Alison Loehnis in Dubai

DUBAI — Net-a-porter’s signature black, branded vans will hit the roads in Dubai by the second half of 2019, said Alison Loehnis, president of Net-a-porter and Mr Porter, during an exclusive interview with WWD.

The plans for the region include Arabic language and content localization and a state-of-the-art distribution center in Dubai, which will offer the company’s same-day delivery service as well as the popular “You Try, We Wait” personal shopping service. Dubai will be the fourth global distribution center for YNAP after London, New York and Hong Kong.

The Middle East, which represents 7 percent of the overall business for Net-a-porter and Mr Porter, has a much higher percentage of EIPs, or Extremely Important People. “In this region we have 12 percent,” Loehnis said. The global average is 3 percent. EIPs account for 40 percent of the company’s revenue, she said, and therefore drive a lot of the innovations.

“The Middle East is on the frontier of change,” Loehnis said. In the region 71 percent of all sales come from mobile devices, compared to the global average of 50 percent. “The store is now in your pocket,” she said. “Our customer here is super digitally savvy and has a strong appetite for luxury. We see that from the way they shop through to the fashion itself.”

Middle Eastern customers are younger, with average age in the 30s, and they spend 2.5 times more than the global average. The average order value is 50 percent higher than the global average.

Brands that perform particularly well include The Row, Off-White, Common Projects, Balenciaga, Gucci, Fendi, Chloé and Oscar de la Renta. “They love discovering new fashion, but also have a firm base in established designers. The female customer in the Middle East likes to get a bit more dressed up, while the male customer here is more casual. He likes sneakers, T-shirts and casual trousers,” Loehnis said.

“Emirati women love dresses, in Kuwait it’s more trend driven; Saudi customers love glamour, jewelry and body-con dressing,” she added.

“One key difference here is that customers are more influenced by social media than any other group,” Loehnis said. Customers, she said, often buy directly from Instagram posts.

“Given how sophisticated the customer is here, the service is very important in this region. They are discerning with high expectations and want speed like never before,” she said. She expects the region will inspire innovative new service offerings, pointing to WhatsApp sales services as an example.

“We are always looking for ways to do what we do better and make our customers lives easier,” Loehnis said. “There might be something different that we haven’t thought of and we will respond to that. We ask ourselves questions like ‘Are the hours OK, do we need to offer later delivery?’”

Net-a-porter received its first order in the region in 2001 and has a loyal and strong customer base. “When you look at who were the early adopters of buying luxury fashion online, this market was there,” she said.

“We have been a global business since Day One. In terms of going into a market and really speaking to your consumer, it’s very important to offer local payment systems as well as service in their local language,” she said. Loehnis emphasized the company plans to stay nimble in the region. “The main thing is speaking to your customer and finding out what is important to them.”

The e-tailer launched a modest edit as well as a Ramadan capsule collection this current holiday season. Designers including Erdem, Reem Accra, Oscar de la Renta and Etro designed exclusive eveningwear for Net-a-porter. “Our size allows us to be nimble and responsive to the customer,” Loehnis said.

The company is entering the region in a partnership with one of its best-known businessman, Mohammad Alabbar, who has been responsible for the development of The Dubai Mall. The Yoox and Outnet will launch their localized offering in September, followed by the in season businesses Net-a-porter and Mr. Porter.

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