NEW YORK, LONDON, PARIS, BERLIN………SYDNEY?: The last time Karl Lagerfeld made a splash in Sydney was December 2003, when his guest editorship of Vogue Australia was feted with fireworks at the Sydney Opera House. The venue for the Sydney launch of Lagerfeld’s new Karl diffusion line on Thursday at 12 p.m. is a little less grand: an empty retail space at Bondi Beach. An edit of the collection will be displayed on vinyl graphics in the front window of the pop-up store, with visitors receiving limited edition Karl goodie bags, T-shirts, leather gloves and collars. Net-A-Porter, which has exclusive first dibs on the 70-piece collection for a month, is erecting four other similar pop-ups in New York, Paris, London and Berlin on Wednesday (although Sydney gets the head start given the time difference). Why Sydney? In spite of its 22 million-strong population, Australia is in fact Net-A-Porter’s third largest market. “Australia is one of our biggest and fastest growing markets and is extremely important to us,” said Alison Loehnis, the e-tailer’s managing director. “Australian consumers are avid on-line shoppers and they love designer fashion and accessories. Despite the seasons being reversed, the appetite of our Australian customer is the same in terms of wanting ‘newness’, whether it be winter or summer”.
Net-A-Porter’s experience is by no means unique. Australia is the second-largest market for British e-tailer ASOS and the largest market outside North America for U.S. e-commerce company FiftyOne. And it’s not just the strong Aussie dollar that’s driving Australians online. “The dollar is an important factor but I think product availability is a very crucial issue here,” said Steven Noble, a senior analyst with Forrester Research — new data from which predicts that Australian online retail sales will almost double from 16.9 billion Australian dollars, or $17.68 billion, in 2009 to 33.3 billion Australian dollars, or $34.84 billion in 2015. Added Noble, “We have world standard incomes and world standard tastes and we consume English language media and travel the world,” said Noble. “And yet we are so far physically from other major economies that are like us, which may lead us to seek those products and those experiences online that we can’t readily just acquire by going to a local shopping center.”