‘We’re a marketplace, we’re inventory-light’
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enhanced editorial platform for its watch offering, “The Luxury Watch Guide”, involving educational features, curated content and style advice.
Farfetch, a “unicorn” business – a start-up worth more than US$1 billion – differs from YNAP in that it doesn’t hold stock itself. Instead, it acts as an aggregator of inventory held across hundreds of boutiques and brands, and works with local fulfilment networks to deliver goods to more than 190 countries – a potentially significant advantage when dealing in very high-value items.
“We’re a marketplace, we’re inventory-light, and that’s perfect for the hard luxury industry,” says Belloli. Net-a-Porter’s new Fine Jewelry & Watch Suite emphasises high-value items such as JaegerLeCoultre’s Rendez-Vous Tourbillon (£86,000) “We also offer up new geographies that they can’t reach with their own mono-brand e-commerce websites.”
The sheer logistics of moving high-value inventory around the world in acceptable e-commerce time frames have been a significant barrier to moves online for high-end watch and jewellery brands thus far. So too have assumptions on how willing a client will be to spend large sums on products they haven’t first picked up or seen in the flesh.
The watch industry’s investment in verticalised retail models over the past decade has also fuelled a somewhat dysfunctional relationship with the online marketplace.
However, Patrick Pruniaux, CEO of Ulysse Nardin, which is listing watches on Farfetch priced between £5,900 and £43,600, believes that new thinking is required. Mr Porter’s listing of a £355,000 watch by Bell & Ross suggests that, price-wise, anything is now possible. Last year, Net-a-Porter even sold a £65,000 Cartier watch via WhatsApp.
“That old belief you couldn’t sell expensive things online has been proven wrong, and I think the price ceiling is higher than everyone thought,” says Pruniaux. “It’s a different business model compared to traditional bricks and mortar, but it’s a different kind of client too, and we want to reach them.”