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Online shoe clubs are in step with fashion-forward women

Much like services that offer fruit or wines of the month, shoe clubs regularly mail a new pair of shoes to members. Some have millions of subscribers.

December 29, 2011|By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times

ShoeDazzle, co-founded in 2009 by Kim Kardashian, has raised $60 million from investors, including a $40-million round in May led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, which has invested in major tech companies such as Facebook and Groupon. Based in Santa Monica, ShoeDazzle expanded to Britain and South Korea this year and is launching in 10 other countries in 2012, co-founder Brian Lee said. In May, the brand said it had more than 3 million members.

Since launching in March 2010, JustFabulous has gained more than 4 million members nationwide and is posting $5.5 million in monthly sales. The company — which also sells handbags, denim and other products — announced in September that it had raised $33 million in new funding. Revenue and membership have increased 20% month over month this year, and the company expects to sell 2.5 million to 3 million pairs of shoes and handbags in 2012, JustFabulous co-CEO Adam Goldenberg said.

Santa Monica's ShoeMint launched on Black Friday and three days later had sold out of its entire inventory of women's shoes, which are designed by actress Rachel Bilson and Hollywood stylist Nicole Chavez. Parent company BeachMint said ShoeMint — its fourth e-commerce site — attracted about 80,000 pre-registrations and was its most successful website launch to date; 10,000 people are on the wait list to buy shoes.

Another competitor, downtown L.A.'s Sole Society, announced this month that it had been spun off from HauteLook, a "flash fashion" website owned by Nordstrom Inc., so company officials could better focus on growing the shoe business. Sole Society launched in March and today has nearly 500,000 members.

As young companies, the brands are still finding their footing. Some shoppers have complained that it's too difficult to remember to opt out when they don't feel like a new pair of shoes, or note that their showroom of styles appear to be the same regardless of what they filled out in their style questionnaires.

Company officials say they're still tweaking the software behind the recommendations and note that the more consumers who join, the better the sites will become at predicting what they'll like.

"The model will work well in any country where women love shoes," ShoeDazzle's Lee said. "I think that's 99% of the world."

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