Alex Hsu grew tired of friends and family asking him to buy shoes for them as he travelled frequently between the United States and Australia. He saw that popular shoes could be purchased overseas for a fraction of the cost than at home, and a business idea came to him.
Two years later, he is the founder of successful e-retailer The Next Pair, which sells globally recognised brands such as Nike, Asics, Converse, Vans and many more.
“I already had an IT business that I owned with a group of school friends,” says Hsu.
“When I was travelling, I had a lightbulb moment. Why not create an online shoe website that mirrored the IT business in terms of structure and model?
“I realised we could leverage our existing contacts and experience to build a business selling a commodity that is highly sought after and importantly that I had a real passion for.”
How is The Next Pair doing so far?
The website was launched in 2014 (self-funded through Alex’s IT company) and has grown significantly since its inception.
In the current financial year, Alex is expecting at least a 75 per cent growth in revenue as a minimum. The site has increased traffic by 350 per cent as compared to this time last year, on a daily basis.
And remarkably, the team have done this without spending big dollars on marketing.
“We invested in one major campaign which was television ads but the rest has been organic, digital pay per click, social media and public relations,” says Alex.
“Our buyers live and breathe shoes,” he explained. “They are the ones doing the groundwork and finding the highest-quality shoes that are fashion-forward, on trend and appealing to the Australian market.”
“Quality and affordability are the two most important factors for us. It didn’t make sense to us that Australians were paying almost double for the same shoes that are readily available overseas.
“Our mission is to sell premium brands at extremely fair prices, opening this market up for everyone.
“Essentially, we only operate online which means we don’t waste a cent on expensive retail stores. On top of that, our buyers are absolute shoe fiends and are committed to sourcing the best-priced products.”
What problems has The Next Pair had to endure?
However, their journey hasn’t been without some bumps here and there.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far, we asked.
“Every month there’s a new “biggest” challenge,” Alex replied.
“Before we began, it was creating a website that was leading edge and had the functionalities we envisioned, and justifying the massive cost of this before we even made a cent.
“Sourcing then became a nightmare, finding suppliers who were willing to sell to a not even launched online e-retailer in the quantities we were looking for to service the Australian market, and they had to be globally recognised brands.
“Then it became a sales problem – overstocking on inventory and stock becoming obsolete whilst we launched and trying to ramp up sales. Followed on from sales it was marketing. How do we get our name out there and target our core demographic?”
“It all becomes a cycle as a small business,” Alex advises the new entrepreneurs out there. “It is about resource allocation and consistently improving on areas that are going to drive awareness and growth. Every day is a journey, but it means improving yourself and your knowledge.”
“Communication is key with all stakeholders, and more importantly it is your personnel and your customers that must identify your passion and mission as the business. Ours is being Australia’s premier online shoe destination but not at premium prices.”
Best friends turned business partners? Awesome!
The core team of four consists of Alex, Andrew Wong, Kristopher Hunt and Ryan McClelland. All four lived within a stone’s throw of each other growing up and have been best friends since primary school.
“It’s every kid’s dream to work with their best mates and we feel pretty lucky that we’ve actually made that dream a reality – and that we all still like each other having done so!” says Alex.
Julia Nati, from Nest Marketing Management assists the team with their marketing decisions based on close to a decade of experience in footwear. Nati worked as part of the ECCO Shoes Australia team for over eight years.
The Next Pair’s vision is to become the online destination for fitness and lifestyle footwear providing bold, individual styles for the urban landscape. Alex and the team have big plans for the future.
“We want to create a more interactive site allowing input and feedback, so we can rank and source shoes people want based on feedback,” he shared.
“We’re also planning to expand into selling the entire lifestyle ‘package’ including socks, headphones, shorts, jeans and more – as long as they come in a pair, we’ll sell them!”