Top fashion houses leave e-tailing to pros


MILAN, Feb 16, 2008 (AFP) - Top fashion houses are carving out a growing presence in the world of e-tailing, even if they have to cede a percentage to the experts who know their way around the Internet marketplace.

Big labels are showing huge growth potential by hooking up with Yoox Services, the brainchild of Federico Marchetti, a former luxury goods consultant who builds on-line boutiques.

"Rather than start from scratch, we decided to work with a company that had the know-how," said Emporio Armani's communications vice-president Robert Triefus.

"Sales are growing each week and were strong at Christmastime. Our goal is for this site to become one of the biggest shops in the world," Triefus told AFP.

"We will closely monitor the development of Emporio with a view to launching other lines eventually" on the Internet, he added.

Diesel and Marni are two other labels that have signed up with Marchetti, who says subcontracting Internet sales allows the top fashion houses to concentrate on designing.

"We are really taking off," Marchetti said. "About 30 labels have asked us to create sites for them, but to do it well we'll only create about 10 over the next 18 months."

Marchetti has been selling designer clothes from past seasons or special collections since 2000 on Yoox.com.

As luck would have it, that business was up and running when boo.com, an ambitious British e-tailer to the rich and trendy, collapsed after just eight months.

After setting up Yoox Services in 2006, Marchetti began providing website services to major ready-to-wear brands, offering them technology, logistics and customer service.

"E-tailing is a different world, and an expensive investment. Rather than getting it wrong, hurting their image, some prefer to rely on our experience," he said.

A special challenge for e-tailers is producing photographs of new products and getting them on line according to tight deadlines to coincide with their appearance in stores.

"We have a 'digital factory' with about 20 photographers," Marchetti said.

Yoox has three warehouses, in Bologna, New York and Tokyo, as well as call centres.

Reflecting its confidence in the future, Yoox plans to list his company on the stock market late this year or early in 2009, Marchetti said.

by Etienne Fontaine

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