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Nasty Gals Pumps Up Shoe Business

NEW YORK — The footwear market has been nice to Nasty Gal this year.

The multicategory e-tailer launched in-house brand Shoe Cult for fall ’13, and VP of design Sarah Wilkinson said a positive response bodes well for the category’s future.

“It has become clear to us that our customer is a complete shoe addict,” she said. “Shoes make up a significant part of our sales.”

That number is likely to increase over the next few seasons. Shoe Cult, which caters to the Los Angeles-based site’s fashion-forward twentysomething customers, is poised for rapid growth in 2014.

Nasty Gal has adopted a non-seasonal approach and is planning to add 40 to 60 new Shoe Cult looks to the site each month.

And the existing styles, which sell alongside a variety of outside shoe brands, including Steve Madden, Jeffrey Campbell, Kat Maconie and Report, have driven increased traffic to the site’s footwear pages.

“It was a natural progression for us to offer [our own] shoes when we were selling [the category] so well,” Wilkinson said. “It has made Nasty Gal’s voice even stronger, and there seems to be a growing love for Shoe Cult as a brand in itself, which is really exciting.”

Additionally, plans for Nasty Gal in the new year include multiple footwear collaborations, some of which are already in the design phase (although Wilkinson declined to share details).

For spring, Shoe Cult also will introduce several higher-end leather styles featuring intricate metalwork.

Looking ahead, Shoe Cult is slated to expand its breadth of product even further to push the boundaries on price. Currently, the offering retails from $58 to $190, for silhouettes that run the gamut from a single-sole black flat to a towering silver platform sandal. But Wilkinson said there is room for growth.“We want to extend the price architecture so we have choices at every [level],” she said.

Wilkinson noted that a better-than-expected reaction to bolder Shoe Cult styles during the launch season also opened up interesting design possibilities.

“The things that have been selling the best are a little more directional. Color has been selling really well — jade green, cobalt, teal and red,” she said. “All the patterns and animal prints have been amazing as well. It has shown us that we can take more risks.”

Wilkinson added that it has been an adjustment to keep up with the sheer number of styles the firm is continually creating. “Our biggest challenge is the long lead time for shoes,” the designer said. “We are always trying to be first and bring newness to the site on a consistent basis.”

Would the e-tailer consider venturing into the wholesale footwear arena in the future? “Our customer really enjoys the fact that Shoe Cult is exclusive to Nasty Gal,” Wilkinson said, though she didn’t rule out wholesale as a long-term option.

Still, it’s clear the firm, which started in 2006, is in growth mode. Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso tweeted this month that the company plans to open brick-and-mortar stores. That follows a $50 million investment from Index Ventures in 2012, which is helping the retailer fuel expansion.

The company has said it hit close to $130 million in annual volume last year.

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