Ulric Jerome, the 38-year-old chief executive officer of British designer retailer Matchesfashion.com, has been blurring the borders between bricks and clicks for much of his career, one reason why he shudders at the mention of the word “omnichannel.”
This story first appeared in the March 20, 2017 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
“For us, the store is as important as the web. It’s as important as mobile. That’s what we call commerce. Commerce is the opportunity to interact in multiple ways with your customer — and stores are completely part of the mix.”
It’s one reason why the business, founded as Matches 30 years ago by Tom and Ruth Chapman, changed its name to Matchesfashion.com in 2013. It’s also why it operates five brick-and-mortar stores in London and why it delivered 165 tech products last year, aimed at improving the online experience at the company’s English and French language sites.
Whether the sale takes place on a big screen, a small one or live from the shop floor doesn’t matter, Jerome said, as long as the customer walks away happy. “If a business starts to lose the customer touch, the one-to-one relationship with the customer, you lose everything.”
That thinking is what’s behind the retailer’s rapid-fire changes over the past few months. In December, Matchesfashion.com unveiled customer-nominated day and hour deliveries and became the first fashion e-tailer to offer a 90-minute delivery service across London, starting at 6:30 a.m. The first packages arrive at 8 a.m. and the last at 10 p.m.
Do people really need to shop that early in the morning?
“Our customers are superkeen on fast delivery. Most importantly, I really believe that the norm in 18 to 24 months will be one-hour delivery. Why? Because it’s driven by customer behavior. Take Uber, take Deliveroo. It’s all about speed with a very high level of service.”
He believes the 90-minute service is as close as can be to a physical store experience. “It’s almost the immediacy of being at the store.”
Because it’s challenging to build market share in the luxury digital space, Jerome said, “speed of execution is something very important. We are now working on the back of the very good and scalable platform, which enables us to really tackle the challenge.”
In a bid to ramp up its customer service even further, Matchesfashion.com has launched a dedicated French language site, with more country-specific ones to come. “The plan is to open, at least for the next two to three years, two countries a year, using the same model as France and to really be customized in the local language.”
The site is even handing its customers the power to sell as they socialize. Last month it launched The Style Social, a shoppable social hub that lives on site, and can be viewed across all platforms. Customers upload images of themselves and their recent purchases from Matchesfashion.com, and viewers can click to buy them.
“Who is the best ambassador in the world of all brands and our brands? The customer. And the luxury customer is one of the most connected in the world. On average, they have three devices.”
Jerome joined Matchesfashion.com in 2013 as chief operations officer, and was promoted to ceo two years later. Although he’s not a founder, he began his career as a tech entrepreneur — and still behaves like one.
He was a cofounder of the French electricals and general merchandise web site Pixmania.com in 2000, and helped grow it to a business with revenues of nearly 1 billion euros, and operations in 26 countries. The U.K.-based electrical retailer Dixons acquired a majority stake in that company in 2006.
“When you are an entrepreneur, you are always looking for an edge, driven to build something new and exciting,” said Jerome, adding that Pixmania.com was the first Internet site to open a physical store, in 2002 in Paris.
“Since the beginning, the vision was that commerce was both digital and physical, together.”