Net-a-porter Appeals to Big Spenders With Minimalist Looks for Fall

LONDON — Luxury retail has become all about the 3 percent of customers who are driving double-digit sales, with physical stores and digital players doing everything possible to cater to the exclusive cohort.

On Wednesday, Net-a-porter’s market director Libby Page laid bare the retailer’s priorities during the fall 2023 seasonal trends presentation. She also echoed the words of competitors including Mytheresa and Neiman Marcus.

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Page said the team at Net has “one main objective: engage our EICs. These extremely important customers — VIPs if you prefer — are our highest spending customers. They are loyal, and they love fashion. And while they only make up 3 percent of our customer base, they account for over 40 percent of our sales.”

“We plan to keep growing by making sure that these customers invest more in their wardrobe, and by making sure any new customers we draw in make really considered purchases. EICs are also set to be the most robust consumer group over the coming years. Making sure we keep them excited and satisfied with every aspect of our brand has never been more important,” Page added.

The 3:40 formula has long been integral to Net’s business, but this was the first time in a while the retailer has talked about its intentions in such bald terms.

Gucci RTW Fall 2023
A look from Gucci’s fall 2023 collection. Net said it purchased 16 styles of Gucci shoes for fall 2023.

Page’s words echoed those of Michael Kliger, CEO of Mytheresa, who has never made a secret of the site’s focus on the 3 percent who are regularly generating 35 percent of sales there.

In February, during the company’s second-quarter update, Kliger said that top customer base was “as strong as ever.” Those top shoppers were also the engine behind sales growth in the ready-to-wear, high-end skiwear and fine jewelry categories in the second fiscal quarter.

By contrast, Mytheresa’s “aspirational, occasional luxury shoppers” tightened their purse strings due to the economic downturn, leading to a slowdown in sales growth for the three-month period.

Earlier this year, Geoffroy van Raemdonck, CEO of Neiman Marcus Group, made waves when he said the store was focusing on the top 2 percent of its customers who drive roughly 40 percent of total sales.

“We have differentiated business model focused on high value luxury customers and the most desirable luxury brands. We are continuing to invest in [catering to] high value customers and how we engage with them,” he told WWD.

Net-a-porter has shaped its fall buy around these top customers’ needs. Page’s team has put its money behind luxurious classics and the sort of clothing worn by the cast members of “Succession” or by Gwyneth Paltrow when she appeared in court in Park City, Utah, earlier this year.

Page said modern luxury wasn’t so much a trend or a new wave, but rather a “mood” and a “shopping mindset that our trailblazing EICs have always had.”

In particular, Net bought into The Row and Khaite, which Page described as “the epitome of modern luxury, and which have the price tags to match.”

She added that both brands increased their prices by 15 percent for fall, “further reinforcing that engaging our VIPs, and really showing them the quality and beauty of these pieces, has never been more important.”

Net also stockpiled “wearable, relaxed” clothing, and took on a host of new brands and designers that embraced the trend. They include the London-based Tove; the Italian brand Veronica De Piante, and Fforme by Paul Helbers, all of which channel ‘90s minimalist luxe.

Net has also taken on the London-based Liberowe, which makes soft-edged jackets and coats with military details, and swagger.

Khaite RTW Fall 2023
Khaite RTW Fall 2023

All of those brands, she noted, have an average selling price of 1,500 pounds. “They are unquestionably sitting in the elevated luxury space, and really aligning with our strategy.”

She noted that the bigger names, including Versace, Alaïa, Loewe, St. Laurent and Burberry, also “walked wardrobe staples down the runway,” and made classic, simple clothes with a ferocious attention to detail.

Tailoring is another big trend for fall, with Page noting that 13 different designers set the tone for fall by opening their shows with a black suit and a white shirt, “each one with their own interpretations.”

She said the Net customer loves tailoring so much that she’s increasingly buying from Mr Porter, and that in South Korea some 30 percent of Mr Porter sales are coming from women.

Brands with particular coed appeal include The Row, Celine, JW Anderson and Bode, the latter of which will be launching on Net in July.

Net is also putting its money on the British designer Maximilian Davis, “who truly has what it takes to lead a major Milanese house,” Page said. She said the team loved his bright red looks and tailored trouser suits, so much so that Net upped its budget.

For Davis’ debut collection last year, Net more than doubled its spend on the brand. For fall 2023, Net increased its spend by a further 20 percent, and bought 20 head-to-toe red runway looks as well as more commercial pieces, Page added.

Ferragamo Fall RTW 2023
Ferragamo Fall RTW 2023

Much of Net’s seasonal spend went to accessories. The retailer bought wide and deep into Loewe’s Puzzle shopper, buying more than 260 units of the style in three sizes and five colors.

Extra-large bags, she said, offered a “no frills” approach to workwear and pair easily with all of the tailoring on offer for fall.

The team also purchased 16 styles of Gucci shoes, and launched its first sunglass shop.

Page said the sunglass category at Net has grown by more than 55 percent over the past year. The new shop stocks more than 20 exclusive styles from brands including Dior, Gucci and Chloé, and offers styling advice and content around how eyewear can complement customers’ existing wardrobes.

Although its focus may be on that top 3 percent of customers, Net is also encouraging shoppers to treasure what they have, and find new ways to wear old items.

Page said Net was set to launch a new feature on its app called Digital Wardrobe, an interactive function that allows customers — with the swipe of a finger — to discover new pieces, and style them with past purchases.

“It’s like gaming for fashion lovers. And if, like me, you’ve ever been obsessed with how Cher Horowitz gets dressed in the morning, that was the inspiration behind the new function,” said Page, referring to the star of the 1995 film “Clueless” — and a top 3 percent shopper if there ever was one.

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