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