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The Athlete’s Foot replicates full service model online

Tuesday, 5 June 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Bricks-and-mortar retailers can offer a full service model online but must be prepared to make a sizeable investment, says the chairman of The Athlete’s Foot, which has launched its online offering.


The Athlete’s Foot has launched an online shopping facility on its website after working on the project for a year.


Part of the RCG Corporation, The Athlete’s Foot has long been considered a standout offline retailer, offering a footwear fitting service in its 140 Australian outlets.


However, it has now added fitting aspects to its online store. RCG chairman Ivan Hammerschlag told StartupSmart consumers can now be fitted for shoes on the internet.


“People answer a series of questions on their weight, running style, etc.… Then we come up with recommended shoes, which we think are ideal for their foot,” Hammerschlag says.


“Over and above that, we have customer service people. They are high trained salespeople who are there to help you through the decision-making process.”


“You can talk to them on the internet – via live blogs, Facebook, etc. – but also on a 1300 number.”


Hammerschlag says while The Athlete’s Foot encourages customers to go in-store to get fitted, if they want to do it online that service is now available.


“You need to always serve the customers where they want to shop. If a new shopping centre opens and people want to shop there, you need to open a shop there,” he says.


“Online is no different.”


According to Hammerschlag, The Athlete’s Foot decided to initiate this project 14 months ago, describing it as “the largest project The Athlete’s Foot has ever done”.


“The issue is it does take substantial investment. We’ve invested up to $3 million across three websites,” he says.


Retail expert Debra Templar, of The Templar Group, doubts whether smaller retailers would be able to replicate their full service model online.


“I don’t know that you can without spending a lot of money. The Athlete’s Foot has got the weight behind them, but I can’t see the small and independent being able to do that,” Templar says.


“I think it’s fantastic if they can do it, but I don’t know how it would work for a lot of small businesses... I don’t think there’s one answer.”


Retail services that were once delivered face to face are becoming increasingly prevalent online, suggesting bricks-and-mortar retailers need to replicate their offering on the internet.


Less than a week ago, US-based online bra-fitting service True & Co secured $US2 million in funding from investors including First Round Capital, SoftTech VC and Softbank Capital.


Josh Kopelman, a managing partner at First Round Capital, said in a statement the True & Co team is “applying technology in an unexpected way to solve a [difficult] retail problem”.