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Who owns Shoes.co.uk?
You would imagine that the Domain Name 'Shoes.co.uk' would be owned by one of the UK's biggest shoe companies such as Clarks, Dr Martens or Hush Puppies wouldn't you?, but it is not. So who does own the domain name, what are they doing with it and just how did such a prestigious premium domain name such as this end up in their hands?
If you go back to October 1996 the domain was registered by a Jersey based company; Skyline Enterprises. At that time it was quite common for companies to quickly register generic top level domain names such as this on a 'first come first served basis' (they also bought shoe.co.uk, clothes.co.uk), with a view to cybersquatting. The site sat idle for three years with a 'for sale' sign up encouraging people to make offers for the name.
In 1999 Ex-Barratts Shoes Buying Controller, Nigel Carr had an idea for the domain and approached Skyline to buy it. Nigel formed a company called Footwear.co.uk Ltd after buying that domain name for £4500 from a game hosting company in London who had similarly registered the name for the sole reason of selling it on.
Skyline refused to sell the name but entered in to an agreement with Carr to lease the name for seven years with a three year break clause. That break clause would prove to be very useful in the years to come!
The agreement valued the name at £90,000 and the lease was £4500 a year for the first three years, rising to £10,000 in year seven, with a renewal clause after that period. Carr had an idea to set up a comprehensive directory of shoe retailers in the UK and sent out 6500 invitations for all the UK shoe shops to join, promising to list all their details, brands stocked and map location. Carr approached Easynet in London to set up a sharp looking website to present all of the information is a simple searchable way.
After spending over £55,000 on setting up the site, it quickly became apparent that the idea was not going to get off the ground, and in October 2000 the company went the way of so many other internet start-ups of the time. It was too early for such an idea and although some shops were aware of the internet, they were not ready to embrace it in the way that store owners do today.
Carr exercised the break clause after the three year period and moved on to other ventures. The name, still owned by Skyline at this stage, was once again put up for sale and the company approached many of the UK's top shoe companies as well as some smaller online shoe retailers without success. The year was 2003 and peoples appetite for all things internet had been severely soured by the Dot Com bust that started in early 2000, domains had fallen in value and it felt like the end of the cybersquatter.
Skyline failed to find a buyer so offered it back to Carr who agreed to buy the name for an undisclosed sum, transferring it into his Domain name vehicle Pigley Stairs Ltd.
Carr used the name to set up an affiliate driven website, creating listings for all the well known internet shoe retailers of the time. Sites such as Voodoo Shoes would pay the company a percentage of sales from traffic that came to them from the Shoes.co.uk website. Although this was successful it didn't generate the kind turnover one would expect from a such premium domain name.
In early 2006 Carr formed Shoes.co.uk Ltd, employing Ex-Schuh buying Director Jackie Hodge and between them they went about the business of turning Shoes.co.uk in to a fully fledged online shoe shop. The experience and contacts that both of them had gained as shoe buyers was invaluable in convincing large footwear brands such as Base London and Hush Puppies to work with them.
Carr financed the venture himself from the money that had accumulated from the Pigley Stairs' affiliate sales as well as pumping much needed working capital in to the company from his own resources.
The company, under Carr's leadership has gone from strength to strength and now sells more than 3000 styles of shoes from over 65 brands. The website sells huge ranges from brands such as Fly London, Lelli Kelly, Ravel, Lotus, Hush Puppies and Sebago.
The head office is in Altrincham in Cheshire and the company distributes most of the shoes from a fully operational pick and pack warehouse in Leigh, Lancashire as well as working with many top brands on a direct despatch basis.
After initial losses Shoes.co.uk Ltd trades profitably and is projecting a multimillion pound turnover over the next three years.
The domain name itself is still owned by Pigley Stairs Ltd but is on permanent licence to Shoes.co.uk Ltd. Both companies are 100% owned by Carr
The business was sold in 2016 to Shoon and Pigley Stairs now run www.myfashionsupermarket.com