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Giftlab Gears Up for U.S. Launch

Internet investor Carmen Busquets, who helped to launch Net-a-porter, has been quietly working on the luxury e-commerce site.

LONDON — Internet investor Carmen Busquets, who helped to launch Net-a-porter, and founded the Web site Couturelab, has been quietly working on another luxury e-commerce site, which will launch in the U.S. in June.

This story first appeared in the April 25, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Giftlab, which had a soft launch in the U.K. in November, is aimed at generous souls with deep pockets and interests ranging from fashion to jewelry, design, literature and food.

Prices currently range from about 12 pounds, or $18.36,  for a box of eight Cocomaya chocolates, to more than 37,000 pounds, or $56,600, for a one-off opal and diamond brooch by Vicente Gracia. In between, there are Moleskine notebooks, jewels by Pippa Small, Bottega Veneta candles, Alexander McQueen box clutches, cookbooks for children, travel guides and bunny hair clips by Katie Hillier.

The site features sections curated by “tastemakers” such as jeweler Shaun Leane, designers L’Wren Scott and Christian Louboutin, and the perfumer Kilian Hennessy. Shoppers stumped by what to choose can also shop by star sign.

“The site is not about collecting or accumulating — it’s about gifting, an act that people should be proud of,” said Busquets. “We want it to be fun, fast, easy — and with really special service.” Alasdhair Willis, who runs creative agencies in London and is married to Stella McCartney, is a member of the founding team, along with Sojin Lee.

Lee, formerly head of retail and buying at Net-a-porter and an Internet entrepreneur in her own right, is overseeing all of the buying and sourcing for the site. Lee also works with Busquets on Couturelab, an e-commerce site that sells one-off or limited-edition high-end items made by artisans and sourced from around the world.

Today, Giftlab will reveal that it has banked $5 million in its first round of fund-raising. NEA, the U.S. venture capital firm, is the lead investor. Other investors include Nobel TMT Ventures Ltd., and a number of strategic, international, high-net-worth individuals who Busquets declined to identify.

Busquets, who remains Giftlab’s controlling shareholder, said the aim is to build the site into a $500 million company over the next 10 years. “We’re starting small, but we’re thinking big. Net-a-porter was successful because we were patient, and we didn’t grow too quickly.”

The company will also unveil plans for a U.S. office set to open June, and plans to ship to local customers directly from the U.S. It will launch a marketing campaign in September, and has begun a search for a chief executive officer and team.

Giftlab ships to 158 countries within 72 hours, and Busquets said that about 30 percent of the site’s business already comes from the U.S. The average spend per basket is $250, and 60 percent of all sales come from return customers. Although Busquets declined to give any revenue figures, she said sales have tripled since the November launch.

Gavin Saunders, previously finance director at Theo Fennell, has recently joined as chief financial officer of the company, while Tony Florence, general partner at NEA, has been named a non-executive director. NEA has invested in a number of other luxury e-commerce businesses including Gilt Groupe and Moda Operandi.

Busquets said that Giftlab was born out of Couturelab, and she envisions the two sites complementing each other in the future.

“We were noticing that for every three purchases on Couturelab, one was a gift. Couturelab is expensive, craftsmanship is expensive, and I wanted to make a stand-alone company and brand that was more commercial, and to keep things clear for customers,” she said.

As of September, Busquets said that most merchandise costing $1,000 and under will be sold on Giftlab, while Couturelab will offer items that cost more than $1,000. Going forward, Giftlab plans to offer experiences such as cooking classes, lectures, massages and picnics in the park.