Named after the Calla lily, an elegant flower that symbolises beauty, purity and youth, Calla Shoes is an online shoe retailer established specifically to address an untapped niche in the ladies shoe market. Catering exclusively for women who suffer from bunions, the company was founded to offer quality, stylish and comfortable footwear online, with specially-designed shoes suitable for any daytime or evening occasion.
The business was the brainchild of the company’s owner, Jennifer Bailey, who has, herself, suffered from bunions for over 20 years and was constantly frustrated by the lack of choice and style for women with bunions.
Jennifer explains: “Finding shoes that were both comfortable and stylish was a real problem for me; I’d often try on shoes that looked beautiful on the shelf but were either too narrow around the toe to fit comfortably around my bunions or were designed so that my bunions would be visible, which could be embarrassing.
“I longed to find shoes that would be fashionable without compromising on comfort or proper support for my feet. As bunions are a common condition for women of all ages I knew that it was a problem that many other women must also encounter when buying shoes. I saw a perfect opportunity to solve my own footwear problem, help other women in the same predicament and launch a business with a unique market positioning, all at the same time.”
Jennifer’s vision was for a shoe collection available to buy online that would be expertly designed and made of quality materials to address the specific requirements of women with bunions, while offering the elegance, choice and style of the most fashionable high street shoe shops.
She was excited by the challenge of taking on the concept from scratch and learning about product design, manufacturing and ecommerce from a standing start.
“I knew there would be a lot involved in creating the business,” Jennifer continues, “not just from an ecommerce perspective but also from the point of view of getting the product right. I had to balance the comfort and style elements so I brought together the expertise I needed to consider all aspects of design and manufacture. I worked with shoe designers, a professional shoe fitter specialising in women with bunions, podiatry experts and shoe factories to ensure that the every product looks fantastic and feels amazing to wear.”
After developing the Calla concept in 2015, Jennifer spent a year putting all her research, manufacturing and website build requirements in place, finally incorporating the business in 2016.
Since then, the company has demonstrated that there was, indeed, a real need for a specialist retailer of bunion-friendly ladies shoes. Calla now ships around 50 orders per week and Jennifer works with a small team, giving her the freedom to focus on product design and business development.
As the company grew, Jennifer wanted to ensure that her focus remained on the product and the business, rather than being diluted by the day-to-day of packing, processing and shipping orders. She also wanted to ensure that the company could maintain high levels of customer service and prompt delivery as it grew and was concerned that essential business activities could distract her from dispatching orders.
As a result, she began looking for a expert partner that would manage all fulfilment requirements for her. As a company specialising in a premium, high quality products, however, she wanted to ensure that she could control the quality of the packaging and the storage environment, placing high importance on the cleanliness of the stock handling facilities and professionalism of the order processing and dispatch teams.
Jennifer explains: “We want every customer to have a fantastic experience of the Calla brand and product, from the minute they begin browsing our website to the moment they wear their new shoes for the first time. That means that the order needs to be shipped promptly and accurately and that the shoes need to arrive beautifully-packaged and in pristine condition.
“In short, I was looking for a fulfilment partner that would invest the same attention to detail in storing and sending out my products as I would myself while allowing me to step back from that side of the business.”
Jennifer evaluated several fulfilment providers and found Exact Abacus to be the most forward-focused and professional company she had considered. She was also enthused to find that Exact Abacus could offer Calla Shoes an integrated technology solution alongside the fulfilment services she needed to provide a complete, end-to-end solution for managing customer relationships from order through to delivery.
“I was surprised and excited to find that the advanced technology available from Exact Abacus was accessible to a smaller retailer like Calla,” comments Jennifer. “I had been hoping for a fulfilment company I could trust but the prospect of working with a partner that could also offer a joined up approach to managing the customer journey with integrated software was very appealing and Exact Abacus’ professional, knowledgeable team impressed me from the outset.”
Jennifer decided to bring Exact Abacus on board to offer both fulfilment and delivery across the EU, along with advanced technology to manage the transaction from virtual basket to doorstep, with valuable real time data that Jennifer can use to forecast purchasing requirements and track buying patterns.
Exact Abacus provides a ‘white glove’ service for Calla, storing products in a very clean environment and handling each item with the utmost care to ensure they arrive with the purchaser in immaculate condition.
Jennifer is delighted with the benefits that the Exact Abacus service has brought to her business and her customers.
She continues: “From the first contact through to onboarding and the day-to-day management of our fulfilment requirements the service from Exact Abacus has been seamless.
“It was clear from the very beginning of our relationship with Exact Abacus that they were a good cultural fit with us and would treat our products with the same level of care as we would ourselves.
The integrated technology provided by Exact Abacus also means that Jennifer can free up the time she needs to focus on core commercial activities and business development without compromising on her day-to-day ability to keep up to speed with sales volumes and throughput at the warehouse.
She continues: “The integrated software enables me to keep an eye on activity at the warehouse and quickly respond to any customer queries.
“The benefits were immediate too. Once we had completed the stock move to Exact Abacus’ warehouse at Matrix Park, everything simply clicked into place. Order are processed within minutes and shoes are picked, packed and sent to my customers with faultless service.
“It means that I can cost-effectively scale the business without worrying about operational impacts.”
The benefits of working with Exact Abacus have been ‘immediate and quantifiable’ in terms of Calla Shoes’ service levels and costs. Indeed Jennifer is so impressed with the fulfilment services and integrated technology offered by Exact Abacus that she is planning to take advantage of further, added value services as the company continues to grow and has already recommended Exact Abacus to other companies.
Jennifer adds: “Exact Abacus provides an ideal solution for fledgling businesses like Calla because it means we can access facilities, expertise and technologies as a niche, growing company to enable us to punch above our weight in the ecommerce marketplace.
“The team at Exact Abacus is great – down-to-earth, practical and experienced in all things ecommerce. They have clearly refined fulfilment to an art form and they will be an important part of my commercial strategy as I continue to develop Calla’s international sales and product ranges.”
Thanks to Exact Abacus’ competitive carriage rates, Calla Shoes has been able to reduce its distribution costs by 15 per cent. To date, 100 per cent of orders have been fulfilled with same day dispatch.