With the arrival of Zara, Gap, and Topshop down under, Australian shoppers are finally getting access to the international high street fashion they have been envying from across the world. But the REAL shopping revolution is taking place online at clubqt.com.au – a fresh new website which brings the best of the world’s fashion together in an exciting social shopping community.
Owner Mandy Sigaloff counts herself as part of the internet generation; living and working through the .com boom for the Emap Corporation, she saw first-hand how online shopping changed the retail landscape in her home country of the UK. Mandy had her first taste of online trading after a career break to look after her two boys; she left the corporate world to work with Dawn Bebe (who launched UK Grazia magazine) and launching OSOYOU.com, the UK’s first Social Fashion site, attracting over 320,000 unique users per month and forming partnerships with the UK’s top retailers.
Relocating to Australia in 2009, avid shopper Mandy was forced to leave behind her favourite European fashion brands and with a busy family lifestyle, she could barely find the time to browse through her long list of favourite online stores. And so the Club QT concept was hatched: what if Mandy could save herself the trouble of searching through every site, and instead browse every brand in one place? And find somewhere she could view style inspiration and fashion tips from other shoppers?
What followed was a 12-month crash course in website building, e-commerce, and social media, and Mandy emerged in early 2011 as a fully-fledged e-entrepreneur, creating her online aggregator ‘Club QT’ in Beta and holding a soft launch to friends, contacts, and advisors. Choosing a name that implied exclusivity (‘On the QT’ is a term meaning keep it quiet), Club QT is an international shopping centre online, showcasing the best stores from Europe including ASOS, Liberty of London, Harrods and Topshop, and placing them all in one stylish, navigation-friendly online boutique.
Mandy explains: “I love the way that when you compliment someone on an item of clothing, they can’t wait to share a gem of knowledge of where and how they found this great store. Style is a walking advertisement, and if you are in the ‘know’ or someone tells you on the ‘QT’ then you have made it into the style ‘Club’. We want to share our international contacts with our ClubQT members.”
Mandy spent months researching her target market, finding out what they love and hate about online shopping; one complaint was prices being shown in foreign currency. Club QT has all prices in AUD updated daily in accordance with exchange rates, and shipping costs are forecasted in local currency too. She heard feedback that some shoppers begrudge hefty shipping costs, so Club QT works with international retailers to offer competitive and exclusive shipping rates for Australian consumers and runs limited free shipping offers regularly.
Mandy’s real vision was the interactive element of Club QT – she couldn’t count the times she had emailed a link to a covetable designer item to her friends for feedback. But what if she could do that with a whole outfit? She made it happen with Club QT’s ‘Fitting Room’ function, allowing shoppers to click on the ‘coat hanger’ icon next to each product to send that item to their virtual ‘Fitting Room’. Members can then view the whole ensemble as an outfit, with the option to email a montage to friends and contacts and even share on their blogs/Facebook/Twitter profiles. Taking this concept even further, users can download the exclusive ‘Club QT Shopper’ widget to their desktop, allowing them to add ANY item from ANY online store to your Fitting Room, cementing Club QT as the host site for their online shopping sessions.
Club QT is now making some serious noise in the Australian marketplace, with the Beta site already attracting large numbers of shoppers and the country’s fashion media taking notice. A High Profile Private investor has just invested $500,000 in to the project, allowing Mandy and her team to bolster the site’s technology and implement an online and offline marketing strategy. Mandy surrounds herself with a like-minded team, and in keeping with the international element of the site, they work around the clock on various time zones. “I am a big believer that an effective team is about skill set and not location, our team is based in the UK, Kenya, as well as Australia. They are from very different backgrounds, different ages and life stages, they are inspired by different designers, stores and fashion – I love this diversity, it makes a great team.”
With over 150 stores already listed on Club QT, Mandy’s next step is to entice Australian retailers to the site to take advantage of US and UK shopping spend and to place leading homegrown designers and stores alongside their international counterparts.
The site’s success has already been recognised by the industry; Club QT is a finalist in the Online Retail Industry Awards (ORIAs) in the Best Aggregation category and is listed alongside leading e-retailers SurfStitch, Shoes of Prey, and Sportsgirl. The future is bright for Mandy Sigaloff and her virtual high street – and where will you find her celebrating? Not pounding the streets hunting down a bargain…she’ll be relaxing at home with a chilled glass of wine shopping the world from her laptop.