Luxury Brands Embrace E-Commerce En Masse

The e-commerce bug has been spreading from brand to brand, but until just recently, luxury houses had remained relatively immune. You can thank the recession for changing that. Not only is Marc Jacobs launching a virtual namesake shop a decade after the initial e-commerce bubble starting taking on air, “ but other luxury brands—Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Vince, Lancôme, St. John, Theory, Kiehl’s, Lilly Pulitzer, Donna Karan and La Perla—have started or soon will start selling their products through their Web sites,” says the New York Times. Now everyone from the Patrik Ervell to Prada are in agreement that online shopping is the future.

“Adding to the Web’s appeal, profits are much higher on clothes sold directly to consumers, since no middleman takes a cut,” says the NYT, adding, “the brands can control pricing and styling on their sites.” While this means less emphasis might be placed on the standalone boutique experience (or freestanding stores may close altogether, as is currently happening with Chanel’s sister brand, French lingerie and swimwear line Eres), it also translates into increasingly innovative, brand-generated content online. Take St. John, for instance, which “allows customers to shop from ad-campaign photographs, and a social networking section lets shoppers send messages to designers.”

Not surprisingly, the shift in shopping is leading to competition between freestanding and online stores. While department stores are offering slews of discounts and special access for loyal customers, e-commerce “brands are biting back by, for example, selling a wider range of colors or styles than one retailer would carry, or selling special products only online.” In other words, luxury fashion is just another way in which the Internet and digital sphere are helping empower the consumer.

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