Geneva–Luxurygoods group Richemont, which had been tentative about exposure of its high-end luxury watch and jewelry brands into ecommerce, agreed last week to buy online fashion portal Net-a-Porter for $530 million.
Establishd in 2000, Net-a-Porter sells collections from more than 300 fashion designers, shipping to more than 170 countries. It recently completed its millionth order. Although Richemont already had a 33% stake in the UK-based business’ share capital, the move by the luxurygoods conglomerate, which includes Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels and Montblanc, is seen as precedent-setting. The purchase makes Richemont the first major luxury player to delve into online commerce with a multibrand virtual store. Earlier this year, in fact, competing luxurygoods giant LVMH relaunched its former ecommerce website, eLuxury.com as nowness.com, a cultural website only.
Richemont said the offer had the “full support” of the company’s senior management, including founder Natalie Massenet who will stay on as executive chairman and, according to Richemont, has made an investment in the subsidiary established to own and run Net-a-Porter.
“This is an incredibly important stage in the life and development of the Net-a-Porter group,” she said. “Ten years on and firmly established as a benchmark in global luxury online retail, the Net-a-Porter group is poised and ready for the next decade and beyond.”
Richemont executive chairman and CEO Johann Rupert said the group would provide the company with the support needed to put its business strategies into practice. “At Richemont, we value the independence of our Maisons very highly,” he added. “That principle will especially apply to Net-a-Porter as a platform for third parties. “Natalie has created a superb, customer-oriented business at Net-a-Porter in a relatively short period of time.”
In the year to January 31, the business turned over nearly $183 million. It employs about 600 staff in London and New York.