Your Business: Natureshop spreads wings with UK base

By Gill South

Logistics expert Rico Piagesti will arrive in England in January to run the business. Photo / Christine Cornege
Logistics expert Rico Piagesti will arrive in England in January to run the business. Photo / Christine Cornege

Speaking from the small southern England town of Arundel, Natureshop co-founder Conrad Cranfield explains why he has spent the the past few months there setting up his European operation.

Although his New Zealand general manager, Rico Piagesti, an operations and logistics expert, will arrive in England in January to run the business, Cranfield says he wanted to be the one to set things up there.

"If anything went wrong, the blame would only fall at my feet."

The UK represents 40 to 45 per cent of Natureshop's turnover and, including continental Europe, 68 per cent. North America makes up 16 per cent, Australia 8 per cent, New Zealand 5 per cent and the balance, Asia.

"We wanted to give our customers here overnight shopping, customer support in their own time zone, and we wanted to be able to forge relationships with European brands," says Cranfield.

One of the biggest challenges since the business was set up three years ago has been stock management.

"Thankfully now we are entering into a period where we are introducing some big summer sellers and year- round sellers that should even out our historical sales trough."

Currency has always affected the company's profitability. "The NZ dollar being the yo-yo that it is, was one of the key contributing factors to setting up shop in the UK as it offers us a natural hedge."

Introducing yourself to big brands is no picnic, adds the e-commerce expert.

"You need to convince them that you can generate new sales for them that they would not otherwise have through their existing suppliers and be able to back this up with genuine results."

Natureshop came second in the recently announced 10th annual Deloitte Fast 50 awards thanks to a growth rate of 1106.39 per cent over its three-year lifetime.

With a $5 million turnover this year, there is a projected turnover of $8 million for the next financial year.

"The award gives us a bit more credibility when approaching new suppliers," says Cranfield.

The former e-commerce website developer started Natureshop with his wife Nat, a graphic designer with advertising and branding experience.

They started selling Emu Australia Ugg Boots and various wool clothing brands because they had global demand. For the past 18 months they have been selling Icebreaker, which now dominates its clothing range.

"I've got a lot of inspiration from Icebreaker," says Cranfield. Their whole management team is fantastic to deal with.

"Everything they do reinforces their brand message."

Natureshop has now established a strong environmental and social responsibility ethos, as Icebreaker has.

Icebreaker has given the Cranfields a helping hand in the UK, recommending Natureshop to their distributor there who is now supplying them their Europe-distributed Icebreaker product, as well as Keen and Birkenstock. Natureshop is also now stocking the UK brand, Green Baby and Nature Baby.

The online retailer's competitors are Amazon and Zappos.com.

"The key things we do to establish goodwill is customer support and customer experience. We have a 365-day returns policy so that even if you've done something stupid like gone outside in the rain in your Ugg boots, we will replace them for free."

They have now brought out free return shipping for the UK and New Zealand, which takes all the risk out of the purchase, says Cranfield.

The business is currently expanding its IT and web teams.

Cranfield has recruited Arcadia and Habitat web expert Richard Barter to head the web business.

James Crosswell, an old school friend of Cranfield's, is the company's IT director, based in Austria. He became a 10 per cent owner of the business last year.

He and the Cranfields make up the board and Jeremy Curragh, CEO of the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union, is unofficial chairman.

- NZ Herald

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