Neiman Marcus Group has bought a minority stake in Fashionphile, a 20-year-old business specializing in the buying and selling of used luxury handbags, jewelry and accessories.
The purchase price and the percent of Fashionphile now owned by Neiman Marcus was not disclosed.
Fashionphile, founded by Sarah Davis, operates a web site as well as four physical showrooms, in New York on Madison Avenue near 75th Street; Beverly Hills; San Francisco, and Carlsbad, Calif., where customers can drop off their items and shop online. Fashionphile primarily sells via its web site, Fashionphile.com.
Neiman’s will not be engaged in re-commerce, also referred to as resale, though certain Neiman Marcus stores will serve as drop-off points for Fashionphile.
Re-commerce sites have become increasingly popular among consumers of different generations. The values, styles and sustainability associated with the format resonate with all consumers. However, some brands such as Chanel have been vehemently opposed to the resale of its products. Still, resale sites such as The RealReal, ThredUp and Tradesy are growing. While these sites have a pretty wide range of products, Fashionphile focuses on what the company describes as “ultra” luxury handbags, jewelry and accessories.
Neiman’s has not made an investment in an outside company since September 2014, when it agreed to purchase the Munich-based Mytheresa.com online luxury business from founders Christoph and Susanne Botschen and Acton Capital Partners. In addition, NMG acquired the Theresa flagship, located in the heart of Munich.
That deal reflected Neiman’s intent to greatly grow its online business, tap into customers around the world and go head-to-head with similar global online retailers, such as Net-a-porter and Matchesfashion.com.
The deal with Fashionphile reflects the strategy of Neiman Marcus Group’s chief executive officer Geoffroy van Raemdonck to transform the company to “a customer-centric luxury platform,” which encompasses bringing additional experiences, services and innovations to the company’s stores and web sites, as well as efforts to broaden the retailer’s base of luxury shoppers. For Neiman’s, Fashionphile will be a portal for attracting customers, particularly younger ones and for providing an extra service for customers shopping Fashionphile.
With this investment, NMG becomes the first major luxury retailer to directly invest in the fast-growing preowned sector. The apparel and accessories resale market is projected to grow to $23 billion by 2023 from $5 billion, according to research from ThredUp.
Fashionphile has a digital inventory of 15,000 items.
“Our investment in Fashionphile is an exciting step in Neiman Marcus Group’s transformation into a luxury customer platform, as we work to better serve our customers, continue to shape the future of luxury and position Neiman Marcus for long-term and sustainable growth,” said van Raemdonck.
“Over half of our customers already engage in pre-owned luxury, and this partnership exemplifies our commitment to providing our customers with services and offerings they want and need,” van Raemdonck added. “Fashionphile’s hyper-focus on curating high-quality supply and providing best-in-class shopping experiences makes it the ideal partner. With Fashionphile, we will engage with customers participating in the secondary market and introduce Neiman Marcus to younger and aspirational shoppers already devoted to luxury brands.”
“Neiman Marcus is the perfect partner for Fashionphile as we pursue more innovative ways to engage with customers,” said Sarah Davis, founder and president of Fashionphile. She said the partnership with Neiman’s represents a “new stage in the company’s growth.”
“Customers are approaching luxury in new ways, and pre-owned is at the center of that shift,” added Ben Hemminger, Fashionphile’s cofounder and ceo. He said Fashionphile will be “leveraging the resources, capabilities and expertise of Neiman Marcus to help us scale more quickly.”
At select Neiman Marcus stores, Fashionphile customers will be able to not only drop off and receive an immediate quote for their items from Fashionphile, but also immediate payment. That could bring extra sales to Neiman’s. There will be Fashionphile personnel in the Neiman’s stores later this year to authenticate products and determine the value. Fashionphile refers to its business as a “buyout model.”
The deal with Fashionphile comes at a pivotal time for the Dallas-based NMG. Neiman’s is under pressure to increase volume and profits and reduce debt stemming from its $6 billion acquisition of NMG by Ares Management and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board from TPG Capital and Warburg Pincus in 2013. And last month, Neiman’s opened its first Manhattan store, which is located at Hudson Yards. There’s been enormous interest in the store and how it will perform in the months ahead.
But the $5 billion luxury retailer is getting close to refinancing its $4.6 billion in debt. Holders of 98 percent of the outstanding principal amount of its term loans and holders representing 91 percent of the aggregate principal amount of its unsecured notes have consented to a “transaction support agreement” involving extending loan maturities into the future to 2023 and 2024, instead of 2020 and 2021. NMG has a $2.8 billion term loan due in October 2020, and two sets of bonds and an asset-backed loan due in 2021. Lenders on board with the agreement represent more than $4 billion of outstanding term loans and unsecured notes. The agreement is expected to close in late May.
The agreement completed would give NMG breathing room to sustain operations and support efforts to rev up its retail businesses. Neiman’s has been paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually to cover the interest costs on its debt, including $307 million during the most recent fiscal year, ended July 28.
Though anything but acquisition-prone, NMG has taken significant stakes in other high-profile firms in the past two decades. The luxury retailer acquired a 56 percent stake in Kate Spade in 1999 for $33.6 million and expressed big plans for the brand, including store openings. However, in 2006, NMG sold Kate Spade for $124 million to Liz Claiborne Co. Inc.
NMG also once owned Gurwitch Products, the licensee of Laura Mercier. In 1998, Neiman’s bought a 51 percent stake in Gurwitch, but sold the company in 2006 to Alticor Inc. for an undisclosed amount.
NMG, which operates Neiman Marcus, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Bergdorf Goodman, Horchow and Mytheresa, generates about one-third of its annual volume online.