Zappos Milestone: Vendor Relations

Over the years, Zappos’ footwear assortment has grown exponentially.

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A peep-toe boot from Giuseppe Zanotti.

Photo By Courtesy Photo

Here & Now

Now that Zappos has established itself in footwear, the company has added various other categories, from clothing and handbags to tech gadgets and housewares, but the majority of the business — about 85 percent of sales — is still in footwear.

“A year ago, [shoes were] 90 percent, and two years ago they were 97 percent,” said Galen Hardy, senior director of the casual lifestyle and performance divisions. “The other categories are growing and becoming a bigger part of our business. But [footwear] is still pretty huge in terms of our sales.”

The retailer now boasts a variety of top brands, including Nike, Giuseppe Zanotti, Steve Madden and Merrell, scattered across the men’s, women’s and children’s channels on and its off-shoots, including and Rideshop.

The footwear buying team has grown in the past several years. Initially, it relied on one buyer, as well as consumer feedback to discover what customers were looking for.

To maintain a fresh assortment, the team is always evaluating their buy, said Steve Hill, VP of merchandising. “We look at sales and what has had previous sell-throughs,” he said. “We’ve had to drop brands. We’ve brought them back at times, or we’ve dropped them completely. It’s about listening to your customers, making sure you’re always bringing in fresh merchandise and have what they’re looking for.”

According to the site’s loyal vendors, Zappos has been able to do that better than most.

“They’ve really set the bar for Internet retail,” said designer Donald Pliner, who started working with the company in 2000. “The one thing retailers say to themselves today is ‘how do we compare with Zappos?’”

To further distance themselves from competitors, Hardy said, the company constantly aims to carry shoes that other retailers won’t stock or haven’t heard of.

And while many retailers are betting on well-known brands during the recession, Zappos executives said now is the best time to enhance the current assortment with new labels and styles.

“Right now it is especially important to take a look at new brands because customers need to be inspired to purchase and need to see things they haven’t seen before,” said Mossler. “In difficult times, you often see a lot of innovation happening, and we have our eyes wide open for that.”


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