Top fash­ions at your door with a click of a but­ton

Karl Ham­mer­schmidt is the co-founder and CEO of on­line fash­ion e-tailer Run­waySale

Sunday Times - - Careers - By MAR­GARET HAR­RIS

What is Run­waySale, and who would be your tar­get cus­tomer?

We are an on­line fash­ion e-tailer that of­fers high-end fash­ion brands at a dis­counted price. We fo­cus on the value seg­ment of the mar­ket.

The Run­waySale busi­ness model is based on an exclusive, free, mem­bers-only shop­ping so­ci­ety that pro­vides ac­cess to de­signer brands peo­ple covet but nor­mally can’t af­ford. South Africans love to bar­gain-hunt, and it’s so much eas­ier on­line. With a click of a but­ton, on a mo­bile or desk­top, you can buy a num­ber of run­way-in­spired brands and accessories at up to 70% off and have them de­liv­ered to your door.

Seventy-five per­cent of our mem­bers are women who ei­ther shop for them­selves or their fam­ily. The ma­jor­ity are in up-and­com­ing LSMs, but they range from mil­len­ni­als to older cus­tomers, a num­ber of whom live out­side the metropoli­tan ar­eas.

What do you do at Run­waySale?

I am co-founder, along with Elmien Ham­mer­schmidt, and my po­si­tion is CEO. We don’t re­ally talk about roles, more about re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. I am re­spon­si­ble for the per­for­mance of the com­pany, plus I in­ter­act with the mar­ket and am fairly in­volved in the tech and sup­plier side of the busi­ness.

How have South Africans’ at­ti­tudes to e-com­merce changed since you be­gan in 2012?

When we launched in 2012, the South African mar­ket­place was still rel­a­tively un­tapped in terms of e-com­merce of­fer­ings, espe­cially lo­cal re­tail sites. Since then, more on­line re­tail sites have been in­tro­duced, and we have dou­bled in size, year on year.

Run­waySale has more than one mil­lion mem­bers, with 60% of shop­pers be­ing re­peat pur­chasers and some mem­bers who have been with the com­pany from the be­gin­ning — hav­ing shopped more than 300 times in five-odd years.

Al­though e-com­merce is grow­ing ex­po­nen­tially as South Africans be­come more com­fort­able with the con­cept, there is cer­tainly still plenty of room for growth. In fact, if you re­move cat­e­gories such as air­line tick­ets and per­haps elec­tron­ics from the equa­tion, only about 1% of to­tal re­tail sales is on­line. We are smaller than other on­line mar­kets, which means we need to adapt and work around that.

What makes your job stress­ful?

Ev­ery job has its stress. There are re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, dead­lines, and so on, and even if you do ev­ery­thing right, you still need a bit of luck. It’s im­por­tant to ac­knowl­edge that and ap­pre­ci­ate the amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity that we have. South Africa is fi­nally catch­ing up with the rest of the world from an on­line shop­ping per­spec­tive, and we’re well-po­si­tioned to cap­ture that wind­fall.

What did you want to be when you were a child?

I al­ways wanted to cre­ate a busi­ness. I’ve al­ways wanted to start some­thing from scratch.

I love cre­at­ing some­thing where pre­vi­ously there was a gap — to build a team and cul­ture that re­flects our vi­sion and val­ues.

Pic­ture: Sup­plied

Karl Ham­mer­schmidt says e-com­merce has grown ex­po­nen­tially since he and his wife, Elmien, launched Run­waySale in 2012.

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