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