YNAP Group's multichannel devices

MILAN — The coronavirus outbreak is putting the Yoox Net-a-porter Group’s search for a new chief executive officer on pause.

In an internal letter sent to employees and obtained by WWD, the online retailer’s chairman and ceo Federico Marchetti said he has put the search “on a back burner,” as he intends to helm the company “until we return to calm waters.” Impressed and moved by both Pope Francis’ words about an “unexpected and turbulent storm” and by Captain Gennaro Arma, the last to disembark the Diamond Princess, the cruise ship quarantined with 700 cases of COVID-19 infections, Marchetti spoke of working “tirelessly” to protect employees and secure the group’s future.

As reported, Marchetti said last month that he had decided to stay on as chairman but to hand over the ceo role when a successor was found. “As planned, we are in the early stages of implementing a succession plan for the next ceo of YNAP, with me staying on as chairman to ensure a smooth transition and set the new ceo up for success,” Marchetti said at the time. His contract is set to expire in 2021.

“The world, as I wrote in my first letter, is in the middle of a perfect storm. But I, speaking to you as an avid sailor, can tell you that as with all storms, after the wildest part, when all of the elements seem to fight each other, the wind drops, the sea calms and you can see the horizon once again,” Marchetti wrote to his employees.

He also revealed that out of more than 5,500 YNAP employees, there are only six confirmed cases of COVID-19, or 0.1 percent of the total workforce.

“I have also been working on another monumental task with the help of [parent company Compagnie Financière] Richemont, h.r. and various governments. While world economies go into freefall and many are losing their jobs, at [YNAP] we have guaranteed the vast majority of the salaries of our colleagues.”

Marchetti touted a strong relationship with customers, and how “businesses show their true colors in difficult times like this.” He took a jab at “some competitors” that are “taking advantage of our temporary closure to bid over our key words. But these players have not understood that this is the moment in which the customer will decide whether you’re an ethical company or not, with values that they share. When they will decide whether you are sustainable; whether you believe in innovation, in young people and in women in the workplace; whether you believe in and promote diversity.”

According to Bain & Co.’s new report, “Luxury After COVID-19: Change for (the) Good?” the crisis will cause an accelerated shift to digital shopping and more emphasis on digital-savvy China, with the country standing as the first to restart luxury spending. However, in the meantime luxury online players have also taken a hit and Net-a-porter, for instance, temporarily stopped shipping in the U.S. and Europe after its distribution facilities were forced to close, at one point redirecting users to its Hong Kong site.