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LOS ANGELES — Rachel Zoe has joined ShoeDazzle as the online footwear specialist’s chief stylist.
With Zoe, ShoeDazzle chief executive officer and cofounder Brian Lee is following the recipe he honed at ShoeDazzle with Kim Kardashian, The Honest Company with Jessica Alba and LegalZoom with Robert Shapiro of pairing a well-known personality with digital efforts. Zoe’s involvement comes at a critical time for ShoeDazzle, where Lee is trying to steady the ship after a rocky 2012 that saw him return as ceo upon the departure of short-lived ceo Bill Strauss, layoffs and an end to the subscription model it pioneered on the Web.
“It is really taking things to the next level in terms of elevating the brand of ShoeDazzle and some of the other offerings we are going to be having soon,” said Lee. “I don’t think there is anybody else in the world who understands trend as well as Rachel. I think we are bringing in the very best, and I think that elevates the style aspect of ShoeDazzle.”
Before signing Zoe, ShoeDazzle surveyed about 50,000 of its customers on whom they’d take stylist advice from. “Rachel Zoe was number one on the list by far. There was no second place,” Lee said.
Zoe, whose online reach already extends across daily newsletter The Zoe Report, Web site rachelzoe.com and Gap Inc.-owned e-tailer Piperlime, said ShoeDazzle’s affordability — most of its shoes are priced at $39.95 — appealed to her. “We really live by the same mantra that everybody can have style and be on trend, take chances and luxury can be affordable. You don’t have to have massive budgets to look great,” she said. “Affordable luxury and fashion is something I wish I had more of when I was coming up in this business and just craving style, and all I really had were thrift shops.”
E-mails with product selections and style guidance from Zoe will be sent to ShoeDazzle’s members starting this month. Also this month, a television commercial with Zoe will begin airing. Santa Monica, Calif.-based ShoeDazzle is closing in on 15 million members, according to Lee, up from 13 million last year. Its revenues climbed 80 percent to $100 million last year and strong growth is forecast again this year. “We are growing nicely every year. This year, I expect nothing different,” said Lee. ShoeDazzle was launched in 2009 and has raised more than $60 million in venture funding.
Among its demographic of 18- to 32-year-old women, Lee noted that ShoeDazzle has a 45 percent awareness level, but Zoe may certainly help make inroads in the 55 percent that don’t know ShoeDazzle, especially with season five of “The Rachel Zoe Project” set to premiere in the spring on Bravo. Discussing the upcoming season, Zoe said, “It is a very, very different show in a very good way in my opinion. There is no petty drama. It is kind of a big lovefest at my company and obviously within my family. It is really a bit more intelligent I would say. It gives more insight into a business and being a working mom.”
ShoeDazzle, which has sparked a tidal wave of entrants into the online subscription space, rattled industry observers when it dropped subscriptions last year under the leadership of former ProFlowers ceo Strauss. With subscriptions stopped, ShoeDazzle resembled more typical e-commerce players and pushed into categories beyond footwear such as dresses and lingerie. Lee is reversing course on those moves, focusing on ShoeDazzle’s footwear and considering a resumption of subscriptions. Shoes constitute 80 percent of ShoeDazzle’s business, with handbags and jewelry accounting for the rest. It features 50 to 60 new footwear stockkeeping units each month.
“We had tremendous, tremendous followers in terms of customers who absolutely love the membership. We know who those customers are. Will they rejoin a membership? Most likely,” said Lee.
Asked about whether subscriptions inhibit a company’s long-term growth potential, one reason given for ShoeDazzle’s break with subscriptions, Lee didn’t foresee a problem. “Do I think a subscription business can’t get to $1 billion? Absolutely not. It can,” he said. “It depends on the product. Subscriptions only work in two areas: Where there is an absolute need for it or an absolute desire for it.”
Lee is thought of as an entrepreneur who has an appetite for creating companies, but he emphasized he is committed to sticking around at ShoeDazzle to make it work. “For my wife Mira and myself, we wanted ShoeDazzle to become this vision that we set out to do, and we just felt to get to that vision, I had to come back,” he said, adding, “My main two focuses are ShoeDazzle and The Honest Company. I told my wife I’m done starting companies.”