Upper Street is the made-to-order luxury shoe label that is revolutionising the way women shop for shoes, by allowing them to design their perfect pair online. Upper Street offers over 5 million shoe design possibilities, and gives customers a shoe shopping experience that they love.
We believe existing footwear retailers and ready-to-wear brands simply don’t give women the choice, product uniqueness, fit or service they’re looking for, despite the proliferation of footwear styles on the market.
The global footwear market is forecast to be worth $500bn by 2018 (Euromonitor March 14), and the luxury footwear market in the UK alone will be worth over £3bn by 2017, and 25-30% of consumers are interested in being able to customize products (Bain & Company 2012), so there is huge untapped potential with very few existing brands offering any level of customisation.
Upper Street provides an engaging solution by empowering women to design the shoes they want online, or in person at the Shoe Lounge retail concept in Fitzrovia, Central London.
The innovative online 3D Shoe Designer allows women to select from a wide range of contemporary shapes, styles, design finishes, and beautiful luxury materials to create their perfect shoes from over 5 million possibilities. Customers can even add their own inscription inside the shoe to fully personalise them.
Upper Street has created hundreds of shoe designs that can be customised to make it even easier, and design guidelines to help customers with the design process. Material swatches can be ordered to browse through at home, and the Upper Street Style Advisors are available to support customers either by email, phone or in person.
Shoes are available in sizes Eur 33-44, significantly beyond the standard retail range of 36-41. Shoe Design Experience vouchers make the perfect gift for shoe lovers, popular for birthdays, weddings, Valentines and Christmas.
As a completely vertically integrated business, Upper Street’s experienced and passionate craftspeople hand-make and beautifully package each shoe and deliver to the customer within a few weeks.
There is nothing more empowering than wearing a beautiful pair of shoes that you've designed yourself, that are just perfect for you. As Marilyn Monroe famously said, “Give a woman the right shoes and she can conquer the world”. Well now she can design them herself. Thousands of women have already fallen in love with Upper Street and their design-your-own concept.
Multi-award winning, loved by consumers, the fashion press and celebrities alike, with a loyal following and outstanding customer feedback, the business is a proven concept and established company now aiming to scale significantly over the next few years, both in the UK and internationally. Upper Street has set its sights on becoming the UK’s most loved footwear brand within the next 4 years.
Substantial accomplishments to date
• Backed by leading VC Venrex (NotOnTheHighStreet, JustEat, Smythson), and the British Business Bank.
• Double-digit annual revenue growth*, thousands of customers acquired; 20% repeat purchase rate.
• 91% of customers would refer Upper Street to a friend. <5% product return rate.
• High profile customers include Helena Bonham Carter, Erin O'Connor, Jodie Kidd and Tess Daly.
• Strong social media following: 51,000 Facebook fans, 4,000 Twitter followers.
• Acquisition of US competitor Milk & Honey in 2014.
• Phenomenal press coverage includes Marie Claire, Elle, InStyle, Stylist, Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Telegraph and Evening Standard.
• An ASTIA company 2012; female-led high growth potential company.
• Wonga Future 50 Real Business award winner 2012; new entrepreneurial businesses triggering change in their market.
• Shortlisted for Drapers Footwear & Accessories 2013 award for Growing Business / Brand.
• Shortlisted for PayPal eTail Awards - Best Small Pureplay Etailer 2013.
*Source: unaudited management accounts
Upper Street shoes retail at an average order value of £254.50, and as the business follows a direct-to-consumer model with shoe production in-house, gross margins are healthy.
Upper Street offers a number of product lines, from high heeled court shoes, through to ballet flats and high sandals. Boots and flat sandals are launching in 2015, which should increase the average order basket and share of wallet significantly.
Premium options including luxe materials and personal inscriptions also increase order value.
Use of proceeds
£200k will be used for marketing initiatives to maximise the impact of our new website, extended product range and recent acquisition of a US customer database.
Marketing initiatives will focus on online advertising, including pay-per-click advertising on Google, promoted posts on Facebook, and Search Engine Optimisation.
Invest £100 – receive an exclusive Upper Street tote bag and leather key-ring
Invest £1,000 – receive an Upper Street gift voucher for £100
Invest £2,500 – receive an Upper Street gift voucher for £350
The Upper Street customer is confident, individual and independent. She knows what she wants, and is stylish but not a slave to fashion. She researches her purchases, values high quality products and outstanding service, and is loyal. When it comes to shoes, she has an idea in her head but she just can’t find what she’s looking for, whether it’s particular style, colour, heel height, finish or fit she has in mind.
She enjoys playing a part in the creative process, feels the buzz of anticipation as she waits for her shoes to arrive, a flurry of excitement as she opens her beautiful shoebox, and a genuine sense of pride as she wears her own shoe creation and is complemented on her sartorial choice.
• Upper Street targets affluent women aged 27-45 who are looking for individuality in their style.
• Product particularly relevant to Large / Small feet segment (6% of women have small / large feet and this represents 9% of the business) and the Bridal market (240,000 women get married in the UK each year, and bridal shoes represents 9% of the business).
• Predominantly focused on UK market, but secondary business in the US following the acquisition of competitor Milk & Honey Shoes in 2014.
Characteristics of target market
Upper Street operates in the global luxury footwear market, specifically online, with the short-term focus on building the business predominantly in the UK.
• The global footwear market grew 6.1% in 2013, and is forecast to hit $500bn by 2018 (Euromonitor March 14).
• UK luxury sector forecast to double in five years to £12.2 billion in 2017 (Walpole July 13), 27% of market is leather goods / shoes: the UK luxury footwear market is therefore expected to be £3.3 billion by 2017 (Bain & Company Oct 12).
• Luxury ecommerce 25% annual growth. Consumers seek different experiences, uniqueness, 24/7 access and entertainment (Bain & Company Oct 12).
• 25-30% of consumers are interested in customisation options (Bain & Company 2013). We therefore estimate the potential size of customised luxury footwear in the UK alone to be £0.825 billion by 2017.
• With nearly 5 years of trading, and no known competitors in the UK, Upper Street has a significant head-start in this market.
Customers are acquired through online and offline marketing strategies, including PR, search, social media, affiliates and word-of-mouth.
PR – Upper Street offers key fashion journalists the chance to experience the design-your-own shoe product and service. Key fashion campaigns are based on creative collaborations e.g. award winning designer Jasper Garvida created shoe designs with Upper Street for his London Fashion Week catwalk shows in 2011, and a very successful campaign was run with SaveTheChildren in 2012 where high profile celebrities designed their dream shoes, auctioned for the charity. We aim to do more creative collaborations in the future. We feel that business and personal profile pieces are also very effective at generating awareness.
Word of mouth – this has always been a key driver for Upper Street, particularly as 91% of customers are happy to refer the brand, and they act upon this. As the business grows, word of mouth is expected to accelerate in-line. A referral scheme is being created for later this year.
Search marketing – traffic from organic search against key relevant search terms has historically been an area we focus on. There are 18,000 searches online for ‘design your own shoes’ on Google, so a large opportunity to increase paid search advertising for customer acquisition.
Affiliates – key partners like Times+, Amex and Amazon Local have driven significant revenue for Upper Street in the past, and this strategy will be continued with major brands, and also through an online affiliate scheme.
Social Media – Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest have been used to good effect in the past, and Upper Street plans to increase media spend on these platforms to drive more business.
eMail Marketing – Sophisticated email marketing campaigns work to convert prospective customers through targeted content and promotions. A more sophisticated programme is planned for 2015, to include an online loyalty scheme.
Upper Street is uniquely positioned to service the premium / luxury end of the market with a fully customisable shoe and high level of service.
Design-your-own shoe brand Shoes of Prey from Australia offers a similar service to Upper Street, but targeted at a younger / mid-market customer with a lower price point, lower quality product and less emphasis on customer service.
Major luxury shoe brands like Jimmy Choo, Louboutin, Manolo Blahnik and Prada target the top end of the market with a beautifully designed product and commensurate price point. These brands have started to offer small levels of product customisation, limited to selection of a single material, selection of heel height, or embossing of customer’s initials. There is little opportunity to customise online, most customisation has to be done in-store, and products can take a long time to be delivered, with no refunds possible. These brands do not truly allow the customer to design their shoe, as they are design-led brands with business models that are based on volume production of designs, and back-end systems that are not set up to deal with individual customer orders.
Entry level ready-to-wear designer shoe brands like Charlotte Olympia and Sophia Webster that have grown fast in recent years, and operate at a similar price point to Upper Street, offer no customisation options for customers. Their proposition is to be design-led.
Leading high street brands like Kurt Geiger, Dune, Office, Reiss and TopShop offer no customisation, lower levels of service, with mid-quality product quality and price.