The Net-A-Porter Group Limited is the world’s premier online luxury fashion retailer.
They have an award-winning website, presented in the style of a fashion magazine, offers the style-savvy customer exactly what she wants – unprecedented access to the hottest looks of the season from international cutting-edge labels via worldwide express delivery.
Since launching in June 2000, NET-A-PORTER has successfully established itself as a luxury brand, with impeccable packaging and unrivalled customer care.
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The pages of NET-A-PORTER feature high fashion editorial, updated weekly with new content and product, which is viewed by over 2.5 million women each month.
History of the company
Massenet is an American-born former fashion journalist with Women’s Wear Daily and Tatler. She developed the concept of a magazine in website format where users could ‘click’ to buy while trying to source product online for a fashion shoot. Having raised the £1.2m (approx $2m) start-up costs with the assistance of her then husband, Massenet launched the company from their flat in Chelsea.
In the early days, the operation was so low-key that the company’s black delivery boxes were stacked up in the bathtub. Initially, designers and investors were reluctant to support Net-a-Porter because it lacked a physical retail outlet. Massenet recalled the credibility gap in a 2013 interview in The Observer: “They’d listen and they’d nod and then afterwards they’d say, ‘Just tell me one more thing: where is your store?'” However, in 2001, Roland Mouret was persuaded to sell his collection via the website. By 2004, the same year in which it won best fashion shop at the British Fashion Awards, the company was profitable.
In 2010, Massenet sold a majority stake in Net-a-Porter to Swiss designer goods holding company Richemont for an estimated £50m. She remains an investor and executive chairwoman.
In 2014, retiring CEO Mark Sebba was sent off by employees in a popular viral video.
At the time it was bought by Richemont in 2010, Net-a-Porter was valued at $533 million.
The business continues to grow and in 2013 it retailed products from more than 350 designers, attracted more than two million monthly visitors to the site and an average spend of £500 (around $850). Brands it retails include Stella McCartney, Yves Saint Laurent and Diane von Furstenberg. Labels such as Alexander Wang, Yves Saint Laurent and RM by Roland Mouret have created capsule collections specifically for the site. Writing in The Observer in 2010, Eva Wiseman noted that being stocked by Net-a-Porter is becoming important to designers as it: “not only guarantees new customers but its [Net-a-Porter’s] credibility gives a fashion brand value”.
As of September 2013, Net-a-Porter employed 2,600 people in the UK, US and Hong Kong, with further offices in Shanghai and fulfillment centres on the outskirts of three cities.
In August of 2014 CEO Mark Sebba stepped down. His employees produced a video that went viral as an “Epic Sendoff.”
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The Outnet, a site focusing on previous seasons’ designs at discount prices was launched in 2009; in 2011, a menswear site Mr Porter was established and in 2013 a small beauty website was launched.
In early 2014, Net-a-Porter launched a print magazine called Porter, with an associated app and digital version of the magazine. Some 400,000 copies will be distributed six times a year in 60 countries.
Playing off of its name, Net-a-Porter recently added a sportswear section to their website called Net-a-Sporter. The sportswear section of the website was launched in July 2014 and hosts athletic wear from a variety of high end luxury brands. Net-a-Sporter features 10 different sections for activities such as the gym and cross train, run, yoga and dance, tennis, equestrian, swim and surf, sailing, après sport, and golf. When speaking of the addition of Net-a-Sporter to the e-tailer’s online roster, the company’s President Alison Loehnis said “We spotted a gap in the market for being a one-stop shop for workout wear where fashion meets function and where performance and style are equally valued.”
In August 2014, The Outnet launched a partnership with fashion icon Victoria Beckham to sell items of her clothing to raise funds for the non profit organization Mothers2Mothers to educate women in Africa on HIV prevention.
It was while frantically shopping online for a shoot with Isabella Blow that Massenet was struck by the potential for a high-fashion e-tail site. “I called Arnaud and I said: ‘Honey, I’m starting a business!’ And I think he said something like: ‘Great. What’s for dinner?'”
Ten years ago the dotcom bubble was bursting: 2000 was a difficult time to start an online business. Her advisers promised failure. Despite their threats, Massenet found initial backers in friends including Anya Hindmarch and Jimmy Choo founder Tamara Mellon, and became profitable in 2004 before emerging as one of the leading success stories of the dotcom boom.
The editor of Harper’s Bazaar, Lucy Yeomans, used to work in the fashion cupboard with Massenet at Tatler. Today she bubbles over with respect for her. “Natalie does everything with such style and wit,” she says, “and everywhere you can feel her own love of shopping. She understands the importance of process.” Yeomans buys something on the site every fortnight, usually in the back of a car or while browsing through the weekend papers – “Because time is so precious. And I hate changing rooms.”
Jo Elvin, editor of Glamour magazine, is also a fan of the brand and its founder. “The main thing Natalie did right was trust her gut,” she says. “I admire her strength in sticking to her guns when everyone told her Net-a-porter would never catch on – such was the perceived wisdom 10 years ago. I also think she was pitch perfect in the way the site has always looked and the quality of the merchandise, but also the service. Net-a-porter has set high standards in service which those in its wake are now forced to match.”
When the site went live, Massenet’s 15 members of staff were working from a small flat in Chelsea. The bedrooms were stacked with stock. The bath was full of their famous black boxes. “They were the same luxury quality boxes we have today,” Massenet recalls, “except we didn’t order as many then… We were really held back by how much we could buy, because we had no money to buy product.” Instead of today’s humming screens alerting them to purchases, when they made a sale back then the staff would shout: “Kerching!”
Massenet launched her second e-tail site, TheOutnet, selling stock from previous collections at a discount. “We wanted to create a whole new brand,” she said. Last month they did it again, announcing the launch of the first global menswear retail site, MrPorter, in January 2011. “We have a ready-made customer base for our men’s business,” she says. “100% of Net-a-porter customers have a man in their lives in some capacity and 59% are married or living with a partner.”
Elsewhere, Asos is now launching in America and starting a new business where customers can resell their old clothes. This year eBay launched its Fashion Outlet site, offering discounted high street labels. My-wardrobe, the site that offers “accessible luxury” in the glossy slot between Net-a-porter and Asos, is on track to report more than 100% growth when it closes its financial year – it launched its menswear site in January. “I think online fashion is only going to grow,” says Jo Elvin. “The days of mistrust of shopping on the internet are pretty much over, particularly for time-poor women like myself.”
But does the success of sites such as Net-a-porter signal the end of the high street? If websites can work quickly enough to adapt to the weather, how can traditional stores ever hope to keep up? “There’ll always be a place for good shops because of the social aspects of shopping,” says Lucy Yeomans. But again, like all of us, she comes back to the box. “Net-a-porter has all the same values as an amazing boutique, and with fantastic service. Every time those black boxes turn up at the door I feel special. Every time I see them I get a little kick.”
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Sources: wikipedia, The Guardian, 51zhusun.com, imgmodels.com, conversationsabouther.net, wednesdayagency.com, clioimage.com