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LONDON — Net-a-porter.com is set to unveil a new brand: a discount designer outlet that aims to celebrate seasonless fashion.
This story first appeared in the March 5, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Next month, theOutnet.com will launch with a lineup of more than 200 brands familiar to luxury shoppers, including Christian Louboutin, Alberta Ferretti, Chloé, Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg and Hervé Léger.
On offer will be a mix of the former season’s merchandise, classic pieces and greatest hits resurrected from designers’ archives, all with average discounts of 40 to 60 percent. The company also plans to give some items away for free.
“We’ve been thinking of doing a sale shop — under a separate brand — for years, and now is the right time to focus on it,” said Natalie Massenet, founder and chairman of Net-a-porter.
“We are no longer a start-up, but a mature, established business, and we want to follow in the footsteps of stores like Barneys Co-op and Neiman Marcus’ Last Call,” she said, adding the new company aims to service customers and brands alike.
For customers, “It’s going to be about ‘the find,’ and giving them what they may have missed buying in previous seasons,” Massenet said. For the brands, Net-a-porter is offering “end-to-end” service and a “360 degree partnership.”
Massenet added the new on-line store will also provide an outlet infrastructure for smaller labels, such as Temperley London, and give designers the chance to offer their classic pieces or put a new spin on old favorites from past seasons.
The site will offer merchandise including rtw, accessories, lingerie and swimwear, and will be organized by product, use and trend rather than by season.
The new company is a division of the London-based Net-a-porter Ltd. Stephanie Phair, who was previously vice president of merchandising at Portero, the luxury auction Web site, has been named director. Phair is building a separate team that will work alongside that of Net-a-porter.
“Seasons are becoming less relevant, and for a lot of customers it’s about finding the great product — no matter what the season,” said Phair.
The site will offer one-off “pop-up sales,” as well as weekly promotions and giveaways. Fresh stock will be added weekly.
TheOutnet’s branding is distinct from Net-a-porter’s, with a hot pink and black logo, and the trademarked tag line: “It’s chic-onomics!” The fully recycled white shopping bags resemble Chinese laundry carriers, and say, “Please Re-Use” on the bottom.
Massenet said the new site was a natural outgrowth of the core business, and denied the dismal economic climate was a reason behind the launch of the brand.
“Net-a-Porter has always had a very high sell-through in the sale shop,” she said, adding this was not an “opportunistic” launch. “When we do come out of this current crisis, theOutnet will still be relevant. This is really about the life cycle of fashion, and for us there are good margins to be made. It’s not about a fire sale,” she said.
Although Massenet declined to give sales projections, she said the team was expecting “healthy revenue and profits,” given the existing customer base at Net-a-porter.
She emphasized that while theOutnet may be new, it would benefit from Net-a-porter’s infrastructure, marketing, buying and customer-service know-how.
Massenet said she expected there to be some customer overlap between the two companies, but stressed the launch was an opportunity to “reach out” to a new consumer base. “The Net-a-porter customer is not price sensitive,” she said, adding the average purchase price on the site last week was more than 600 pounds, or $840 at current exchange. “We see this site as a place the sale shopper can call her own.”
Massenet said she realizes Net-a-porter is not reinventing the lightbulb. Online operations such as Yoox.com, Bluefly.com and even Amazon.com have been selling discounted designer gear for years. Most of the big Italian brands have their own brick-and-mortar outlet stores in Europe, and discount villages run by companies such as Value Retail and McArthurGlen Group, are doing roaring businesses throughout the U.K. and Continental Europe.
“There is room for a lot of players. What we’re doing is editing what’s available and offering the full service you’d get with Net-a-porter,” she said. “We want to give customers a fresh take on sales shopping and celebrating fashion.”