Online Norwich firm has foot in growing market
PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 October 2011 | UPDATED: 11:43 13 October 2011
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It was a combination of two passions, shoes and computers, which inspired Martin and Monica Lott to launch an online fashion store.
The couple, who met at the University of East Anglia where Mrs Lott, 39, was studying for a masters degree in economics and Mr Lott, 27, was completing his PhD in the field of biology, started Miss Shoes in 2007.
Initially the business was an eBay shop run from the bedroom of their home in Wakefield Road, Norwich, where the couple sold shoes for men, women and children through the online auction site.
But now the business has its own warehouse in the Hellesdon Park Industrial Estate, and also a new name Fuel Your Online Fashion (FYFO.co.uk) after working with Norwich- based online specialist firm Further Search Marketing on a rebranding and introducing a greater range of items to sell including clothes and accessories.
This winter the firm has bought exclusivity to styles of snowboots.
“Monica had the idea of selling shoes and I had the idea of doing it online. I had been selling computer components online,” Mr Lott said.
“We turned over £1m in the third year. We simply sold shoes, nothing else. We sold work shoes and school shoes because they were reasonably safe bets that we were confident would sell. We then added more expensive lines so instead of being £15-20 they were £40-50.”
Since starting the business, they have received two grants – a £2,500 NAME (Norwich Action for Marketing and Exhibitions) grant from Norfolk Network to help with marketing costs and £4,000 from Business Link to help launch FYFO.
Turnover is now £1.5m-£2m and they employ five full time and five part time staff and two apprentices.
The shoes are mostly made in the Far East and Mr Lott listed one of the secrets to their success as tapping into an unsaturated market at the right time.
“I think there weren’t many people doing it five years ago. A lot of the high street retailers were very late to go online. Next and Zara had only just started selling online and Amazon was not selling shoes. It was a great opportunity for us.
“We have been doing it for a few years now and we have learned a lot,” he said. “We are now one of the biggest eBay sellers in the country –business on there is based on customer feedback.”
As well as running a successful business and pursuing their academic studies, the couple also added parenting to the mix with the birth of their son, Eddie, three years ago.
Mr Lott added: “We are growing – we are adding styles. Our average customer is between 20 and 40 years old.
“We have seen a lot of customers coming back who keep buying shoes. It has helped us to grow the business.”