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Taking overseas web expansion carefully at Hobbs
International markets can offer high returns

Fashion retailer Hobbs recognizes the big opportunity its web-based division has in selling into overseas markets but is pursuing its international online expansion strategy in measured steps. By Glynn Davis

GENERAL MERCHANDISE

Taking overseas web expansion carefully at Hobbs

Ahead of speaking at The Retail Bulletin's 2nd International Expansion Summit 2013 on March 26th, Gracia Amico, director of e-commerce at Hobbs, says the company is “taking it step by step” with the first move simply having enabled shopping in up to 50 countries from its UK site. 

An investigation into where the traffic is derived can then be undertaken in order to determine which markets are the most likely to justify the company developing a localised website. Ahead of taking such action – which will likely be in Q3 of 2013 – Amico says the core UK site currently has a toggle button to allow switching between Australian Dollars, US Dollar and Sterling prices.

When the move for localised sites is taken it will involve implementing local currency and language but there is recognition that it is not a straightforward task, with Amico suggesting that the “US language is not like English”. She says the content will also be tailored to the individual market as determined by the IP address of the incoming shopper.

However, fulfillment will still be from the UK, and this will not change until the volumes in the local market reach certain levels. At this stage returns could also be consolidated. This would certainly help in a market like Germany where she says “it is renowned for its high return rates”.

Although Amico accepts that returns can be a “challenge” she suggests that as long as there is an early recognition that they are a part of doing business online then it is not a problem – and invariably the average basket size for web orders is greater than in Hobbs’ stores, which helps offset the issue to some extent.

The third step for Hobbs developing a web presence in an international market would be to create a local distribution centre but as other retailers have found this requires decent volumes to be achieved before such an investment can be justified.

The focus on overseas markets for its online business is not a result of a slowing UK base, according to Amico, but more a realisation that overseas represents a “good opportunity for Hobbs as UK brands translate well overseas because people love Britishness”.

Such a move sits well with the company’s overseas stores and they provide a great support to the launch of a web presence in a new market. “It’s difficult to launch as a brand abroad just through the web. The stores support it,” she says.

However, once up and running the web does have some specific benefits as Amico believes that for a brand like Hobbs that appeals to professional women the ability of this customer grouping to buy online is very powerful. “It is their ideal way to shop,” she says, adding that the proof of this can be seen in the levels of loyalty from these customers when buying from Hobbs’ UK website.

Gracia is part of a top-quality speaker line up at the Retail Bulletin's 2nd International Expansion Summit 26th March 2013 including George International, Bench, Costa Coffee, Mothercare, The Hamleys Group, Alliance Boots, Austin Reed, Icon Live, Codex Global, The Javelin Group, Field Fisher Waterhouse LLP, Ogone UK and Codex. The event is designed for UK retailers who are planning for or are developing an international growth strategy. Register now to secure your place.

 

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