Hobbycraft in international online sales push

Hobbycraft ramped up its international operations on Wednesday night (13 July) as it went live with a new eCommerce tool that offers a tailored online service to customers visiting its website from outside the UK.

CEO of the UK-based arts and crafts retailer, Catriona Marshall, told Essential Retail that global growth is now a key target for the company having overseen a transformation of the domestic business during her five-and-half-year tenure. The retailer has doubled its store estate in that time to 83 shops, as well as overhauling its supply chain and IT systems to support the growth of the business both online and in retail parks across the UK.

Cross border eCommerce platform Global-e was brought on board to build the front and back-end for Hobbycraft's new globally tailored digital platform earlier this year, with a 12-week process to implement all the international functionality completed this week. The result of this partnership sees customers greeted in their local languages, checkout conducted in local currencies and regional payment options presented, while configuration of taxes and duties are also outsourced to the vendor.

Marshall said: "9% of all our web traffic is international – we've looked at lots of other organisations and the market shows potentially 30% of online business can be international."

Hobbycraft opted not to launch dedicated international websites that operate with their own separate domains, but it will be measuring interest from abroad to understand where its marketing messages should be focused outside of the UK.

Commenting on why the Bridgepoint private equity owned retailer chose Global-e for international eCommerce, Marshall added: "Our business is a relatively small business with limited resources – it's the only way of doing it."

Recent political events in the UK, which last month saw the public vote to leave the European Union as part of a national referendum, have clearly not put a dampener on Hobbycraft's plans to operate an international business, despite the resulting uncertainty around the future of the Digital Single Market and international trade terms.

"We have had this planned for sometime now; we have developed our domestic market sufficiently well and the next step was international," explained the CEO.

"We launched on eBay last year – that was our first new channel development. That enabled us to have international orders last year, and we see what traffic is coming to eBay. We'll work out which markets are most common [in terms of orders and traffic] and start to market specifically to them to raise awareness about Hobbycraft."

Read more about Hobbycraft's digital strategy from CEO Catriona Marshall, in next week's Big Interview on Essential Retail.

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