Shoe e-retailer exec aims for right customer fit

Footwear executive Trisha Sweeney needs to wear comfortable shoes – a pair of pony-hair flats by Carolinna Espinosa, to be exact – to make the rounds of the expansive industry trade shows such as those held last month in New York. As chief merchandising officer of the leading e-retailer, ShoeBuy.com, Sweeney walks the marketplace aisles searching for the next big trend as well as meeting with manufacturers to develop new business networks. With the Boston-based e-commerce site offering over a million different shoes, Sweeney tries to develop merchandise that appeals to a wide range of shoppers. “If you are looking for a black plain pump or a designer stiletto, we want to make sure you can find it as easily as possible and have a great online experience, said Sweeney, who spoke with Globe correspondent Cindy Atoji Keene about building out the footwear e-retail site.

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“I began my career as a sales manager at the Jordan Marsh Department Stores. Today, a couple decades later, it’s definitely a different world out there. There are some fundamental principles about my retail business approach that have not changed – integrity, customer satisfaction, responsiveness – but the space itself has changed, from brick and mortar to the web. ShoeBuy is a department store online, open 24 hours; product is always moving. I work with our brands to satisfy customers – we want to be ‘on trend’ but also have the reliable go-to styles that have been around for years. There are over 12 hundred brands and a thousand new shoe styles added every week as well as an assortment of clothing, hats and other apparel. To remain ahead of the competition, we need to stay on the cutting edge, both on the merchant and the technology side. A new overhauled website was just launched with more user tools, consumer reviews, bigger images and easier navigation. This is a work in progress with a lot more to come. ShoeBuy has a hybrid drop-ship model that allows us to carry a very broad assortment of styles, especially in narrow and wide size runs, even up to size 18. We have a warehouse in Woburn and a call center in Boston, but we also partner with suppliers, list their merchandise, and then work with them to ship directly to the customer. I love working with shoes – if you walked into my office, you’d see a lot of shoes, shoe boxes, hats, and purses. I think I’m pushing over 150 pairs of shoes in my closet at home. Today I’m wearing a suede wedge bootie from Rockport. And there are more shoes under my desk. It’s both a perk and a hazard of my job.”

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