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“I’ve just come out of a seven-year relationship with a partner. I need a bit of freedom,” Shane Bradley tells NBR Online.
The relationship in question was with Herald publisher APN, which first bought Bradley's Idea HQ in July 2007 before progressively acquiring the whole thing.
The last Aussie media company paid $4.18 million (plus up to $8.08 million in earn-outs) for the final 25% FY 2012. Idea HQ baby GrabOne prospered under APN - at least in terms of market share - dominating the NZ daily deal scene. The ride was rockier for another Idea HQ creation, Trade me rival Sella, which APN closed three weeks ago. APN onsold a third Bradley effort, Finda, to Yellow in 2009).
Now, free of such complications, and with his seven-year itch scratched, Bradley is funding new venture Shop HQ (first revealed by NBR on March 2) with all his own money.
Shop HQ will create a series of websites selling FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods), backed by real-life warehouses and free delivery.
The first Shop HQ site, Pet.co.nz, as keen NBR readers will know, soft launched two and a half weeks ago.
Bradley has spent $750,000 upfront to stock at warehouse in Highbrook, Auckland, with pet treats, toys and food.
He's also hired 11 sales and web staff (all Pet.co.nz development has been inhouse), who man an office in Newmarket. All up, there won't be much change out of $1 million, with more investment to come as Pet.co.nz builds share and profile. Bradley says he's in no hurry to turn a profit.
A 2011 New Zealand Animal Companion Council. 2011 survey said New Zealanders spent around $1.5 billion on four million pets that year. Excluding vet services, which Pet.co.nz isn't targeting, the total is about $1 billion ($766 million of which was food).
Bradley says his pre-launch research put NZ online sales at around 0.4% of the market, compared to around 8% in the US and UK - which would equate to roughly $80 million here.
The idea of selling stuff online, and trying to become a category killer or dominate a niche, is barely new to Planet Earth.
Beyond its slick interface, and social media frills, Pet.co.nz could have been launched in 1995.
Still, it seems that in New Zealand in 2013, there is still a gap in the market, and Bradley is looking to fill it.
Some players have done well in some segments, he says, name-checking Mighty Ape in games and DVDs, but FMCG is ill served.
He says he first went looking for pet goods online when his family got a golden retriever, Cooper, at Christmas 2011, but found little available online, and delivery times up to two days.
Same-day, evening delivery
NBR puts it to Bradley that Kiwi retailers have been a little tentative online, wary of cannibalising their bricks-and-mortar business.
The entrepreneur won't be drawn into criticising the opposition, preferring to focus on what he sees as Pet.co.nz's points of difference. These include a lot of stock at that Highbrook warehouse - including 5000 product lines - and delivery times.
Pet.co.nz is focused on convenience more than price, Bradley says.
Free delivery (or at least delivery conveniently built into a single product price) includes same-day service for Aucklanders who order before 10am. Other areas are overnight.
Bradley is also looking to introduce a two-hour deliveries, plus an evening option (a key pain point, in most areas on most days, for another FMCG option, Countdown's online store).
The entrepreneur stresses he's not building another company to flick off, he's in it for the long haul (although after mentioning shoe seller Zappos.com as an example of a successful niche site, he can't help adding it did so well that an incumbent e-tailer - Amazon - was forced to by it).
And that this is an enduring opportunity, not about to be overtaken by technology. "People will still be feeding their pets in 100 years," Bradley says.
He winces for only the merest microsecond as NBR reminds him of a campaign by one Gareth Morgan, before getting back on track, reeling off FMCG stats, and name-checking Xero.
Social media marketing
"If you have a good product, social media can do it all these days," Bradley claims (NBR would add that being a name helps. Would #MyFoodBag have attracted so much attention without prurient interest in what Theresa Gattung's up to next, or the tie-in with Master Chef's Nadia Lim? On this front, you can't accuse Bradley of pushing himself around town; he turned down NBR's initial approach to talk about Pet.co.nz; when he does, he constantly tries to steer the conversation toward business topics only).
Pet.co.nz's Facebook page got 1300 likes in its first weekend, its founder says (on Twitter it's off to a slower start, at least as I type, with 28 followers; on Google+ it has two, including yours truly. Mind you, it's only officially launching today).
Last question: will Pet.co.nz do a GrabOne deal?
On this point, Bradley is coy.
APN knows where to find him.