CEO (that’s ‘Chic Executive Officer) of Princess Chic.
How did you become a full-time footwear princess?
Princess Chic was founded in 2007… I ran the business part time for a couple of years while working in a corporate role and after a particularly bad work year and a death in the family, I decided life was too short to spend so many hours doing something you don’t enjoy. Thanks to a very supportive husband, I took made leap from media sales account manager to full time shoe princess. Since launching the business I have never worked harder in my life. I often find myself at my desk at 10pm at night, but it’s worth it.
Where do you get your design inspiration?
I am constantly online looking at footwear trends on the runway with footwear. Some styles come from Europe and US and others are variations on existing styles that I half like but think need further development! I am inspired by many things. I might see some material or colours on a dress and think: “How would that translate to shoes?”
Who is your target market?
Our core demographic is ladies aged 21 to 45 who love shoes and want something unique and different, in other words, not mass produced. We also cater for weddings, special events and formals.
What’s your pricing strategy?
We keep our price points as low as possible to make the product affordable. Our custom made shoes retail from $199 to $269, while our made-to-order styles cost from $159 to $209. These are all handmade shoes; you would expect to pay similar prices for mass produced, chain store product, so our prices are very affordable. We could probably charge more but we don’t. We want our shoes to be affordable for anyone. Our biggest cost is getting the shoes shipped to us from overseas… I know some companies that are charging large amounts for postage and making money from this, but we refuse to go down that path. We only charge what the postage costs us, and while sometimes it actually costs us more, we are happy to offer this service, no matter where our customers live.
How important was knowledge of online in launching the business?
Starting an online business was a massive learning curve, particularly for a technophobe like me. I worked with a web designer to set up princesschic.com.au, which is now on its second site and third shopping cart. He did all the technical bits and I told him how I wanted the site to look and feel. I have to admit I don’t know much about HTML but I am learning new things everyday. I think it is very important to seek out experts who can do the things you cannot. As much as I’d like to think I am wonder woman and can do everything, I can’t! There are so many things you need to be aware of; you could literally spend all week on Google Analytics, site administration and so on.
How do you deal with returns?
We have a number of tools in place to minimise returns. These include a printable foot size chart on the home page, instructional DVD showing ladies how to measure their feet and brand size comparison charts on most shoe pages. We also take customers’ measurements and double check these against our size charts. For example if a lady says she is a size 8 but her measurements don’t match this, we will ask her to double check. We also have an exchange and return policy for shoes in the wrong size. At the end of the day I want ladies to love their shoes and be proud of them. It is of no interest to me to sell people shoes they cannot show off and love.
What percentage of your business is wholesale?
Wholesale is a new area for us. We don’t do much wholesale currently but have just appointed a Queensland wholesale agent and are looking for agents in other states. Ladies are always looking for something unique and we are constantly fielding enquiries about our product, so I would love to see our own line of Princess Chic shoes in stores across Australia and New Zealand.
What are your goals and strategies over the next three to five years?
To expand our product offering of shoes, styles and colours. We want to take our custom made service to the next level and give people more choice in styles and new and unique materials. I’d love to be able to create any shoes someone wanted… I think that would be a great point of difference and totally unique. I would also like to see our shoes in stores everywhere, from small Australian regional towns to overseas markets like Russia, Europe and the US.