Porter Push

Mr Porter is grow­ing its shoe biz with a new pri­vate-la­bel line.

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By Bar­bara Sch­nei­der-Levy

Lux­ury e-tailer Mr Porter is mak­ing a big­ger play for shoes as the men’s mar­ket con­tin­ues to be a solid growth story.

In ad­di­tion to bol­ster­ing its pres­ence with key brands, the site last month un­veiled pri­vate-la­bel footwear un­der the Mr P. name. The col­lec­tion fol­lows the launch of a com­pan­ion ap­parel line last year.

“The shoe cat­e­gory for Mr Porter is one of the most im­por­tant, and [it’s] an ex­ten­sion of a man’s wardrobe, so [adding pri­vate-la­bel footwear] was a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion,” said Fiona Firth, buy­ing di­rec­tor. The line will be sourced in Italy and in­cludes loafers, sneak­ers and boots, re­tail­ing from $290 to $615.

“When you go to the site and see the num­ber of brands we have and the prod­uct within them, you can de­ter­mine [footwear is an in­te­gral] cat­e­gory,” Firth said, although she de­clined to share sales fig­ures.

The e-tailer’s site stocks a broad as­sort­ment of big names, in­clud­ing Nike, Com­mon Projects, Tom Ford and Ge­orge Clev­er­ley.

The lat­ter’s CEO, Ge­orge Glas­gow Jr., said Mr Porter has al­lowed the British shoe la­bel to ex­pand its dis­tri­bu­tion beyond the U.K. by in­stantly tap­ping an in­ter­na­tional clien­tele. “Work­ing with them, we’ve de­signed spe­cial ranges, col­ors and col­lec­tions while still hand-mak­ing them in Lon­don,” he said. “We’ve made [footwear] in shapes and styles which might be more ap­peal­ing to their cus­tomers, and the re­sult has been tremen­dously suc­cess­ful.”

Here, Firth tack­les Mr Porter’s core cus­tomer, com­pet­ing glob­ally and why the mo­men­tum con­tin­ues to build for men’s footwear.

What does the typ­i­cal Mr Porter cus­tomer look for in a shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence?

“The av­er­age age is 38. He’s a pro­fes­sional work­ing in bank­ing, fi­nance, fash­ion and art. He’s pre­dom­i­nantly an ur­ban cus­tomer, so unique prod­uct is of in­ter­est. He loves read­ing [our] editorials that are ed­u­ca­tional, funny and in­for­ma­tive. Con­ve­nience is also im­por­tant. Then there’s the de­liv­ery propo­si­tion. It’s quick, and the pre­sen­ta­tion is beau­ti­ful.”

As the men’s mar­ket gets more crowded, who is your big­gest com­pe­ti­tion?

“Be­cause we’re a global player, we’re the No. 1 on­line re­tailer for menswear. How­ever, we’re aware of ev­ery big re­tailer be­cause ev­ery­one’s got an on­line propo­si­tion. We look at Nord­strom, Bar­neys, Bergdorf and Neiman [Mar­cus] in the States. In the Far East, we look at Joyce. In the U.K., it’s Sel­fridges, Har­rods. We [also watch] Match­es­fash­ion.com and Moda Operandi — be­cause that’s the way peo­ple are shop­ping. Our cus­tomer trav­els a lot, and they’re well-in­formed, whether it’s through so­cial me­dia or our own chan­nels. So it’s im­por­tant we keep abreast of ev­ery­thing that’s go­ing on.”

How do shop­per pref­er­ences dif­fer ac­cord­ing to mar­ket?

“There are re­gional dif­fer­ences, but not as pro­nounced as it used to be. A best-seller is a best-seller, whether in the U.S., Europe or the Far East. But there are nu­ances. Monk straps at the mo­ment sell bet­ter in Amer­ica than the U.K. There are cer­tain things, not nec­es­sar­ily with shoes, but cloth­ing where there’s a loy­alty to brands. Amer­i­cans and Ja­panese sup­port their own brands, so there are [still] nu­ances.”

There’s been a lot of de­bate over whether sneak­ers can con­tinue their huge growth. What is your take?

“They will only get big­ger. There are sports­wear brands like Nike and Adi­das [where sneak­ers] are what they do. But they’re not per­for­mance any­more. They are fash­ion and can be worn on the city streets. Sneak­ers are also an [av­enue to] en­ter the branded mar­ket since it’s one of the most ac­ces­si­ble ar­eas. You can buy a Nike for $60 to $250. But it may not be pos­si­ble to main­tain the busi­ness at that level be­cause of lux­ury brands such as Ba­len­ci­aga or Gucci with a lot of hype about their sneak­ers.”

What footwear brands are you most ex­cited about?

“We’re prob­a­bly one of the first to back a com­pany like Com­mon Projects, and it’s been phe­nom­e­nal. They’ve done unique and ex­clu­sive prod­uct for us. We’ve also just taken on a new Brazil­ian brand, Veja, that’s made of or­ganic ma­te­ri­als. We have a fan­tas­tic busi­ness with Of­ficine Creative by work­ing with them to come up with ex­clu­sive prod­uct. We also do very tra­di­tional brands like Ge­orge Clev­er­ley and John Lobb.”

What is the big­gest growth op­por­tu­nity for the site?

“Although we’re a global player, there is a lot of the mar­ket we can still tap. Even in ex­ist­ing mar­kets where we’ve done a tremen­dous amount of work over seven years, the next seven should be as creative and in­ter­est­ing since there’s still much to go af­ter. We’ve grown from 80 brands to 450-plus. So we can fine-tune and be­come more cus­tomer-spe­cific.”

How are you court­ing younger cus­tomers?

“There’s some­thing for ev­ery­one. We have prod­uct from $25 to nearly $45,000. We have a lot of young peo­ple shop­ping with us who will grow with us. That’s what it’s all about — the longevity of the brand. We aren’t just cater­ing to a slightly older, very wealthy [shop­per]. It’s also [about how] we talk to cus­tomers.”

Mr Porter’s new cap­sule with Ralph Lau­ren

Jac­ques boots from the pri­vate-la­bel line

Fiona Firth

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