LVMH SELECTS TWO VETERAN EXECUTIVES TO HEAD NEW VENTURES
Byline: Robert Murphy / Valerie Seckler
PARIS — LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton on Wednesday tapped two of its seasoned executives to take top posts at early-stage businesses associated with the luxury group.
Alain Lorenzo was named by LVMH and De Beers Group as chief executive officer of their two-week-old, yet-to-be-named joint venture to establish the De Beers name among the world’s foremost luxury brands. Most recently ceo and president of eLuxury.com, the French-born Lorenzo said he will be based in Europe, although the exact location has yet to be determined.
At eLuxury.com, a joint venture between LVMH and Europatweb, LVMH chairman and ceo Bernard Arnault’s Internet industrial arm, Barbara Wambach has succeeded Lorenzo as ceo. Wambach had been eLuxury’s executive vice president of merchandising and marketing since the e-tailer’s inception in 1999; the upscale Web site has been live online since last June. During the Nineties, Wambach held several positions at LVMH’s DFS Group, where she rose to become senior vice president and general merchandise manager for fashion from 1997 to 1999.
Lorenzo, reached at eLuxury’s San Francisco headquarters Wednesday, said, “It’s a rare opportunity and I’m excited to be faced with the challenge of creating something from scratch, while still starting with great brand awareness. At eLuxury, we had to not only create everything from scratch, but we also had to create brand awareness.”
As for the timing of the executive changes, Lorenzo said he will assume his new post as soon as the Brussels-based European Union antitrust authority clears the LVMH-De Beers union. He added that he expected a ruling shortly.
“There are still a lot of details to be worked through,” Lorenzo said of the fledgling venture.
Still to be determined is a timetable for the first store openings, as well as working on the brand strategy, he added.
When LVMH and De Beers announced their equally owned linkup in London, they said the new company plans to open freestanding stores under the De Beers brand within the next 12 to 18 months.
Prior to being named ceo of eLuxury.com last May, Lorenzo served as president and ceo of LVMH’s Parfums Givenchy.
Myron Ullman, LVMH group managing director, said in a statement: “Alain Lorenzo has a long and successful track record within the LVMH group. During his time at Parfums Givenchy, his talent for marketing and image building was evident, as he rejuvenated the brand to reach new levels of success. He has a demonstrated ability to build on the heritage of a brand, while propelling it into new markets, and this will be a key asset as we take the De Beers brand into new territory.
“Within eLuxury,” Ullman added, “Lorenzo has also gained considerable experience in leading a start-up venture through its early phases of launch with promising results.”
Contacted Thursday at her office in eLuxury’s headquarters, Wambach said: “I do have a high level of ‘ownership’ of eLuxury, having been with the project from its beginning, and it’s exciting to be given an opportunity to cross the finish line.” Wambach added: “We’re really not changing the vision for the site. We had a solid Christmas season and we will continue to focus on customer acquisition and retention.”
While declining to furnish figures, Wambach said post-holiday results have stayed encouraging.
“January will be our best month other than December,” she stated. “Most of our marketing effort became effective in the fourth quarter; we acquired a substantial customer base.”
According to Web ratings agency Media Metrix, 156,000 people visited eLuxury.com in December. By comparison, competitor Neimanmarcus.com drew 382,000 users in December, while Saksfifthavenue.com lured 245,000 people to its e-store. Hot items on eLuxury, Wambach said, include a Louis Vuitton wish bracelet, Baccarat crystal loving doves and Christian Dior handbags, which, she noted, are doing “particularly well.”
Although she didn’t reveal many details of eLuxury’s new advertising campaign, slated to start today, Wambach did say it will include more newspaper ads and will focus more sharply on reaching “online women and online men” via new as well as traditional media.
“We found newspapers were highly effective in reaching Internet users, much moreso than magazines, especially when we ran spot product ads prior to a placement on the Web site or a promotion,” Wambach related. “We will be doing more of those.”
Wambach said she officially started assuming her new duties on Wednesday and Lorenzo would be heading back to Europe this weekend.
“Alain Lorenzo is tangible evidence of the brand and retail management skills we were looking to receive from LVMH,” stated De Beers managing director Gary Ralfe, “in order to develop the potential of the De Beers brand among consumers, and our broader vision to create a multiple and competitive environment within the diamond industry.”