EBay Inc. moves more apparel online than any other company. Yet that’s simply not enough for the giant Web site.
In March, eBay will launch “the fashion vault” for “flash” sales of designer goods in a format not dissimilar from that of Web sites Gilt Groupe and Ideeli. Hugo Boss, DKNY, Max Mara and Cole Haan Outerwear were tested last year and there’s a good chance they’ll be seen on the fashion vault again. Initially, there will be weekly flashes, but the frequency will increase in subsequent months.
EBay also is creating an online outlet mall for the U.S. with some well-known retail and apparel brands. Lord & Taylor’s outlet division is already on board and Brooks Brothers will be added next month. More brands and stores are seen joining, as they have in Europe, where eBay operates extensive outlet sites, such as in the U.K. with 16 stores including Debenhams, House of Fraser and Schuh, and in Germany, with 24 branded apparel shops including Eastpak, Fila, Speedo and Triumph.
There’s more to the program. In early April, eBay will unveil enhanced visual search technology for clothes, shoes and accessories, listed as the CSA category, to enable visitors to find products by style as well by brand or price. There will be better visuals and trend commentary from stylists, with additional technology features continuing to roll out through the year.
And if eBay has its way, the recently launched Norma Kamali and Narciso Rodriguez capsule collections are just the beginning of the site forming exclusive tie-ups with designers and brands. EBay officials have been scouring showrooms and had a bigger presence at New York Fashion Week to sow seeds for additional exclusives. No further designer deals have been signed yet, but eBay says at least one new designer exclusive will launch in September. EBay supports the designers with homepage and other on-site placements, creating branded storefronts that reflect their image and design sensibility, public relations, customized e-mails to millions of eBay fashion buyers and improved visibility in online key word search results.
“There’s great opportunity for eBay in the category,” eBay president and chief executive officer John Donahoe told WWD exclusively of the Web site’s moves in fashion. “We can offer incredible value and selection for fashion shoppers, and create new business models and channels of distribution for apparel brands and retailers.”
“We are playing to our strengths,” added Lorrie Norrington, president of eBay Marketplaces. “EBay is the number-one clothing site on the Internet,” with $7.1 billion worth of apparel products sold last year. Only cars, trucks, motorcycles and auto part sales — the motor category — surpass those of apparel on eBay, she added.
“Whether it’s Tory Burch or Levi’s jeans, we’ve got it,” Norrington said. “It’s hard to imagine having 10 million items on the shelves — just clothing items — but we have that. We are focused on taking that store with great values and great inventory and really unlocking that in new ways. We want to have a complement of experiences.”
The Rodriguez deal, launched last week, benefits both parties, giving eBay some cachet and the designer an e-commerce site and new audience for a small and different array of products at prices significantly lower than his regular collection. Kathy Kalesti, president of Narciso Rodriguez, said the eBay line had more than 300,000 visits in its first two days last week and “continues to grow every day.”
“A lot is still up in the air for the fall. We want Narciso to come back” with a second eBay exclusive collection, though it will take three to four months of selling to determine the success of the line, Norrington said.
“Maybe we will have a few different designers, or maybe identify one that will make a powerful statement,” she added. “We don’t want to force it. We want it to be organic. We are always looking for a value message. We are being approached by a few different designers of different calibers. The difference is now we have a better way of featuring them.”
For all its activity, eBay doesn’t spend a penny on apparel, or any other goods. It’s a marketplace with 90 million active buyers and sellers. The e-commerce company makes money by charging sellers fees for listing their merchandise on the site and commissions when the merchandise is sold. EBay last year reported $8.7 billion in revenues and $2.4 billion in net income on a generally accepted accounting principles basis.
With its vast product listings and mundane visuals generally, eBay can be a laborious experience with a flea market aura. The plan is to refine the Web site with fashion pages that are easier to search, appear more stylish and editorially informed and maintain the focus on offering values and bargains. The changes hopefully will enable eBay to attract more brands, retailers and designers and encourage shoppers to browse and, to a greater extent, wardrobe via the site. At present, most visitors tend to search eBay for something specific and leave it at that. “More like this” technology will enable buyers to see items similar to the one they initially searched. There also will be a fashion tab on the homepage, a stylist hub page and an additional address, Fashion.eBay.com.
EBay says it sells a dress and a pair of women’s jeans every 18 seconds and a pair of shoes every three seconds, and that its core fashion customers are women in their 20s and 30s seeking value and style. On the mobile front, since launching an iPhone application in 2008, apparel has emerged as eBay’s number-one mobile category in terms of items sold. By the end of last year, more than $600 million of all types of merchandise was purchased via eBay mobile.
Through the enhancements and new shopping formats, there will be more selling at fixed prices rather than through auction. “We see consumers consistently buying more fixed price,” Norrington said. “Auctions is a great format for items of unknown value [like vintage]. But fixed price has always been a faster format for growing than auction.”
On eBay, it’s 56 percent fixed price and 44 percent auction, and the company expects the ratio to eventually reach about 80 percent fixed, 20 percent auction, though there are some big apparel sellers that do best via auction, including vintage. A lower fee structure for listings will be implemented March 30, encouraging selling at fixed prices.
With additional designers, brands and retailers coming onto eBay to sell direct to consumers, there’s the potential to cannibalize business away from smaller sellers. But Donahoe said, “EBay sellers already compete with brands and retailers. Bringing onto eBay more great merchandise that our customers are looking for helps all sellers. More selection creates a more robust marketplace and builds demand.”
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews