Web retailer steps into shoe shops

A SCOTTISH web retailer is bucking the online trend by taking to the high street with a chain of designer shoe shops in eight UK cities.

Steven Moffat, founder of Dumfries-based Huan, has to date concentrated on internet-based shopping websites, including Hip Furniture, which he shortly plans to expand to the US.

But his latest project involves a departure from the online world to the rather more troubled high street.

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Moffat realises that his move may seem strange as most retailers are moving in the opposite direction and beefing up their internet presence.

Online sales have continued to grow over the past few years while the high street has been beset with problems.

But Moffat is undaunted. He claims that the systems and processes taken directly from the online market can be applied to the "bricks and mortar" world and replicated on the high street.

His shoe stores - called Shhh… - promise designer brands including Chrissie Morris, Natacha Marro and Kat Maconie.

The first shop will open in the summer in Edinburgh's George Street, rapidly followed by stores in Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, York, Liverpool, Newcastle and Birmingham.

"I see only opportunity on the high street," he said. "Historically, during any depression or downturn is exactly when to push for growth, and the age old story of spotting a gap in the market - no matter how thin - will always hold true."

Moffat said his Shhh… project fills a gap in Huan's portfolio. "Strategically my group had no luxury brands, and I was bored of launching e-commerce companies, to be honest.

"Fourteen or more years ago I was so excited about the possibilities of the internet. I now see the same possibilities for the future of the high street with a modern form of retailing that I saw online years ago."

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Huan started out as a web design company but its online shopping sites now cover babywear, games and gadgets, kitchen supplies, pets and window cleaning supplies.