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ELuxury.com to Shutter Retail Operation

ELuxury.com, the designer e-commerce site launched in 2000, will close the retail portion of the site over the next six months.

ELuxury.com, the designer e-commerce site launched in June 2000 by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, will close the retail portion of the site over the next six months.

A spokeswoman at LVMH confirmed the San Francisco-based e-tailer is in the early stages of transitioning the site into an online magazine focusing on luxury markets. She said the reason for the closure of the retail operation was not based on the site’s financial performance, but rather because many of the brands it sells have developed their own online presences. ELuxury.com was a pioneer in online luxury retailing, offering designer apparel and accessories, beauty and children’s collections from such brands as Christian Dior, Pucci, Celine, Marc Jacobs, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Tod’s and an exclusive Louis Vuitton boutique. Sources said eLuxury has shown consistent sales growth overall — experiencing double-digit increases from 2007 to 2008.

“Starting in mid 2009, eLuxury’s new mission will be to create an ‘e-window’ into the world of luxury, by serving as an information reference for luxury in fashion, art de vivre, leather goods, wines and spirits, watches and jewelry, gastronomy, cars, yachts and services,” the spokeswoman said. “To that end, eLuxury intends to develop collaborations with the most prestigious names in the world of luxury media, as well as the main contributors of the luxury world.”

The company plans to close the retail portion of its business completely by June and plans to move many of its employees over to other positions within LVMH.

Some industry sources said they were surprised with LVMH’s choice to appoint David Asher as eLuxury president position in August. One source said that while he had almost 18 years of experience in luxury retail, having worked at Holt Renfrew, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, he had little experience in e-tailing, unlike his predecessor, Ann Helper, who was with eLuxury since its launch. The LVMH spokeswoman confirmed Asher will stay with the brand to spearhead plans to transform the site.

Sucharita Mulpuru, an e-commerce analyst for the Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., said she was shocked to hear of eLuxury’s decision to close its retail business. “I’m honestly really surprised,” she said. “It seemed to be doing so well.”

Mulpuru said that with the luxury market hurting overall and stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus suffering in this economy, she predicts there will be many more store closings, both online and offline. “Anyone who isn’t strong in this environment is especially vulnerable and will not survive,” she said. “But I really didn’t see this one coming.”