Over the years, the Australian footwear startup — founded in 2009 by husband-and-wife team Michael and Jodie Fox, as well as Mike Knapp — challenged the traditional retail model through a business centered on mass customization, allowing shoppers to design their own shoes.
The company moved to the United States in 2015 and expanded the team to about 200 members. It had secured investments from Blue Sky Capital as well as Atlassian CEO Mike Cannon-Brookes and venture capitalist Bill Tai, eventually growing into a multimillion-dollar company that dabbled in brick-and-mortar while maintaining a made-to-order digital shopping experience. It also nabbed a buzzy partnership with Nordstrom, where it launched several shop-in-shops.
However, the company’s niche model fairly quickly hit hard times, and Michael Fox penned a blog post on Medium this week describing a “decision paralysis” among mass-market consumers that contributed to the firm’s undoing.
“Despite all the right trends towards personalization and our success within the customization niche, contrary to our market research, the mass-market fashion customer just didn’t respond as we expected,” the post read. “We learned the hard way that mass-market customers don’t want to create; they want to be inspired and shown what to wear. They want to see the latest trends, what celebrities and Instagram influencers are wearing, and they want to wear exactly that — both the style and the brand.”
The company also cited high fixed costs due to its personalized offerings, which it struggled to meet while considering the environmental, health and safety as well as labor regulations at its Chinese factories.
The decision comes several months after Shoes of Prey revealed that it was putting the company on hold amid faltering sales.
“While all the indicators and data were positive, we were not able to truly crack mass-market adoption,” chief creative officer Jodie Fox shared on Instagram in August. “We remain passionate and positive about our vision for the future of fashion retail. But we are making the difficult decision today to pause orders and actively assess all our options to either sell or, at a later date, reboot the business with substantial changes.”
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