The clothing and shoe shop from Haapajärvi began utilising the possibilities of an online shop early on. However, it did not mean ousting the brick-and-mortar shop, on the contrary.
Thanks to the online shop, the company can succeed even though it is located away from the big city centres. The shoe and accessory shop Stiletto, whose home is in Haapajärvi, is a good example of this.
According to entrepreneur Kimmo Maijala, the online shop and brick-and-mortar shop form an entity where they both benefit from the other.
– The online shop enables having a larger selection and regeneration, and therefore it also serves the brick-and-mortar shop. Also, the seasons change on slightly different schedules in the online and brick-and mortar-shops, which evens out slightly the seasonal variation.
In practice, the size of the locality has no meaning for the online shop. Haapajärvi has many advantages to offer, according to Maijala.
– The fixed costs are cheaper here than they are in big cities and capable workforce is also readily available. I do also believe that commitment is easier here than it is in the south.
The location is also supported by logistics: the roads lead to every direction and transports of good come and go every day.
– In that respect we aren’t losing to anyone out here, Maijala states.
Stiletto opened its domestic online shop in 2011, making it one of the pioneers.
– We saw the change in the market and that in the future, a brick-and-mortar shop would not be enough. We wanted to be properly involved, right from the start, Maijala explains.
Since the beginning, the company has invested in high-quality product pictures, which have been compiled by using automation and own models. According to Maijala, the company wants to offer the customers as realistic as possible a picture of the products, which in turn decreases the amount of returned products.
In 2016, due to the growth of the online shop, the company built an office space of about a thousand square metres, equipped with storage and logistics spaces, on the west side of the Haapajärvi city centre.
– For a company of our size, it was an expansive investment. But Haapajärvi was a good place to build and the city government supported us, Maijala says.
Currently, the domestic online shop forms clearly the biggest share of Stiletto’s sales. In second place is the online sales to Sweden. After them comes the brick-and-mortar sales, says Maijala.
– Online, the customers come from around Finland, about half of them from Greater Helsinki. Of those who personally visit the shop, people from Haapajärvi are certainly the biggest group, but we do have visitors from as far as South Finland, when people drive by us on their way to their holiday destinations.
The online shop is also a marketing channel, because it makes the selection more known and expands the customer base.
– Many already know what they want to buy when they come to the shop. Online, people look through the models, and at the brick-and-mortar shop we negotiate and close the deal, Maijala states.
Amid the recognised online shop giants, even a smaller company can succeed by using its own strengths. According to Maijala, an important asset is the selection, which is quite varied and curated to suit Finnish preferences.
– With our selection, we can certainly compete with companies from Ylivieska and even Oulu, Maijala says.
The other asset is Finnish-language professional customer service, which the company has not outsourced. Maijala says that the customers also appreciate their quick deliveries.
– And of course the prices must be competitive.
The entrepreneurs of Stiletto saw the possibilities for growth when they started to expand the online shop abroad. The first in line was Sweden in 2016.
– We thought that since Finns make online purchases from abroad, there’s no reason why we couldn’t also go there. In this way we don’t lose all of our abroad market shares, Maijala states.
The company received help from NIHAK to completing the necessary grant applications, among others. According to Maijala, the biggest work was related to translation work and marketing.
– New online shops face the challenge of finding their customers. Just like with a brick-and-mortar shop, marketing is important for an online shop. It helps us to bring our selection from the deep dark woods to the side of the main street, Maijala describes.
According to Maijala, exposure on Google is important to a company in the tough competition. The online shop platform must also be technically good, if you wish to reach for the international market.
Once the way was open for Stiletto, the expansion rapidly continued into new market areas. At the moment, the online shop operates in 60 different countries, including even Australia and New Zeeland. The majority of the sales happen inside the EU.
– It’s possible, that some day the international online shop is our most important sector, Maijala says.
More info about Stiletto: Stiletto Oy
Shoe and accessory shop Stiletto Oy
- Founded in 2006, in Haapajärvi.
- Owners are Kimmo Maijala and Liisa Kekkonen.
- A second shop in Iisalmi since 2009.
- Online shop since 2011.
- The building of the company’s own office space and online shop storage in the west side of the Haapajärvi city centre was completed in 2016.
- Revenue is about EUR 2.6 million.
- A total of 18 employees, of which four are in Iisalmi and the rest in Haapajärvi.
Text and pictures: Hanna Perkkiö