Following Shoes.com shutdown, co-founder Sean Clark says company did “too much too fast”

In January, Shoes.com announced that it would be shutting down its operations by taking its three properties — Shoes.com, OnlineShoes.com, and ShoeME.ca — offline and closing two physical stores in Vancouver and Toronto.

On the latest episode of The Disruptors, co-host Bruce Croxon sat down with Sean Clark, the co-founder and former chief revenue officer of Shoes.com, to discuss what went wrong with the company and how Clark dealt with its closure.

“We did too much too fast. When you’re actually growing through acquisition, which is how we grew, there’s a lot of challenges.”

“We did too much too fast. When you’re actually growing through acquisition, which is how we grew, there’s a lot of challenges,” said Clark. “There’s system integration challenges. There’s culture challenges. Not only that, we’re in a very competitive space. There’s a crowded space in footwear and obviously, players like Amazon are putting the pressure on the entire market.”

When Croxon asked whether it’s possible to launch a successful, independently funded ecommerce company or whether it’s worth investing further in ecommerce startups, Clark said to “forget it.”

According to Clark, both ecommerce and brick-and-mortar companies have to pursue an omnichannel strategy in order to succeed, but more importantly, these players need to be where the customers are.

“The omnichannel strategy is something that everyone is pursuing,” said Clark. “You’ve got the big box retailers migrating online. You’ve got the online players migrating to have a store presence. The stores can be thought of as a marketing channel not necessarily to push volume through, but at the end of the day you have to service the customer.”

Clark added that creating seamless customer experiences in retail is also key to an ecommerce company’s success.

“In my years in retail, I’ve understood that if you don’t have a seamless customer experience, get the order right, seamless checkout, after sales support, those are things that are very hard to get right and if you’re not doing that right, then you don’t stand a chance in ecommerce,” said Clark.

“What actually got me out of a deep, dark place was I reached out to my mentor community.”

During the conversation, Clark also touched on how he dealt with the emotional side of having to suddenly shut down his company, which had grown to 650 employees, had logistics warehouses, and two physical stores in Vancouver and Toronto.

Clark said that while seeing Shoes.com stop operations abruptly was a “deep, despairing time” in his life, he dealt with the company’s closure by doing a lot of “soul searching.”

“What actually got me out of a deep, dark place was I reached out to my mentor community…I said whatever I do next, it’s going to be a cause,” said Clark. “It’s going to change the world because I go in so deep that I want to wake up every morning and know that I’m making a difference.”

After speaking to his mentor, Clark said he spent two weeks researching and learning about blockchain and bitcoin. Today, Clark believes blockchain is “the influction point in the digital age.” He recently launched First Block Capital, which creates financial products give investors, wholesalers, and retailers access to crpytocurrencies.

“We have moved very quickly. This space is the most exciting space for me. It’s a space that will change the world and I’m happy to be a part of it,” said Clark.

Watch the full interview below:

BetaKit is a production partner on The Disruptors. Tune in to BNN every Thursday night at 7pm for full episodes!

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi

Amira Zubairi is a staff writer at BetaKit. As a fourth-year journalism student who has written primarily about entrepreneurship, Amira has developed a growing interest in Canadian startup, business, and tech news. In her free time, Amira enjoys reading, baking and watching legal shows.

  • Anon Mous

    Sean is one of the main reasons the company failed. He and most of the executives didn’t understand retail or the customer experience. Disruption is not confrontation, but this is what they thought. They wanted so bad to put distributors and other retailers out of business, but look what karma had in store. Too much fighting / back stabbing within the ranks, too many people wanting their plan to work and not coming together as a team, too many executives promoted or hired who didn’t know the first thing about their duties or the business, Sean changing his mind on whim over and over again, CEO not engaged on a daily basis, too much dishonesty, horrible ethics, too many meetings, stand ups, shout outs and wasted time, horrible execution, employees made to feel worthless and scared for their jobs, the list goes on. Someone should talk to the people who really understood the business and what went wrong.