Luxury Shopping. Luxe Brands Headed Online in Droves

April 3, 2008 • Fashion


Great news for those of us who love to shop on the Internet!
Luxury and designer brands have finally woken up to the Web. And it could be the saving grace in these tough economic times, reports WWD.

years of ignoring e-tailing, luxury and designer brands are finally
opening up shop online in sizable numbers. Recent online e-tailors include
Prada, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, Boucheron and Bulgari. Already selling top-of-the-line handbags, shoes,
accessories or ready-to-wear for more than a year are Gucci, Bottega
Veneta, Oscar de la Renta, Judith Leiber, Christian Dior, Hermès,
Burberry, Tiffany and Ralph Lauren.

Holdouts include Chanel and Donna Karan, which do have online shops but only for lower-priced lines and beauty.

Wednesday, Stella McCartney opened an online store for the U.S. In
December, Prada opened an online store serving Europe and the U.K. (A
U.S. version is due soon, although the company declined to be more
specific.) Vuitton opened its U.S. online store in November, and YSL
opened an American shop, which features a striking graphical
Mondrian-like design, in October.

"I think eventually every
company that runs stores will have e-commerce," predicted Mark Lee,
chief executive officer of Gucci, which is widely regarded as a leader
in online commerce for opening its store in 2002 and handling the
technical side in-house. "Whatever the initial fears or reluctance,
people are embracing it. It doesn’t harm the brand in any way, and it’s
also very profitable."

Retailers realize the wealthy customer is online and wants to buy.

think there is a customer for whom money is no object, and that
customer exists online as well," said Alex Bolen, ceo of Oscar de la
Renta, which opened a store selling $2,400 handbags, shoes averaging
$500 to $800, accessories and fragrance in 2006.

Luxury brands once feared selling online would tarnish their aura of
exclusivity, and fashion companies disliked the look of the online
environment. They even feared putting up clear images online would
encourage counterfeiting and online stores might make it easier for
counterfeiters and gray market distributors to buy. But the Web is
quickly losing its low-rent reputation.

It is not unusual for frequent online luxury shoppers to be cash-rich
and time poor. That is often the case at Net-a-porter, where 19%
of customers are busy ceo’s and executives, typically in banking and

Read "Luxe Brands Follow the Money – to the Internet" here.

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