LONDON, United Kingdom — BoF can exclusively reveal that French luxury conglomerate LVMH is launching a new e-commerce platform for its Moët Hennessy wine and spirits brands, selling experiences as well as traditional products.
The new venture, named Clos19, is the brainchild of founder and chief executive Stephanie Watine Arnault, the niece of LVMH chairman and chief executive Bernard Arnault. The company is based in London, where it operates much like a start-up with a staff of 10 — albeit with the backing of the LVMH group.
Clos19 will sell luxury wine and spirits from brands like Moët & Chandon, Krug, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon, Château d’Yquem, Hennessy, Glenmorangie, Ardbeg and Belvedere, alongside editorial content and services like 24-hour delivery.
But critically, the platform will also sell experiences, from tastings, to intimate dinner parties hosted at private homes, to what the company calls “exceptional experiences” like luxury travel experiences to Antarctica — each augmented with Moët Hennessy’s wine and spirits.
“The whole concept behind Clos19 is around sharing and championing the art of hosting,” Watine Arnault, told BoF. “It gives more immediate and sophisticated access not only to our exceptional products, but also provides the services, accessories and experiences that enable our audience to become the perfect hosts. There is an experience for every type of budget from the tastings to the exceptional ones which are much more aspirational.” Experiences will start at £180 (about $230).
“We have the expertise, we know how to execute, how to set the scene and how to make the moment really special,” continued Watine Arnault. “We are creating trips to our cellars, for instance … but we are selling more than just a tour. What we are selling is the whole experience around it: from the trip to the right hotel booking to the right restaurants in the Champagne region. It’s the full package.”
LVHM has experience staging events like its annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, but Clos19 is working with third-party partners, such as a boutique travel agency called Blue Marble Private, a luxury travel company based in London, to fulfil certain elements of the experiential offering.
The move comes as luxury consumers are shifting their spending away from traditional products towards experiences. “When we buy experiences, those purchases make us happier than when we buy things,” explained B. Joseph Pine II, a business strategist and co-author of “The Experience Economy” in a previous interview with BoF. Pine has long described product innovation in consumer markets as a multi-staged “progression of economic value” from commodities to goods to services to experiences. A 2014 Boston Consulting Group report revealed that of the $1.8 trillion spent on “luxuries” in 2013, nearly $1 trillion, or 55 percent, was spent on luxury experiences.
The name Clos19 is drawn from the French word for an enclosed vineyard and a reference to LVMH’s historic roots in the 19th century, when many of its maisons were founded. The “O” in the company’s logo is rendered like a door, a reference to hosting. "For us this idea of a door, of a gateway through which you would welcome people into your world, and explaining and transferring all of this knowledge was very iconic."
While Clos19 is starting small, Watine Arnault has big aspirations. “I wouldn’t describe it as a test, because we have put a lot of energy into it,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that it is going to represent a huge percentage of Moët Hennessy’s business, but it might in five or 10 years.” Clos19 debuts today in the UK and will launch in Germany this summer with additional markets to follow.
The unveiling of Clos19 comes on the heels of reports that LVMH is preparing for the launch of a multi-brand fashion e-commerce venture and signals that the conglomerate, long on its back foot when it comes to digital, is finally getting into gear.
“The group is definitely ramping up in terms of digital,” said Watine Arnault. “It’s true, the client is more and more digital. Today, you want something, the first thing you do is check your phone.”
LVMH reported strong growth in its wine and spirits division in the first quarter of 2017. Revenues grew by 13 percent to €1.2 billion with continued demand in Europe and the United States.
Disclosure: LVMH is part of a group of investors who, together, hold a minority interest in The Business of Fashion. All investors have signed shareholder’s documentation guaranteeing BoF’s complete editorial independence.