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The Luxury E-Commerce Wars Heat Up

  • November 29, 2020

In 2015, the chairman and controlling shareholder of the luxury goods group Richemont, Johann Rupert, took to the stage at an industry conference in Monte Carlo and issued a rallying cry to some of his biggest rivals.

“I invited the other big groups to create a singular, dominant neutral platform for the luxury goods industry in which we were shareholders,” Mr. Rupert, a blustery South African, recalled this month. “I was talking to Mr. Arnault of LVMH and Mr. Pinault of Kering,” he said, referring to the heads of two major luxury conglomerates, Bernard Arnault and François-Henri Pinault. “I told them the future of luxury retail lay online as well as offline, and that it was too big a game for any company to try to dominate.”

Mr. Rupert then added with a sigh, “As usual, everyone wanted to do it themselves.”

Five years on and the coronavirus pandemic has revealed just how important e-commerce is to the future of luxury goods. Unlike the music industry, which has Spotify, or the hotel business, which has, the luxury fashion industry is still without a single dominant online player.

But this month, Richemont, which owns Cartier, Van Cleef and Patek Philippe, and the Chinese technology titan Alibaba announced that they were making a $1.1 billion investment in the online fashion retailer Farfetch. The Pinault family, whose company, Kering, owns Gucci, Saint Laurent and Alexander McQueen, also increased its stake in Farfetch by $50 million through its investment vehicle Artémis.

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