July 15, 2014, 10:56 AM

An e-commerce veteran buys two online shoe sellers

Roger Hardy, who in February sold web-only eyewear company Coastal Contacts for $385.7 million, will consolidate OnlineShoes.com and ShoeMe.ca.

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Roger Hardy, fresh off the sale of web-only eyewear company Coastal Contacts Inc., is onto a new e-commerce venture.

Hardy’s investment company, Hardy Capital Corp., along with a small group of Canadian investors, have acquired Seattle-based OnlineShoes.com and ShoeMe.ca, an online footwear retailer headquartered in Vancouver. Hardy plans to consolidate the two companies, serve as CEO of the new e-retailer and establish its headquarters in Vancouver.

Sean Clark, founder of ShoeMe.ca, and a former employee of Coastal Contacts Inc., will remain as president of the Canadian operations while a 100-day consolidation plan is implemented. The former CEO of OnlineShoes.com, Dan Gerler, will serve in an advisory role. A large facility in Seattle, which houses OnlineShoes.com’s merchandising and technology teams, will remain.

Hardy would not disclose financial terms of the deal.

The combined company is on track for annual sales of approximately $186.4 million ($200 million CDN) this year, serving more than 1.5 million customers. The company will offer a selection of more than 350 shoe brands, Hardy says.

Part of the draw of the $140 million OnlineShoes.com, Hardy tells Internet Retailer, is its track record of consistent growth and profitability. The retailer has a loyal customer base, too, as more than half of its customers are repeat buyers. “They’ve had pretty good success and are growing quite quickly,” Hardy says. “Although there are lots of people online selling shoes, they were the first seller of shoes online, and they’ve had 20 years of consistent, stable growth and profitability.” Hardy would not disclose specific details on OnlineShoes.com’s profits.

Going forward, Hardy says he’s betting on international consumers to drive increased sales. OnlineShoes.com currently ships to more than 100 countries with help from international e-commerce services company Borderfree. He says the combined company will put more of a focus on catering to international customers, especially in Australia and Canada.

“OnlineShoes.com has a small international platform, but our plan will be to expand the international component,” Hardy says. “We like the Australian market and the Canadian market, so we’ll focus first on the Commonwealth countries. We’ll continue to keep building our international presence.”

Hardy is also focused on developing relationships with fast-growing, hip shoe brands to market to the two e-retailers’ existing customer base, he says.

The combined company is hiring for several marketing, technology and customer services positions, and by the end of the summer will employ 250 people, Hardy says. Company inventory will be warehoused in existing fulfillment centers in Seattle, Vancouver and Columbus, OH. Some orders are drop shipped directly to consumers, though Hardy did not disclose exactly how many orders are shipped that way.

In the spring of 2014, Coastal, No. 127 in the 2014 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, was acquired for about $385.7 million (C$430 million) by Essilor International, a Paris-based manufacturer and marketer of eyewear and related products.  Hardy founded Coastal Contacts in 2000. Onlineshoes.com is ranked No. 181 in the Top 500 Guide.

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