Richemont, Alibaba in JV for Net-a-Porter Chinese retail platform launch

Big news on Friday. Swiss luxury giant Richemont and China’s Alibaba Group unveiled a global strategic partnership that will see the two star retail brands under the Yoox Net-A-Porter banner being taken directly to the all-important Chinese consumer.


YNAP


Under the partnership, YNAP and Alibaba will establish a joint venture (JV) that will launch mobile apps for luxury e-tailers Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter in China with Alibaba providing the technology infrastructure, marketing, payments, logistics and other tech support to the JV. 

The companies said that the partnership will also leverage YNAP’s “strong relationship” with leading luxury brands, some 950 of them being currently distributed through YNAP in China. The words “strong relationship” could be seen as something of an understatement as YNAP’s two in-season e-stores are among the very few luxury e-tailers that are seen as first-step destinations for luxury consumers. 

Taking them directly to what will soon take over as the world’s largest luxury market in a deal with the dominant local business could have a potentially massive impact on sales.

The deal doesn’t stop with the apps and the JV will also launch Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter online stores on Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion. That’s the firm’s higher-end platform dedicated to big-name global luxury brands. 

Launched in 2017, it “aims to create the same brand exclusivity and tailored shopping experience that customers shopping offline typically enjoy” and in that it actually echoes the founding principles of both Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter. 

Alibaba also said the Tmall offer “enables brands to deliver highly personalised shopping experiences through curated homepages, customised brand pages, product recommendations and exclusive VIP awards” and that’s something increasingly important to luxury shoppers.

And the two companies are clearly planning for more announcements in the future, saying on Friday that YNAP and Alibaba “will also explore future offerings that enable the JV’s customers to enjoy unique and seamless online and offline shopping experiences through digitising and fully integrating the retail value chain from merchandising and marketing to payments and last-mile delivery.”

It’s interesting too that the JV won’t be limited to Chinese customers within their domestic market with the firms saying that it "will focus on serving consumers in China and will extend to Chinese consumers travelling abroad.”

Richemont chairman Johann Rupert said: “Chinese customers at home and abroad are an increasingly important customer base for Richemont and for the broader luxury industry. Our digital offering in China is in its infancy and we believe that partnering with Alibaba will enable us to become a significant and sustainable online player in this market. 

“Alibaba has become the preferred online destination in China, with world-class teams in technology, logistics and marketing. We will work with Alibaba to ensure Net-A-Porter and Mr Porter’s continuing expansion as neutral, open and sophisticated platforms.”

YNAP’s CEO Frederico Marchetti added that the company “has always built long-term relationships with its brand partners, protecting and nurturing the finest luxury names online. Together with Alibaba, we will offer our brand partners the same quality and reliability for the Chinese online market.”

And Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang said the “multi-faceted partnership will bring Chinese consumers unprecedented access to the world’s leading luxury brands. Chinese consumers are expected to account for nearly half of the global luxury market by 2025, and through this partnership, Alibaba and YNAP will be even better positioned to capture this compelling market opportunity. We believe this announcement is just the beginning of a long-term partnership, and together we are committed to exploring many more opportunities to collaborate in the future.”

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