By Robert Williams
with contributions from Miles Socha
 on January 17, 2017
Le Bon Marché Rive Gauche

PARIS — Bringing a French touch to luxury e-commerce, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton is planning to significantly ramp up the online scope of its luxury department store Le Bon Marché, WWD has learned.

According to industry sources, a new site is slated to go live around mid-year that will offer a much broader selection of products and expand delivery to more geographic zones.

As luxury firms become increasingly focused on reaching out and selling to clients online, the new site for Le Bon Marché could represent a leap forward for brands in the LVMH stable — as well as those of other luxury players.

Le Bon Marché’s current e-commerce site includes just a fragment of the store’s offer and only delivers within Europe, with many products restricted to delivery in France. A number of LVMH’s own brands — including Céline, Fendi and Louis Vuitton — are not available for sale on the site.

Sources say the expanded e-commerce site, known internally as Project Babylone, would more closely mirror the panorama of luxury products available in Le Bon Marché’s Left Bank flagship in Paris, which includes a comprehensive selection from LVMH’s own brands as well as a broad sweep of other high-end labels.

Spokespeople for LVMH and Le Bon Marché declined to comment.

LVMH brought on former Apple music executive Ian Rogers as chief digital officer in 2015 to craft a new digital strategy for the group, but has kept quiet regarding his plans for the company’s online presence.

Group brands were conspicuously absent from when the Condé Nast e-commerce initiative launched in the U.K. last September.

Progress on e-commerce has been uneven across LVMH since Vuitton became one of the first luxury brands to begin selling online in 2011. Fendi only launched its web store in March 2015, while Céline still has not launched e-commerce.

Teams from Sephora, which is one of the industry’s most innovative beauty retailers online and has the most extensive e-commerce offer at LVMH, are said to be contributing to the new site for Le Bon Marché.

One challenge LVMH has faced in developing the e-commerce emporium includes finding delivery services that fit with Le Bon Marché’s vision of a luxury experience, as well as differentiating the site from existing online stores, sources said, adding that the site would exalt the retailer’s unique brand mix, and its lively program of themed in-store events.

The department store has in recent years created temporary showcases highlighting products from Paris, Brooklyn and Brazil. The elaborately staged exhibitions have offered exclusive products, such as a special edition of Fendi’s Peekaboo bag in the colors of the French flag, and given clients the chance to discover new brands, which have sometimes entered Le Bon Marché’s selection permanently. Chitose Abe’s Sacai brand, for example, has been sold by the store since its success during a 2014 show of Japanese design.

In addition to Le Bon Marché’s roster of iconic luxury brands, more than 100 smaller labels are available in exclusivity at the store.

Founded in 1852, Le Bon Marché is often considered to be the world’s oldest department store. In its early years, it became a pioneer in distance retailing, mailing out as many as six million catalogues by the late 19th century.

LVMH acquired the department store — which, in addition to fashion, includes a gourmet supermarket called La Grande Épicerie as well as departments for books, homewares and furniture — in 1984.

Prized for its soaring atrium with escalators designed by Andrée Putman, the vast store of nearly 400,000 square feet has been progressively renovated in recent years, with departments including men’s wear, accessories, home goods and jewelry undergoing complete revamps since 2012. In 2015, the store unveiled a new 21,000-square-foot space for women’s shoes.