E-commerce: IL2L using online giants to boost growth

MANCHESTER-based online leather goods retailer IL2L.com has a turnover of around £500,000 and next year’s target is to hit £800,000.

Set up in 2009 and part of a larger family business, which is an importer and wholesale of leather goods to the high street and other retailers, it started with a focus on leather jackets but as the business has developed it has broadened its offering to include accessories such as hats, gloves, bags.

IL2L is featured in TheBusinessDesk.com’s 18-page E-Commerce supplement sponsored by accountants Baker Tilly and digital agency I-Com. Click here to download it for free.

“The family business has been going 35 years – my brother and I are the
fourth generation,” says managing director Richard Arron.

After setting up IL2L.com the company quickly launched an eBa store and a year down the line also moved onto Amazon.

Mr Arron says: “With eBay the perception was that it was an auction site for so long. But now there are big high street names on there and to have an eBay store is acceptable. It is secure and gives good feedback
and ratings, which makes sure those trading on there are reputable.

“Amazon is seen as more high brow, its payment system is very easy to
use and it has become a very trusted service. It has a huge catchment and our leather jackets sit nicely on there as they are investment pieces”

But he admits that both platforms have their limitations. “Your margins are reduced with payment protocols, and PayPal takes a commission too. It is not ideal for building a brand as they are strict on making sure there is no link back to your own website. You can’t leaflet or send flyers that refer people back to your own website – you have to have their brand,” he says.

If you are growing rapidly, especially if selling across multiple platforms it can be hard to keep up and customer experience and service can suffer – impacting on your most important commodity: reputation through customer

“If you can’t keep on top of orders and stock it can result in negative
feedback which is the killer – you need better stock management to deliver a better service. Stock management is one of the most important things,” says Mike Blackburn of I-COM, which helped IL2L.com to integrate all three platforms onto a common stock database, using third party applications and plug-ins for the Magento platform.

“In the past it was like juggling stores and if you sold something on one
platform you had to manually adjust the stock on another – that could lead
to human error and it all takes time,” says Mr Arron.

Experts say small firms should ensure that trading with Amazon is beneficial to them, rather than vice-versa.

Rob Aitken, head of retail for the north at Baker Tilly said: “Just be aware of the pitfalls and consider how to make Amazon work for you, not the other way around.

“Most use Amazon as part of their overall strategy. Don’t fall into the trap of supporting Amazon in its own strategy. It is not just your brand that Amazon controls but your profitability. It pushes the transaction costs up and you don’t have full control,” he added.

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