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edition 12 (226)
December 2017
Retail & leisure

Walking in new shoes

Apps for browsing and buying; home delivery and the collection of goods within a few hours – these are among the services that Eobuwie.pl’s new brick-and-mortar shops will offer

Aneta Cichla

Walking in new shoes
Marcin Grzymkowski, CEO, Eobuwie.pl

A coherent omnichannel sales model would finally seem to have been launched onto the Polish market. Eobuwie.pl, which used to operate purely as an online footwear store, is opening its first physical shops – and they appear to combine the two sales formats. We discussed the company’s modern vision for retail with its CEO, Marcin Grzymkowski

Aneta Cichla, Eurobuild CEE: Eobuwie.pls first brick-and-mortar store opened in Focus Mall Zielona Góra in October. Is this going to be the model for your planned chain of traditional shops?

Marcin Grzymkowski, CEO, Eobuwie.pl: The concept we opened in Zielona Góra is not going to be the ultimate format of our future physical stores. It has an area of just under 400 sqm and deliveries to the unit are sourced from our central warehouse. Eventually we will be opening stores of 2,000–3,000 sqm, with the first of this scale set to open in early 2018, in the Magnolia shopping centre in Wrocław. We are also in advanced negotiations over several other locations. We expect that such leases will be signed over the next few months. Importantly, our strategy is to open only one store per large city. So if we decide to sign a lease contract in a particular centre in a given city, we will only be present in this one location. So there will only be a few stores operating with the Eobuwie.pl logo across Poland.

Having a considerably larger storage area than the sales floor in a shopping centre outlet might mean that the stores will soon start functioning as both showrooms and collection points for the goods. Do you believe that retail in malls is going to evolve in this direction?

Eobuwie.pl’s brick-and-mortar stores will not so much be showrooms, but they will go one step further, beyond the showroom concept, adding new value to customers’ experience. They will help people attached to traditional shops to get to know and try out online shopping. The modern display systems they will feature will also make them lively places, vibrant with the latest trends and fashion inspirations. Are omnichannel sales the future of retail? For us the omnichannel concept has already arrived. Technological progress shouldn’t make expert knowledge and human emotions obsolete in retail. It is actually intended to help us understand customers better and respond to their requirements even more effectively.

The emergence of a new store format, combining a showroom with a goods collection point, will probably entail certain complications when it comes to signing the lease contract. How do you define which is the storage and which is the sales area?

As you mentioned, the details of such contracts with all our business partners are confidential. However, I can say that we are trying to come up with solutions that are amenable for both parties from the outset – a ‘win-win situation’ for both sides.

Are you planning to expand Eobuwie.pls online and physical store formats further abroad?

We are currently focusing on the development of our online store on new foreign markets. Currently the Eobuwie.pl online store operates in ten countries, including Greece and Lithuania, where we started operations in 2017. We’re going to launch our online store in Sweden this year. We are also preparing debuts in two other countries, but I can’t reveal which ones at this time. We’re not planning any foreign expansion for our physical store chain at present.

There has been much talk on the market about the innovativeness of the Eobuwie.pl B&M store concept its expected to add a new dimension to omnichannel sales. What will be the characteristic features of these stores?

I would like to emphasise that we want to create a new shopping experience. Because we believe that online and traditional sales can interpenetrate. When entering an Eobuwie.pl store, customers are given access to tablets with a special app allowing them to browse the entire product range available in our online stores with ease. Next they can choose and order a specific model via the app. Some of the goods are available straight away because they are located in the store’s warehouse. If the desired model is not available in the store, we can guarantee that any product from our central warehouse will be available within two hours. We notify customers about this with a text message. Having tried the products on in our store, they can take them home. They can also have their purchases delivered to their homes. Apart from that, Eobuwie.pl shops will have friendly, well thought-out interiors. Each will have several LED screens, displaying all the most interesting information about the brands, along with fashion proposals and the latest trends. So far retail chains have not employed such advanced tools for communicating with customers.

Judging by what you are saying, logistics is going to play an important part in how Eobuwie.pl stores function.

Logistics is of key importance for us. We are an online store and we need to have the best logistics for us to stand out from the competition. At present orders placed in our online shop before 6 pm are delivered on the next business day. Delivery and returns are free of charge and we offer several different options: couriers, or pick-up from a self-service parcel station, a Ruch newsagent or a B&M store. The same policy for deliveries, complaints and returns also applies to our online shop as well as our B&M stores.

But to operate on such a large scale you need a huge logistics base. Are you planning to build another distribution centre?

We currently have a very efficient logistics centre in Zielona Góra, within the special economic zone there. We can prepare 4,000 parcels per hour and 96,000 of them a day. However, due to our rapid development, the facility is becoming too small and we are planning to enlarge it. We intend to open a new warehousing centre next to the current one.

What difficulties have you encountered with selling shoes online? Are brick-and-mortar stores a response to webrooming?

Even though e-commerce has been undergoing spectacular growth in Poland, as a proportion of total sales it still constitutes only app. 10 pct of the volume. In Western countries, such as Germany and the UK, the level has reached around 20 pct while in the US it has grown to as much as 30 pct. Looking at these figures could lead you to conclude that the prognosis for the future is very good. However, a considerable amount of shopping is still done in the traditional way. So there is quite a large group of consumers we could still introduce our services to. B&M stores will help us access new customers. We have been expanding our capabilities for contacting the wide group who are potentially interested in the product range of Eobuwie.pl. We have been paying close attention to the latest trends, webrooming as well as the opposite approach – ROFO [research offline, purchase online]. Thus we came up with the idea of embracing both channels. Because they interpenetrate. Our strategy has been determined by our desire to fulfil customers’ expectations, after we received enquiries about whether we had B&M stores. Anyway, thanks to the synergy effect and omnichannel sales we are able to offer a fantastic range of options: customers can decide what and where they want to try on and buy, the form they want the purchase to take, as well as how and where they want the product to be delivered.


From back room to millions

Marcin Grzymkowski is the founder of Eobuwie.pl. His beginnings in the business were modest, starting from the back room of his parents’ shoe shore, personally photographing the products and offering them online. In less than a decade the family business had expanded 200-fold into a huge e-commerce business exporting millions of goods to a number of European countries. He holds the position of CEO of the company and now employs several hundred people. Ernst & Young awarded him the title ‘Polish Entrepreneur of the Year 2016’. Marcin graduated in economics at the University of Wales in Cardiff. He is also a husband and father, as well as a kite surfing and cycling enthusiast.


Eobuwie.pl

One of the leading online branded footwear retailers in Central and Eastern Europe. Its product range is one of the widest in Europe, with more than 40,000 catalogued items and over 450 brands. Eobuwie.pl provides 24-hour delivery in Poland and neighbouring countries from its logistics centre in Zielona Góra. It is now launching same-day-delivery services in selected locations. The company has also been successful in the Czech Republic (Eobuv.cz), Slovakia (Eobuv.sk), Germany (Eschuhe.de), Romania (Epantofi.ro), Hungary (Ecipo.hu), Ukraine (Eobuv.com.ua), Bulgaria (Obuvki.bg), Lithuania (Eavalyne.lt) and Greece (Epapoutsia.gr). Plans are also being drawn up to launch such a service in other countries. This year Eobuwie.pl began developing a chain of brick-and-mortar stores in a number of cities.

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