Supre struggles with IT revamp

The saying goes that you should never do business with family; something that Supre's international brand manager Catherine Taouk is now realising as she struggles to explain the gravity of the company's IT requirements to her boss, father and company founder Hans van der Meulen.

The saying goes that you should never do business with family; something that Supre's international brand manager Catherine Taouk is now realising as she struggles to explain the gravity of the company's IT requirements to her boss, father and company founder Hans van der Meulen.

Behind the 8-ball

Supre's international brand manager says that she often feels the company is behind the 8-ball online.
(Tempting fate image by Michael Mol, CC2.0)

"I often feel like we are behind the 8-ball sometimes because we are a family-owned and -operated business," Taouk admitted today at the launch of eBay's third annual online business index, which surveyed hundreds of local eBay sellers to distil the state of the Australian online retail sector.

"We moved into the online side of our business 10 years ago, but in the last three years I still feel like we're working behind ourselves and I feel that international retailers are doing so much more than what we're able to keep up with," she added.

Taouk said that over the last decade, Supre has seen a steady increase in online sales both in Australia and internationally, with online-only revenue topping out at $7.5 million for the company's last financial year. The retailer's custom-built online sales platform is now in need of replacement to deal with the sizeable traffic increase that the site needs to deal with.

"The reason we would need to change would be because of the volume of sales and traffic going through the site; it's kind of crumbling in a few areas. Rather than try and patch up the crumbling wall, we need to give it an overhaul," she said.

However, despite Supre's online success, it's still difficult to explain to her father why the business needs a platform upgrade.

"My father started in this business in the 1970s and being from European background, he has the mentality of the way that our stores should be set up. He's only started to adopt really what our online business is really about this year, to be honest, and we've been online for 10 years.

"Sometimes I try to explain to him in bricks-and-mortar terms what is really happening online, in terms of the opportunity and the sales. The other day we were talking about how our [online sales] platform needed to take a shift because ... we really need to upgrade our online software, even though it's only three years old. I had to explain that to him in terms of an old printing machine that needs to print T-shirts, and I really had to show him in those terms how we need to upgrade those systems in a way he would understand it," she said to scattered chuckles from the audience.

Taouk admits that without the upgrade, other retailers like online-only fashion retailer Asos will quickly take a bite out of Supre and its business model. The problem is compounded for Taouk as she needs to drive online revenue to justify and pay for the upgrade.

"We're in a catch 22. We need to get the sales to be able to get that platform, but we need that new platform to get the sales," she told ZDNet Australia after her presentation.

On the eBay online business index, Deborah Sharkey, managing director for eBay Australia and New Zealand, told the breakfast audience this morning that a product is purchased on eBay Australia every 15 seconds. Sharkey also told the audience that Australia is the company's highest market for mobile purchases.