The Australian Shoe Fair held its first ever Footwear Forum at the recent Melbourne trade event. CEO of PeepToe, Sue Ellen Mackintosh-Dixon drew from her 20 year history in the fashion and footwear industry to outline the significant changes that have impacted both along the way, as well as outline the role of online media and e-commerce, and the rise of shoe brands selling vertically.
During her career Sue Ellen has held a variety of positions including sales, product development, operations, supply chain and since 2000 General Management roles. As the chief executive office of Australia’s well-known premium designer shoe, jewellery and bag retailer, Sue Ellen was more than equipped to host this Business Seminar.
For those who missed this event, or if you wish to brush up on the topics covered, we have included our interview questions with Sue Ellen below.
PeepToe exploded onto the Australian fashion and accessories market in October 2006, how has the Australian footwear industry changed since then?
In the last 6 years fashion footwear has experienced significant change. Traditionally, sold in bricks & mortar stores fashion footwear, after apparel is one of the faster growing categories online. Additionally, there are a lot smaller players that have also entered the wholesale section of fashion shoes.
You have personally worked within the Australian fashion industry for many years experiencing the changes first hand as we move into omni-channel retail – how will this new digital platform affect the future of e-commerce? And how will it impact the footwear industry specifically?
Onmi-channel retailing is certainly the way of the future, being able to offer your customer a shopping experience wherever he or she wants to shop. This is one of the current advantages a multi-channel retailer has over a pure-play online retailer – the ability to offer in-store & online.
PeepToe has been online for some time now, can you explain your digital strategy? How many channels do you operate including social media and how do they all work cohesively to build consumer interest and loyalty?
We have over 106,000 likes on Facebook and enjoy very healthy levels of interactions with our fans. We also operate Twitter & Instagram. We are looking into Pinterest but want to make sure we can resource its maintenance properly so that we keep people engaged.
Do you think with so many websites and online stores that it has become harder to get your point of difference out there and become a leader? How does PeepToe maintain such a strong brand identity within a saturated market?
More competition makes you work smarter to earn the patronage of your customers. You need to always be on your ‘A’ game and ensure that everything you do is always about your customer and ensuring that your brand identity remains true to itself.
PeepToe has always been about statement style and glamour with an emphasis on quality. We are a design lead business and each piece is designed with this in mind. Being a boutique brand also has its advantages we don’t mass produce anything.
Since 2006, PeepToe has expanded to include bags and jewellery that complement the shoe range, does the company plan to continue expanding on their accessories offering? Why did the brand make this move into accessories from footwear?
PeepToe has a styling philosophy to the sales process. We want to be able to compliment the outfit of our girl completely. It was very organic to expand from shoes into clutches first then jewellery & bags. We are always considering the mix of our offer and only add new categories where it makes sense.
You recently presented the Footwear Forum at the Australian Shoe Fair trade event this week. You touched on the rise of shoe brands selling vertically, do you see this continuing to grow? And how will this affect the Australian footwear retailers?
I do see that there is room for more players in the online shoe store space. This will continue to keep Australian footwear retailers on their ‘A’ game!
What’s in store for the future of PeepToe?
PeepToe will continue to expand its retail boutique’s footprint into locations that fit the brands boutique ethos. We will continue to invest in our ecommerce platform to ensure the customer experience meets the needs of ‘our girl’. There are also opportunities for the brand to have a global presence in the future.