Surely for those affluent ladies it is largely about service in the shops in Bond Street or upmarket department stores?
10 years ago we asked whether clothing would sell online. Five years ago we were expressing the same doubts about luxury brand fashion retailing. Surely for those affluent ladies it is largely about service in the shops in Bond Street or upmarket department stores?
Net-a-Porter, recently added to Retail Week Knowledge Bank’s roster of the Top 200 retailer profiles, has proved doubters wrong again. Annual sales of £120m from a standing start 10 years ago and still rising at about 50% a year - plus moving into profit by year five and hitting double-digit margins by year nine despite an economic downturn - amply demonstrate luxury fashion’s market-widening internet potential.
Existing investor and luxury brand owner Richemont moved quickly in 2010 to take a controlling stake in Net-a-Porter, but founder and former fashion journalist Natalie Massenet remains at the helm of a business selling to both younger and older customers around the world.
One key USP is high service levels matching the equivalent of the bricks-and-mortar competition, another is adding an authoritative online fashion magazine to the mix. Talking of competition, one wonders when global luxury brand market leader LVMH will strike back with a multi-brand equivalent from its own, bulging stable: it was rumoured to be running the rule over Net-a-Porter when Richemont struck first.
What are Net-a-Porter’s plans? Some years ago Massenet said she had enough on her plate to launch an equivalent men’s site. Now, though, Mr Porter is scheduled for launch next year. But surely, given the traditional roller coaster of the menswear market, an online, luxury brand operation is unlikely to succeed? Or will we be proved wrong again - and should have learnt the lesson by now?