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Cheat sheet: Everything you need to know about Natalie Massenet’s Net-a-Porter departure

NatalieMassenet

Nick Robertson might have stepped down as CEO of Asos this past week, but the e-commerce news from the UK that really grabbed global headlines was about Natalie Massenet leaving Net-a-Porter. The executive chairwoman of the luxury online retailer has resigned ahead of the company’s merger with Italian fashion group Yoox this October.

Massenet walks away with over £100m after selling her shares in the company, while Yoox founder Federico Marchetti will now run the new combined group.

Here’s what the industry had to say about the news:

  • First up, that it wasn’t a surprise. Lisa Armstrong at The Telegraph said the union with Yoox was always going to be an interesting marriage. “Think Lady meets the Tramp – with complications.”
  • WWD did a good job at outlining the tensions between the two companies, their founders and the plans for the merge. “Massenet was said to be against the idea of merging with Yoox from the start, with sources saying she fought against Yoox’s earlier attempts to buy Net. The two online retailers have distinctly different cultures — Yoox is no-frills and profit-driven while Massenet always considered Net-a-porter a luxury jewel focused as much on customer service and editorial content as product.”
  • The Business of Fashion similarly outlines reasons for the departure: that Richemont forced the deal on Massenet who wanted to keep Net-a-Porter independent; that Massenet and Marchetti have been long-term rivals; and that their cultures and management styles just aren’t compatible. Founder Imran Amed says he worries how the people behind both great businesses will respond when necessary changes up ahead are announced without Massenet’s leadership to help them through it. And what will that mean for maintaining the culture of Net-a-Porter too? Nonetheless, he adds: “Given that the conditions for the merger weren’t ideal to begin with, I guess it’s probably better for the combined business that Massenet has gracefully left at this stage, with amicable support from Marchetti, and that there is only one boss left. There will be no lingering tension or confused loyalties amongst the troops. The financial markets seem to think so: the Yoox share price surged five percent on the news of Massenet’s departure.”
  • Bloomberg agrees, calling it a blessing in disguise for the very fact it removes any confusion about who’s in charge and will help smooth the integration of the two businesses. Let’s not forget Net-a-Porter has always struggled to turn a profit, unlike its new bedfellow Yoox.
  • Yet Vanessa Friedman at the New York Times says Massenet’s departure may impact the image of the Net-a-Porter brand, if anything because she herself epitomised it. The company is losing its public face at a “time when branding-through-persona is increasingly important, be it for design houses, which are constantly thrusting their creative directors forward, sports brands or retailers,” she wrote. She added that whether luxury brands like Chanel and Tom Ford, both of which have recently agreed to selling on Net-a-Porter, will put the same trust in the site without the “constant reassurance” of Massenet’s presence, remains to be seen.
  • Carol Ryan at Reuters agrees: “[Massenet] has enviable industry contacts and a stellar individual reputation. The newly merged group may be easier to run with Yoox’s Marchetti as the single clear leader. But Yoox may well miss Massenet’s input.”
  • In another WWD story however, an analyst said Marchetti was going to be the one in charge if Massenet had stayed (he was to be CEO, and her executive chairman), and obviously he now will be without her. “So in this sense her exit changes nothing. There is perhaps the only risk of losing a more fashion and glamorous culture represented by Massenet and her story. But that attitude is not margin-friendly.”
  • As for the future, speculation and desires for Massenet’s plans span everything from stepping back into the publishing world from which she first came, even becoming successor to Anna Wintour at American Vogue, to heading into the start-up space. Massenet herself said: “After 15 extraordinary and exceptional years at The Net-a-Porter Group, the completion of the merger with Yoox Group is the right time for me to move on to explore new ideas and opportunities. The business I started in 2000 could not be in better shape today. Having joined forces with Yoox Group, the company will be bigger, stronger and superbly well positioned under Federico’s leadership to lead the industry and create the future of fashion. As for my own future, my entrepreneurial drive is as strong today as it always has been, and my passion for innovation will continue to be my greatest guide in business.” For more, take a read over at Business Insider, where the full email Massenet sent to her staff has also been published.
  • Meanwhile, this piece from Lorna Hall at WGSN, about three ways Nick Robertson disrupted fashion retail forever with Asos, is also well worth a read.
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business e-commerce Editor's pick

Natalie Massenet on consumers, growth markets and the future

Net A Porter Founder Natalie Massenet Interview
Net-A-Porter chairman and founder Natalie Massenet with Bloomberg Television anchor and editor-at-large Francine Laqua 

Natalie Massenet, chairman and founder of Net-a-Porter, has indicated she is staying put with the company after it merges with Yoox SpA. In an interview with Bloomberg TV she said: “We’ve only just begun.” The 50-year-old founder will become the merged company’s executive chairman, with defined responsibilities reportedly in areas such as editorial content, advertising strategy and fashion press.

Describing herself as a “reluctant leader,” Massenet said the scale of the business is all that will change. “We’re going to be the same, but bigger,” she said. Here are some of the other interesting things she commented on:

On launching e-commerce

“If a Martian came to earth and looked at shopping, they would say, ‘Explain this to me again? So people with a lot of money are asked to leave their homes and go to you, you then put them in a really cold room with bad lighting and ask them to take all their clothes off and put on the clothes, and then they have to make the decision then and there without the rest of their wardrobe and their shoes, then they go home, um, and then they pay you for that?’ and the Martian would have probably said, ‘…If the person’s paying, shouldn’t you go to them, shouldn’t they try things on at home with the comfort of their friends and people advising them that they know, shouldn’t they be trying things on with their own shoes and shouldn’t they have time to think about it, and if they want to keep it, they keep it, but if they don’t, then shouldn’t you go and get it from them and say is there anything else I can do?’ So actually, just because shopping existed in one way doesn’t mean that’s how people wanted to shop.”

On that viral retirement video for former CEO Mike Sebba

“[Sebba] had been running the company for 11 years and I had this fear that because he hadn’t been so outward-facing, that he wouldn’t be a digital part of our history, because these days if we can’t find you on Google, do you exist? I don’t know! Am I here? So I thought we need to make sure that Mike Sebba, CEO of Net-a-Porter, goes down in history as having been the CEO of Net-a-Porter for eleven years, so I thought we need to make a digital footprint. It was about going viral.”

On creating a print magazine

“We thought, we’re a multimedia company, we are where our consumer is, and why are we ignoring print, in the same way that if you’re a print publication, you’re a media company, you would never ignore a website, you would not ignore social, you’re there. So, for us to be a complete media business, and to communicate with our consumer we needed to be there in a different form. But then what we did was we didn’t just say, ‘Oh let’s take the website and put it into a paper format’, we approached that platform with what’s great about it, and our editors create the most beautiful reading, immersive, inspiring experience that lasts; it sits on your coffee table hopefully.|”

On the shopper of tomorrow

“They’re a very demanding customer… and they’re the ones who are [going to] dictate, and do dictate, everything. They’re also very lucky. It’s such a great time to be a consumer; they have choice, they have everything at their fingertips, literally, and everything comes to them. The shopper of tomorrow does not need to move, they are a very busy person, like today, and demand more from their retailers, demand a lot, and our job is to anticipate their needs and be there for them.”

Net A Porter Founder Natalie Massenet Interview
Bloomberg Television anchor and editor-at-large Francine Laqua interviews Net-A-Porter chairman and founder Natalie Massenet, for ‘Leaders with Lacqua: Natalie Massenet’

On growing in China

“In mainland China right now, the AOV on e-commerce transactions tends to be much lower than where we’re playing thanks to the strength of some extraordinary e-commerce businesses out there. So the consumer is well engaged in e-commerce, but the time will come when they turn to e-commerce for different things. We’re using our media, our magazine, our digital magazine that comes out in Chinese once a week 50 times a year, and we’re using that as part of the education process in terms of talking about fashion and inspiring the consumer, and we’re seeing really exciting, strong growth in China. It was within our top 20 markets five years ago; it will be within our top 10 within the next year.”

On the future of the business

“Well, we’re going to be the same but bigger… we’ve only just begun, our penetration and our addressable market is still negligible, we’ve got cities that we aren’t even talking to. Within just our existing space, we’re tiny, so I think, just keeping our heads down, focusing on the consumer, focusing on our brand partnerships and doing everything that we’re doing but doing it better… I think that you’ll see more local service propositions and we’re going to have to continually advance the speed with which we deliver and how we cater to the consumer’s needs. I think that we will have learned how to be local but global… while still retaining a very focused DNA for each of the brands, and not trying to be all things to all people, I think that’s important.”

The interview “Leaders With Lacqua: Natalie Massenet” airs again today at 7pm GMT, and at 3pm, 9pm and 11.30pm on Friday, July 3.

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digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Yoox, Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, Lord & Taylor, Burberry, Nasty Gal, Nike

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

Yoox

  • The Yoox and Net-a-Porter merger is creating a tech giant as much as a fashion giant [Quartz]
  • Farfetch’s global platform play [BoF]
  • Did Lord & Taylor’s hot Instagram campaign thumb its nose at FTC disclosure rules? [AdWeek]
  • Burberry broadcasts ‘London in L.A.’ show via Periscope [Creativity]
  • Nasty Gal’s uncertain future: does it have what it takes to stay on top? [Racked]
  • Nike’s latest addition to the “lady empowerment ad” genre is one of the most relatable [Fashionista]
  • Stuart Weitzman campaign starts with cool cinemagraphs on Instagram, then follows up on Facebook [AdWeek]
  • Neiman Marcus introduces new image recognition “Snap. Find. Shop” app [Haute Living]
  • How Old Navy is winning at YouTube [Digiday]
  • Old Navy and Banana Republic among first brands to use Instagram’s carousel ads and link to product page [AdAge]
  • Asos eyes emerging artists on Vevo to deepen ties to 20-somethings [The Drum]
  • Amazon quietly acquired Shoefitr to improve how it sells footwear online [TechCrunch]
  • Viral style: why are we obsessed? [BBC]
  • Fashion brands are ignoring the internet because the market hasn’t yet forced them to take action [BoF]
  • What can fashion learn from science? [i-D]
  • Digital beauty businesses aim for breakthrough [BoF]
  • Forget the Internet of Things, there is a digital revolution taking place in our shopping malls [Forbes]
  • If you text this phone number, a guy named Stefan will send you limited-edition clothes [Business Insider]
  • The RealReal raises $40 million to double sales in 2015 [Fashionista]
  • Fashion can win the wearables war [BoF]
  • Ad spend on smart watches estimated to reach nearly $70m by 2019 [The Drum]
  • Six retailers doing the most to make mobile part of the in-store experience [PSFK]