The discount luxury e-tailer has launched a personal assistant for VIP customers, which sits on The Outnet mobile app. It’s also supporting emerging designers, geo-targeting offerings for territories around the world such as Australia, France and Germany, and planning exclusive partnerships in the handbag arena for fall and holiday, all while posting strong double-digit gains in sales and profits globally.
“The Outnet continues to perform, even now, when the retail climate is so challenging,” said Shira Suveyke, executive vice president and Chief merchant. “Over the last five years, our business has tripled.”
The Outnet’s top brand, Iris & Ink, which began as a 35-piece capsule collection nine seasons ago, has evolved to a full-blown, 170-piece collection for fall. “It will completely come together,” said Andres Sosa, executive vice president of sales, marketing and creative. This summer is seeing the introduction of footwear with a capsule collection. A wider offering is planned for autumn/winter 2016.
“We’re considering how to expand Iris to think more about customer’s lifestyles,” Suveyke said. “For example, what does she wear on the weekend and in between going to the gym and picking the kids up from school. Ath-leisure is a very important part of fashion and we’re working on different opportunities.”
Suveyke noted an increased frequency of shopping for Iris & Ink buyers, who also purchase luxury brands from the site. “Originally, we were offering things that complemented an Oscar de la Renta ballgown skirt or a Balmain jacket. It was designed to complement some of the more special pieces on the site.” Now, Iris & Ink is doing more directional pieces. “The brand was never intended to be worn together and be mixed and matched, but they’re [consumers are] doing that.”
When The Outnet launched in 2009, many considered it to be the discount little sister site to Net-a-porter and stock originally was transferred across the sites.
“Our buying direction now sees us sourcing over 90 percent of our stock directly from designers,” Suveyke said. “We work with a lot of brands in market during fashion week. We work on a timeline that works for the brands, when they’re happy for the products to be marked down. After the markdown cycle has gone through, we’ll launch, say, during fall 2016, but we’ll show fall 2015. We always put it in the context of current trends.”
The Outnet wants to increase its presence in the U.S., its number-one market. “We can often be seen as a U.K. company,” Suveyke said. “We have to continue to focus on the U.S. We have buying, marketing and pr teams — it’s a large team and growing.
“We’ve taken a very regionalized approach from the brands we’re buying, and the [editorial] content takes a localized approach,” Suveyke said. “We like to make sure that we’re tailoring the product and content to the local market.”
“With such a worldwide reach, we are aware of seasonality differences across the world,” Suveyke said. “Our effort offers a strong, curated, in-market edit that sits within our global strategy. We have evolved the campaign to react to climate and local events to ensure all dressing needs are being catered to for our global consumer.”
Sosa said The Outnet created a winter boot edit and other cold weather sales for the Australian winter, which is summer in most other parts of the world.
In addition to a Summer Shop with exclusive designer items and special edits, there’s a wedding boutique and denim shop. Consumers can shop the runway, which at any given time can have hundreds of looks at steep discounts, such as a Valentino jacquard knit coat, originally $4,690, reduced 64 percent to $1,689, and a Roksanda patterned tweed boucle vest, originally $2,025, reduced 71 percent to $588.
Emerging designers are key for The Outnet. “So many brands don’t have excess inventory,” Suveyke said. “The only way to get access to smaller, up-and-coming brands is to buy them at a discount for in-season. We’re very interested in up-and-coming designers.” Asked why designers would sell in-season products to The Outnet at a discount, Suveyke said, “When you’re a smaller designer you’re not making your production minimums. From cash flow perspective, orders may not be paid for for a certain amount of time. They work with The Outnet to get paid and reflow that back into their business. We’re supporting them in their growth.” Asked whether The Outnet would consider manufacturing for some young brands, Suveyke said, “It’s not something we’ve done yet, but it might be something we’d consider.”
The Outnet works with “influencers” who may do an exclusive edit on the site or a social media activation. Since more than 50 percent of The Outnet’s sales come through mobile devices, The Outnet wanted to do an original podcast. It chose Garance Doré, a photographer, illustrator and founder of an influential style web site. A series of podcasts, “Pardon My French,” gave listeners a peek into Dore’s world.