Skye Associates buys Simply Soles


Adam Hanin is the owner of Skye Associates, a Bethesda company that runs e-commerce clothing Web sites. (Jeffrey MacMillan/JEFFREY MACMILLAN FOR CAPITAL BUSINESS)

Adam Hanin isn’t exactly who you’d expect to be the face of online women’s fashion. For starters, the 38-year-old Potomac native doesn’t think he’s all that stylish.

“I wouldn’t call myself a fashionista by any stretch — and if you saw me, you’d probably agree,” Hanin said.

“But,” he added, “I do have my finger on the pulse of e-commerce, and there’s no question that it’s a growing industry.”

Hanin, the founder of Bethesda-based Skye Associates, has built a business around creating and managing a network of nearly 40 Web sites for brands such as Metropark and House of Harlow, socialite Nicole Richie’s clothing line.

Last month, the company bought Simply Soles, a District-based online business that specializes in Ugg boots, Stuart Weitzman pumps and other women’s shoes. It is the company’s fifth acquisition in the past two years.

“We run four shoe sites for retailers and have a lot of experience in that area,” Hanin said. “It just made sense to expand into having an ownership stake in a shoe company.”

Hanin would not say how much he paid for Simply Soles, but added that he expected Skye Associates to bring $15 million in sales this year, up from $9 million in 2012.

In all, the company manages 36 e-commerce sites. By the end of this month, it will have added two more to its roster.

This is how it works: Hanin buys inventory on consignment from his clients, and then puts it up for sale on the client’s Web site. He oversees the marketing and distribution of all products, and then takes a cut of the sale — generally between 30 percent and 40 percent — every time a customer places an order.

(For sites such as Styletryst.com that sell items from a variety of brands, Hanin charges an initial start-up fee, as well as weekly maintenance fees and commission of 10 percent to 16 percent.)

On any given day, the company’s employees fulfill 500 orders — 1,000 during the holidays — and send them throughout the country. Hanin estimates that Skye’s Rockville warehouse contains at least 5,000 boxes of women’s shoes.

“The trend we’ve seen is that women, much more so than men and kids, are a large segment of online shoppers,” Hanin said. “They’re really the core of our business.”

Hanin, a graduate of the University of Maryland, started Skye Associates in 2007, shortly after selling his first company, CampusOutfitters.com. The Web site, which specialized in Catholic school uniforms was his first foray into e-commerce.

Today, Skye Associates has 45 full-time employees, including an art team in Pittsburgh and Web operations in Canada. The company’s offices have become a hub for a range of sites, ranging from Yoga-clothing.com to Fantasyjewelrybox.com.

To maintain distinct identities for each brand, Hanin buys individual phone numbers for every site and reroutes all calls to one central line.

“If we get a phone call here in Bethesda, we may answer the phone ‘Shoebox’ or ‘Simply Soles’ or ‘Pink Mascara,’” he said. “It's all one big network.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local retail, hospitality and banking for The Washington Post. She has previously written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

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