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Australians embrace buying shoes online

AAP logoAAP 12/08/2016 Megan Neil

Imagine being able to try on shoes virtually as you shop online.IBISWorld analyst Lauren Magner believes improvements in imaging capabilities could potentially allow consumers to try on footwear virtually by uploading measurements or photos of their feet.The website could project the image of the shoe onto the foot, just as online glasses retailer Sneaking Duck allows customers to upload photos to virtually try on frames."That's an example where it's already started being used, that kind of technology, but it's definitely something that could happen in the footwear retailing space as well," Ms Magner said.Australians have overcome their initial hesitation about buying shoes online due to the difficulty of determining size and fit.IBISWorld says the online shoe sales industry, like online shopping in general, has flourished over the past five years while difficult retail conditions have hit traditional bricks-and-mortar stores as households scale back expenditure on non-essential items."The online retail space offers an unparalleled and diverse range of products including shoes and they offer quite competitive prices because they have low overhead costs," Ms Magner said."They can also provide consumers with greater choice and convenience without geographical boundaries."Industry players have started offering free shipping and returns so consumers can buy different sizes and styles, try them on at home and return unwanted products without incurring postage charges.Online footwear sales account for a small, although fast growing, proportion of total expenditure on shoes.IBISWorld estimates revenue in the online shoe sales industry has grown by an annualised 10.1 per cent over the five years to the end of 2016/17, to $364.8 million.In comparison, the industry analysts say footwear retailers' revenue has contracted by an annualised 0.3 per cent to $2.9 billion.Ms Magner expects the line between bricks-and-mortar and online retailers to become increasingly blurred as more hybrid business models, such as Shoes of Prey and Sneakerboy, enter the market."While everyone was previously racing to get online, now all these pure play online retailers are thinking about maybe opening bricks-and-mortar stores and these are increasingly acting as showrooms."She pointed to Sneakerboy, which operates shopfronts in Melbourne and Sydney that act as showrooms for its designer shoe range.There are no price tags on the products, with consumers using their smartphones to find the price, size and availability before placing online orders using instore iPads. The products are shipped from Hong Kong within a few days, Ms Magner said.She says the hybrid model is a good way to save on cost and space while showcasing a large range of shoes.She also expects online and traditional retailers to increasingly develop mobile-optimised websites for smartphones and tablets, allowing consumers to shop when and where they want.As online shopping becomes more normalised and commonplace, IBISWorld predicts the online shoe sales industry will continue to enjoy strong growth but at a slower pace.It forecasts industry revenue will increase by an annualised 6.9 per cent over the five years through 2021/22 to total $509.2 million.

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