Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com tapped Harlan Bratcher to help boost its fashion fluency and draw Western brands to its platform.
The fashion veteran — who is best known as former chief executive officer of A|X Armani Exchange, but also worked at Neiman Marcus, QVC, Calvin Klein and more — is based in New York and has served since January as global business development head of JD Fashion. He reports to Xia Ding, president of the division.
Bratcher is another fashion contact point for JD, which has some stiff competition in Amazon, a rapidly expanding business — revenues grew 40 percent to $56 billion last year — and, therefore, an acute need to keep feeding its platform with brands.
If fashion brands, particularly, on the high-end, were slow to pick up on e-commerce or the potential of China as a consumer market, they’re awake to the opportunity now. But many still seem to need some hand holding.
“I don’t need to convince them,” Bratcher said. “I just need to help them understand the journey, the process. ‘How do we go from our box to China? How do we penetrate the market and not destroy all of the equity in the brand that we’ve built up along the way?’”
While opportunities in China are clear — the country has 500 million Millennials, half of whom have bachelor’s degrees — the answer to those questions are going differ from brand to brand.
Befitting any modern tech giant, JD covers the waterfront. The firm operates as a retailer, which buys and holds inventory, it also has a retail platform to connect buyers and sellers, as well as a cross-border businesses where it helps brands set up their own online operations. It also has an extensive logistics networks that can reach more than 90 percent of the country with same-day or next-day shipping.
JD has been ramping up in the world of luxury and fashion over the past year. The Toplife platform, which is designed reach affluent Chinese consumers, was introduced in the fall and is rolling out now. The program is intended to give designers control on how their product and name is presented and treated. Toplife goods are stored in a special warehouse with dust-free sealed spaces, temperature and humidity controls. And merchandise arrives at a shopper’s door in as little as 30 minutes, presented by a sharp-dressed delivery person in a black suit.
The company also made a $397 million investment in Farfetch, connecting East and West marketplaces last year.
Bratcher said: “When I’m talking to a lot of prospective customers for JD, a lot of them are actually doing extremely well on Farfetch, so they’re comfortable…now they want to come on to JD and because of that relationship, now it might be something that’s more familiar.”
On the leading edge and speaking with Western brands, Bratcher also has to make his pitch for JD and contrast its strengths with those of Alibaba, a massive competitor that’s also growing very quickly, and delving deeper into luxury, while working to clear counterfeits from its market place.
“We’re a retailer,” he said of JD. “We actually know what it’s like to own inventory, to forecast, to ship.”
Bratcher also pointed to JD’s “zero tolerance” policy on counterfeits and presented the platform as a safe place for brands.