Barneys New York says the e-commerce channel is the fastest growing part of its business and wants to keep the momentum going by playing on its international recognition.
This story first appeared in the June 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The luxury retailer has ramped up shipping online orders off barneys.com to 90 countries including Canada, South Korea, the U.K., Australia and China, from just the U.S. at the beginning of the year.
“We did a phase-in process beginning at the tail end of February, with 20 countries at a time, to make sure we were up and running and could handle it,” Daniela Vitale, chief merchant and executive vice president of Barneys New York, told WWD.
Asked what countries are generating the most orders, Vitale replied: “Canada is very big, and we’ve had a lot of interest from Australia due to the beneficial exchange rate.” She also cited France, Germany, Italy and Mexico, which is “quite shocking considering the huge tax issues there….There’s been pretty much a great mix, but no real activity from South America aside from a little bit from Brazil but not much else yet. We haven’t done anything yet in terms of marketing. We would partner with Google to do some search-related things that apply to Brazil” and other countries.
Vitale said international tourists represent one-third of Barneys’ active customer base, and that in some flagships, like Madison Avenue and Beverly Hills, it’s closer to a 50-50 split.
With the increase in foreign shipping, Barneys is building up inventories but Vitale assured it’s an increase commensurate with sales projections.
In addition, “Our goal is that a consumer should find the same merchandise online as they find in a flagship. Our business for spring is fantastic but for fall we really will create greater parity.”
Currently, the Web site is only in English but Vitale acknowledged it should also be in French, especially for Canadian shoppers, and possibly Spanish and Portuguese, if Brazil becomes a big market, among other languages.
Some retailers use the online experience as a gauge to see the potential to open overseas stores, but according to Vitale, “We have no interest. We have enough to work with in the U.S. Obviously, we want to look more at organic growth. You never say never. Stranger things can happen, but this is not in our immediate future.”
Barneys has partnered with FiftyOne Global Ecommerce, which does the currency conversion so international customers can pay in their preferred currency, calculates the shipping cost and figures out the taxes required on orders.
Barneys has a 250,000-square-foot complex in Lyndhurst, N.J., including 100,000 square feet devoted to barneys.com, which was launched in 2005. The complex accounts for 90 percent of Barneys online orders; 10 percent is shipped from stores. Barneys also operates a transactional mobile version of its site, and The Window, a content site for an insider view to designers, fashion, events and the Barneys team.