Monday, November 29, 2010

Welcome to the team Susie!

We're extremely excited to welcome Susie Adams to the Shoes of Prey team! Susie starts today and is joining us in a part customer service, part marketing role. She'll spend about 2/3 of her time working with Carmen and I on customer service and 1/3 of her time with Jodie on marketing.

You might remember Susie's amazing application for the Extraordinary Customer Service and Startup Wonderperson role we hired Carmen for in June. It's one of the best applications any of us have seen in any role for any company and it highlighted so well Susie's amazing creative flair and her deep understanding of our business from having read this blog! We'd kept in close contact with Susie and we're so excited to have her join the team.

Prior to joining us Susie has spent the last 4 years working for Getty Images and Dorling Kindersley as a photo and art editor where she was responsible for the conception, development, shooting and editing of both creative and commercial photo shoots. She's an amazing photographer in her own right having had her work exhibited both domestically and overseas. She has a Bachelor of Photography/Visual Culture from the Queensland College of Art and she'll no doubt be a great help with our photography and video shoots in addition to many other things.

We're very excited to have Susie on board. Susie is our 8th full time team member joining Vanessa, Carmen, Qun, Melissa, Mike, Jodie and I.

Friday, November 26, 2010

3 weeks in China

Jodie, Mike, Mike's girlfriend Hazel and I flew to China on Monday for a 22 day trip. We've got a packed in agenda including:

  • Catching up with Vanessa and Qun!
  • Multiple meetings with shoe suppliers
  • Meeting with DHL
  • Product development including work on vegan shoes, sandals, boots & new leathers
  • Working with Vanessa and Qun to systemise more of their processes, like photography, shipping and packing and the notes we send to customers
  • We're also heading up to Shanghai for 4 days to catch up with our friend Andy Miller

A key part of the meetings with our shoe suppliers will be planning out our growth over the next 3-5 years. Initially we'd only planned out our sales and growth for the first 12 months. We wanted to focus on proving the business model rather than getting too far ahead of ourselves and thinking 3-5 years out. In some ways that focus was good, but in others it was arguably a mistake because we're hitting the maximum production capabilities of our two existing suppliers, we hadn't given them enough warning about our post 12 month growth.

Fortunately it looks like they'll shortly be able to ramp up their production for us so we want to work more closely with them to ensure they're able and happy to grow with us for the next 3-5 years, and to work with them on how we can systemise our processes to help reduce theirs and our costs and improve on their already very good quality.

It's looking like it will be a fun and productive trip!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Are you interested in a startup co-working environment?

We're looking for new office space to move into in the new year. We're looking around the Surry Hills / Darlinghurst / Woolloomooloo area in Sydney. We'll likely sign a 2-3 year lease which will mean we'll need to rent a larger space than we need right now, so we'll have some free desks.

We'd love to share the space with some other people working in the e-commerce / retail / fashion / tech startup space. It's still early days so we're not sure exactly what we'll be renting but are any other startups interested in the idea of sharing the space or renting a desk/desks from us? It would most likely work best on a month to month, however if another startup wanted to join us for the 2-3 year term of the lease we might be able to get something bigger and share the lease.

If you're interested feel free to comment below or email me at No idea how much space we'll have or what the costs will be but I thought it was worth finding out if there was any interest.

Photo credit

Monday, November 22, 2010

Increase Facebook page engagement with one simple tip

Mike, Jodie and I were discussing our Shoes of Prey Facebook page with our friend and social media guru Ian Lyons over a few beers for Melbourne Cup when Ian suggested we try signing off our names on the Facebook page posts. Jodie takes care of our Facebook page now so the next day she started doing just that, and it's had a fantastic impact.

It seems obvious when we think about it now - people much prefer to speak with a real person they can identify with rather than an anonymous person. As soon as Jodie started signing off with her name, a couple of our best customers, who incidentally we'd recently added to our VIP club as they'd purchased more than 5 pairs of shoes, started asking Jodie specific questions about certain shoes and leathers on our Facebook page. Jodie promptly answered these on the page which encouraged more customers to ask similar questions. The net result has been a lot more customers conversations, a lot more comments and likes and an increase in sales.

Last Thursday a customer asked Jodie if she could post a picture of someone wearing a particular peep toe we have in our designer, because she wanted to see how it looked on a foot. Customers have been making requests like these ever since Jodie started signing off with her name, and we love that they do it. So Jodie and I went into the office the next morning and photographed Jodie in a pair of wedges that a customer had designed with that peep toe. The feedback was amazing. 67 likes, 21 comments and in the 4 days after the post we sold 13 pairs of wedges and quite a few other shoes with that peep toe design, higher numbers of those shoes than normal.

I love this form of marketing so much:
1. Our customers feel comfortable asking us questions like this because they know that Jodie will respond to them, they've seen Jodie in the videos on our site and they know she's responded to questions before.

2. We then post photos of our shoes to our Facebook page in a genuine, uncontrived way. We're not just posting shoes for the sake of trying to sell them, we're posting them because a customer has asked us too.

3. It shows that Jodie, and our business as a whole respond quickly to customer requests helping to build our brand.

4. This uncontrived form of marketing results in a measurable sales increase.

Here's another example of one of the many great conversations from the page since Jodie started adding in her name:

I'm sure this personal interaction is something that has helped Blair (the 16, now 17 year old video blogger we worked with) build the 500,000+ YouTube subscriber base she has. I love how at the 0:43 second mark of the video she did about us she tells people the reason for the band-aid on her finger, it's personal, genuine and people love it.

In other Facebook page news we've just crossed the 10,000 fan mark on our page so we now get to see impression data for our posts. You can see this information in the first of the screen shots above. Note that the data is incorrect on this post because the feature was only just enabled on our page.

Anyone else have any other tips for adding personality to a Facebook page? Has anyone else come across a Facebook page strategy that's had a real impact on how fans use the page?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Social Media Junction 2 Roundup

On Monday this week I flew to New Zealand to present at the Social Media Junction 2 conference in Auckland, and it was a fantastic event. 187 people attended the main presentation day on Tuesday with the goal of learning more about social media and how to use it within their organisations. The group of speakers provided a really interesting mix of social media experience:

Lee Odden
Co-founder (with his wife) of the agency TopRank Marketing in the US, Lee and his wife Susan work with lots of small to medium businesses in the B2B space. Lee is the author of the excellent online marketing blog TopRank and he provided some fantastic case studies of how businesses are effectively using social media and talked about the importance of measuring the return on investment (ROI) of your social media campaigns, while remembering that there are also many intangible benefits. My favourite line was, "What's the ROI of having a telephone in your business?" his point being that social media is similar to the telephone in the immeasurability of many of the benefits it can provide.

Simon Wakeman
Simon heads up social media for the Medway council in the UK. The Medway council, like many other government organisations cops a lot of flak and boy have they had their fair share in the social media space! Medway Council have a smart car with camera's on top which finds, photographs then issues tickets to illegally parked cars. It's not the most popular car in the world as shown by some of the Facebook Groups Simon shared with us:

This makes our experience with a negative comment on Facebook seem much less significant!

Simon talked through some of the ways they deal with these negative comments. He talked through the important of understanding who it is who is making the comment (it may be someone on the other side of the political divide), what sort of audience do they have (a Facebook page with 20 likes is less of an issue than one with 2,500 likes), and not taking it personally when these things happen - easier said than done I'm sure!

Louise Denver
Louise heads up the innovation team at Deloitte in Australia. I had heard many good things about Deloitte's innovative uses of social media before, but I hadn't realised how well they were using it, and for an accounting firm with 14,000 people they have done particularly amazing things to embrace social media within the culture of their firm.

I found their use of Yammer within their firm particularly interesting. We're still small enough at Shoes of Prey that it's not too difficult for us to brainstorm and share ideas with each other, but clearly a firm the size of Deloitte is a very different beast, and it sounds like they've been getting some great results with Yammer.

I had the after lunch speaking spot so I decided to try something a little different to try to wake people up before my presentation, I had the audience do a triathlon in their chairs. First up was some arm waving for the swim leg, some chair cycling then everyone hopped up to run on the spot. We finished with everyone giving the person next to them a recovery shoulder massage. I have to admit I wasn't sure how this would go down but I figured I was in another country so if it bombed no one would know. Fortunately people seemed to get into it. Hat tip to Phillip di Bella who I borrowed this idea from!

I talked through how we've used social media at Shoes of Prey. I went through how The Purple Cow and Buzz Marketing influenced us in developing the custom women's shoes idea which gives us a product and story that people want to share through social media. I talked through our YouTube case study, how we use our Facebook page and adding to Lee's theme from earlier on, how we measure the ROI of our campaigns then adapt and adjust our tactics based on how they're going.

Darren Whitelaw
Darren works for the Victorian department of justice and helped manage the Victorian government's response through social media to the Victorian bushfires which tragically killed 173 people last year. Darren talked about the challenges of getting a group of beauracrats to accept that working with social media is the right thing to do. He gave the example of Google asking for bushfire data to create a Google Map that would show people where the bushfires were at any given point in time. Google were told that this data was government data and subject to copyright so despite the Country Fire Authority and Department of Sustainability and Environment websites being down Google weren't able to access this data for a couple of days during the crisis, until cooler heads prevailed.

Darren also talked through some of the benefits of using social media in a crisis. During a crisis, often one of the first things to go down is the mobile phone network which can't always handle the additional call load. People then tend to call 000 becomes inundated. People then turn to the web to access information and key websites can go down. Tools like Google Maps, Facebook and Twitter are all fantastic for disseminating potentially life saving information during times like these as they're built to scale and generally don't go down.

Cliff Rosenberg
The last speaker for the day was Cliff Rosenberg, the Managing Director of LinkedIn Australia and New Zealand. Cliff talked through the benefits of social networking from a professional point of view. He discussed the distinction between professional networks like LinkedIn compared with social networks like Facebook and those that are mixed like Twitter.

One of my favourite slides from Cliff's presentation was a graphical representation of his LinkedIn social growth showing his 1300 connections and how he came to be connected with them all. It doesn't look like there's a copy online but if I come across it I'll post it up.

I took a lot from the presentations and thoroughly enjoyed the event. The team at Bullet PR who organised the event, Nicholas, Jennifer and Alex were genuinely nice, friendly and a real pleasure to work with. They hosted a speaker's dinner the night before the event which was fantastic for meeting both the Bullet PR team and the other speakers, and I went to dinner with Nicholas and Jennifer again on Tuesday night in a more social setting. Previous events I have spoken at didn't create this same level of engagement amongst the speakers, they were more 'do your presentation and leave'. I think the dinners created a much better atmosphere on the day of the event and I know I tailored my presentation after getting to know the other speakers and what they would be talking about so I didn't cover off any of the same things, and I'm sure some of the other speakers did too which is a benefit to the people attending the conference.

And lastly, the Bullet PR team organised for me to appear on the TVNZ Breakfast Show on Wednesday morning to discuss social media. It's the equivalent of Sunrise or the Today show in Australia and is a fantastic audience for us. I didn't cover anything ground breaking but if you're interested the video is up here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How not to treat your customers - Virgin Mobile provide another lesson

As discussed previously, I already have incredibly low expectations of the customer service I will receive from Virgin Mobile Australia but they've managed to negatively exceed my low expectations again and I think it's a great lesson in how not to treat your customers.

Since the iPhone 4 came out in Australia in August I've called Virgin Mobile a number of times to find out when I could get one. Every time I called I was told they had none in stock and that I should call back another time to find out more. The same message to check back later is posted on their website. I continued calling every few weeks to check in for 3 months until my sister's boyfriend told me he had walked into a Virgin Mobile store in Brisbane and walked out with an iPhone 4! Ok I thought, clearly their phone support team doesn't talk to their stores and their stores have stock which their website and phone team don't have access to. I was obviously annoyed that I hadn't been told this.

So 5 weeks ago I called 2 Virgin Mobile stores in Sydney, one in the city and one in Bondi Junction. Both stores asked whether I was a new or existing Virgin Mobile customer. I told them I was an existing customer and they told me they would put me on the waiting list which was about 4 weeks long.

4 weeks passed last week and I hadn't heard back so I called both stores and was told that I was still on the list but that it was still about 4 weeks long. Then I had a thought, I wonder if Virgin are preferencing new customers over existing customers? So the next day I called the Bondi Junction store back and asked if they had any phones in stock. Again I was asked if I was a new or existing customer and this time I lied and answered 'I'm a new customer'. I was told, 'We're getting some new stock in this afternoon and we'll have a phone for you, I'll call you back later today to come and pick it up.'

What the f&%*!

Excuse my language but I've been a Virgin Mobile customer for the last 18 months and this business is going to preference a new customer over me. Someone who has called up for the first time is going to get a phone that same day and after 4 months of waiting I'm supposed to continue to wait for my phone! There is so much that is wrong with this that I'm not going to go into it all except to say that I hope we never, ever do anything remotely similar to this to a single one of our Shoes of Prey customers, let alone one who has been with us for 18 months, let alone have it ingrained in our culture and business processes that these sorts of decisions are ok.

In fact we recently introduced a VIP club for customers who have ordered more than 5 pairs of shoes - they get lifetime free shipping. And we know many of these customer's names (we should be learning them all) so we can ensure we're going above and beyond our already normally high levels of customer service for them. It amazes me that Virgin are doing the opposite. Clearly they believe that existing customers will keep waiting and they're better off prioritising their limited supply of phones to new customers.

Anyway, naturally the Virgin mobile person didn't call me back when they said they would, no surprises there. I called back the next day and was put on hold, the guy didn't hit the hold button and instead put the phone down on the desk, I could hear him talking to another customer which was fair enough. 20 minutes later he still hadn't come back to the phone so I hung up. I called straight back and yep, the phone was off the hook as I got an engaged signal. I called back more than 10 times that day and got the engaged signal for the rest of the day, he left it off the hook for the entire day! I'm glad I hung up and didn't stay on hold. The phone was back on the hook the next day, I called up and was told the delivery had arrived and I could pick up my phone, which I now have.

The frustrating thing is I am still signing up with this company, for another 2 years in fact. I make a lot of overseas calls and they are the only company to include international calls in their caps. If it wasn't for that I would be taking my business to any other phone company but in the meantime I will take some satisfaction in warning off everyone I can from using them and continue to learn from them by doing the exact opposite of anything they do customer service wise.

One of the many things I find incredible about this is that Virgin Mobile are trashing the Virgin brand. Virgin Mobile is owned by SingTel, the same company who own Optus and they license the Virgin brand. I suppose SingTel's strategy is to profit all they can and if the Virgin Mobile brand gets trashed in the process they can simply ditch it and license a new one. Because they don't own it themselves they're not as incentivised to protect it. If I were the Virgin company, or another company licensing the Virgin brand I would not be pleased with Virgin Mobile's actions.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interview with the Australian Financial Review TV - Managing Gen Y

Last week Mike was interviewed by Mark Jones at the Australian Financial Review and together with Phil Morle of Sydney based startup incubator Pollenizer they discussed tips for managing Gen Y. You can watch the 15min video of the interview here.

Mike discusses the ROWE method of management or Results Only Work Environment. That's very much the approach we take with ourselves and Carmen, Vanessa, Qun and Melissa and it's the approach we plan to take as we look to hire more people in the future.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Welcome Melissa!

Today we welcomed our second employee in the Sydney office: Melissa Hong.

Melissa is a 4th year student of computer science and digital media at UNSW. She'll be joining us for a 2.5 month internship, where she will help Mike improve the website and develop new technologies.

What makes Melissa unique is that she not only loves coding, but she also designs and makes her own clothes! Additionally she's worked in a number of shoe stores during her time at university and describes herself as a shoe fanatic.

We have lots of technical projects for Melissa to sink her teeth into over the coming weeks... so watch this space!

Welcome Melissa!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PayPal eCommerce Secure Insight Research

This morning Jodie, Mike, Carmen and I joined 200+ people involved in the Australian eCommerce space at the Westin Hotel in Sydney to see the presentation of PayPal's latest research into the eCommerce market in Australia. There were a lot of fascinating insights into the state of eCommerce in Australia, and some great actionable items came out of it for us. I thought I'd share the key pieces of information we took away from the event.

Firstly, Steven Noble from Forrester Research presented the findings from their study into the challenges and opportunities facing Australian business in the online retail space, here's what I took away from Steven's presentation:

  • Online retail in Australia is booming
  • Growth this year will be 11.8% and the market is forecast to grow at a similar rate over the next 3 years.
  • We will spend $26.9 billion online in Australia this year. That's the equivalent of $1200 for every one of the 22 million people living in Australia.
  • 85% of this figure is spent with Australia businesses, only 15% goes to foreign businesses.
  • The largest two categories within the $26.9b are Travel at $6.5b (this includes purchasing airline tickets online etc.) and Grocery at $5b (this includes online purchases of alcohol).
  • Sales in the category that Shoes of Prey sits in, apparel, accessories and footwear will total $1.4b this year.

Forrester surveyed 114 online retail professionals and found that they rate the following as key challenges for them in the space:

  • Competition from low cost online retailers
  • Recruiting skilled eCommerce professionals. Interestingly large business found this to be a big challenge with 52% rating this is a key challenge while only 11% of small businesses said this was an issue.
  • Price & performance of marketing. 31% of pure play online retailers said this was a key challenge while only 17% of multi-channel retailers rated this as an issue. Clearly multi-channel retailers are benefitting from the marketing and brand recognition they get from working across multiple channels.
  • Delivery. The cost of delivery is a huge issue for retailers, as is reliability of delivery (as we've discussed on this blog previously) and the lack of support for shipping unusually sized products.

Seonaid Chappell from The Leading Edge then presented their research into how consumers are shopping online. My key takeaways from her presentation were:

  • 53% of Australians have purchased online in the last 12 months.
  • Of this 53%, 23% have purchased from Australian retailers online only, 25% have purchased from both Australian and foreign retailers and only 6% have purchased from overseas retailers only.
  • The demographic breakdown of who is shopping online almost perfectly matches the Australian population. There's a slight skew towards people in rural areas and the 18-29 category both shopping online a little more, but the skew isn't a significant one, all age groups are shopping online.
  • The main reason consumers give for shopping online from Australia sites are:
    • Convenience
    • Value
    • Confidence around delivery and returns (compared with shopping from overseas sites)
  • The main reason consumers gave for shopping online from foreign sites was that the products they want aren't available from Australia retailers.
  • Only 5% of consumers said the exchange rate encouraged them to purchase overseas! (The survey was conducted in May/June this year, before the AUD his parity with the USD, but this figure is much lower than I expected).

Finally the barriers consumers gave to shopping online are:

  • Concern
    • No protection if something goes wrong in the purchase or delivery process. We took an action item out of this, we plan to add our phone number to all the pages in our shopping cart, and potentially other pages on our website. If consumers see the number, even if they don't want to contact us now at least by seeing the number they might feel more confident that they can contact us easily if there's an issue.
    • Fraud - our trust badges are hopefully helping alleviate this concern.
  • Delivery - both cost and time. This has us contemplating whether we should be offering free shipping.
  • Interaction - As we're well aware consumers ideally want to be able to see, touch and interact with products before they purchase.
  • Cost - often buying online isn't cheaper than shopping offline.

And lastly PayPal's Australian managing director Frerk-Malte Feller shared some insights into the growth within the mobile eCommerce space:

Mobile eCommerce sales:

  • 2009 $2.79m
  • 2010 $35m (year to date)
While these are still relatively low figures compared to the total of $26.9b in eCommerce sales we'll do in Australia this year, mobile is a rapidly growing space and where we'll see a lot of innovation of the coming years.

If all of this exciting data interests you, PayPal are conducting a webinar to present the information tomorrow (Thursday) from 5pm-6pm Sydney time. David Koch is hosting the webinar, Steven Noble and Seonaid Chappell are presenting the findings from their research (which are a lot more detailed than what I took from it above) and while this may be less exciting for you, I'm on the panel discussing Shoes of Prey and the lessons we've learnt over our first 13 months of operation. Here's the link to view the webcast tomorrow:

Monday, November 8, 2010

Worker's Compensation

A couple of weeks ago we realised that it's compulsory to have Worker's Compensation insurance and we didn't have any. We've got it sorted out now but we should have had it from very early on. I'm not quite sure why we hadn't thought about this. I suppose we'd figured it was either something for non-office workers or that it happened automatically as part of our quarterly BAS or something.

I thought I'd mention it in case any other Australian startups out there don't have it. In NSW it's a requirement to have worker's compensation insurance once you're likely to pay your employees more than $4,500 per year. That includes the founders/directors of a startup if it's registered as a company. If you don't take out the compulsory insurance you risk being fined and if an employee in the business injures themselves at work you could be liable for their medical expenses and lost income which could well be startup destroying.

For more information you can visit the WorkCover NSW website or equivalent in your state.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Finding great suppliers

I recently did a guest post on Startup Smart and I thought I'd cross post here.

I’m starting up an online business and am struggling to find a suitable supplier. How can I go about finding a supplier and what are the main things I need to look out for to ensure that they are the best fit for my business?

Unless you're planning to launch a completely vertically integrated business, which most startups won't be, finding good suppliers is a critical step and one you'll want to get right from the beginning.

Step 1: What do you plan to outsource?
The easiest way to answer this question is to determine what your skill sets are. These areas will likely be the parts of your business that you manage in house. Most other parts of the business you'll likely be outsourcing and you can then start looking for suppliers. In our case at Shoes of Prey, our skill sets are in online marketing and web development, not shoe manufacturing so we outsource the manufacturing of our shoes.

Step 2: Find great suppliers
There is no easy way to doing this. For the critical parts of your business you'll want to invest a lot of time researching and finding great suppliers. Given we're a retailer of custom made shoes, having great shoe suppliers is a key part of our business. One of the first things we did in getting our business off the ground was to travel through Europe and Asia meeting with various shoe suppliers. We met the key people in the business in person, toured their factories, purchased and tried out their products, got to know who their existing customers were and even spoke with some of their existing customers. We then settled on two suppliers who had a proven track record and very high quality shoes. Price was an important factor, but not the most important for us. The key for us was finding suppliers who matched our brand in the way they operated and the quality of the shoes they made.

Step 3: Have backup suppliers
If your suppliers supply you with something that's critical for your business to operate I would recommend finding at least two suppliers to work with in case something happens with one of them. We originally started working with one shoe factory and had a second as a backup. This was fortunate because 2 months after our launch when our orders started to increase, our first factory said they were very busy and couldn't handle the increase in demand. We immediately switched to our back up supplier and ever since we've spread our orders across the two suppliers based on who can take the orders at the time. Having two suppliers also puts us in a better negotiating position when it comes to discussing important issues to us like time to manufacture, the quality of components and workmanship and price.

Step 4: Maintain the relationships, it's a two way street
Once you've found your suppliers it's then crucial to maintain strong working relationships with them. Meet with your suppliers regularly, let them know your growth plans and how you're tracking to those plans so your suppliers can be prepared to scale up with you. Be open to their needs as well, just because you're paying them doesn't mean you can't do things to help make the working relationship easier for them. In our case we travel to China 3-4 times a year to meet with our suppliers as well as speaking to them regularly over phone and email. We make a point of always asking what we can be doing to make working with us easier, and we've adjusted our order forms and other processes within our business to help our suppliers operate more efficiently.

Finding great suppliers can make or break a startup and it's a critical step to get right. When it works well it can also be very rewarding and a lot of fun.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Discounting and managing margins

Our shoes are custom made and couriered to our customers so our shoe manufacturing and shipping costs are higher than other shoe retailers. Even with those higher costs we've priced our shoes at a similar point to other shoe retailers selling similar quality shoes so our margins at full price are lower than other shoe retailers. We peg this back by not holding stock and not having to discount excess stock that wouldn't otherwise sell. A normal shoe retailer needs to factor into their margins selling a percentage of their stock at a discount, which we don't need to do. So overall we think our margins are similar to other shoe retailers.

Another reason we don't want to discount our shoes is we're very conscious of what it can do to a fashion brand. In amongst a number of branding traits we think Shoes of Prey sits as a slightly higher than mid level fashion brand. With a drop in retail spend following the global financial crisis a number of fashion retailers, in particular Myer and David Jones, responded with lots of sales. Unfortunately for them they've now trained their customers to shop when the sales are on and they're having a hard time pulling back from that. This has had an impact on other fashion retailers who then have to follow the lead of Myer and David Jones otherwise their sales drop too.

I'm sure we're impacted by that to an extent, but given we have a unique product we think we have an opportunity to set the tone for our own pricing, and we've gone with one consistent price with no discounting. The alternative would be to set a higher standard price, then occasionally run sales at a lower price with the aim of averaging out at our current margin. We don't like that from a manufacturing point of view because it's better for our suppliers that our orders are steady each week, and we don't like how it trains customers to think about us from a price point of view and buying when sales are on as opposed to thinking about us from a fashion point of view, buying shoes to go with their spring racing season outfits etc.

It's interesting seeing how other retailers deal with this issue. In the supermarket space Woolworths and Coles go with high/low pricing while Aldi has standard prices. Most low to mid end fashion brands take the high/low approach but this becomes less prevalent as you move up the spectrum to the more high end fashion retailers.

Clearly there's no simple, correct answer to the best way to price your product and manage margins, but at this stage we're happy with the approach we're taking. I'd be interested to hear people's thoughts.