Richemont has named a replacement for Yoox founder Federico Marchetti at the helm of its multi-brand e-commerce division YNAP.
Geoffroy Lefebvre, currently Richemont’s group digital distribution director, will take the reins from January 4. Marchetti, who first announced he would step down in March, will remain chairman “to ensure a successful transition,” Yoox Net-a-Porter said in a statement.
The same day, Net-a-Porter’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz, a key player in determining the editorial line for the site’s fashion selection, announced her departure for rival luxury e-commerce company MatchesFashion.
The moves come as online retailers’ competition to win customers intensifies. Luxury e-commerce has surged since the pandemic, but success is far from guaranteed as brands ramp up their efforts to sell products online directly, and as the multi-brand space remains crowded with players ranging from niche operators like MyTheresa and SSense to encyclopedic marketplaces like Farfetch.
By jumping over to rival MatchesFashion after 3 years at the group, buyer Von der Goltz joins a broader exodus of YNAP executives who have exited the business, including Mr. Porter Managing Director Tony Bateman last year, as YNAP struggled to maintain its dominance amid technology and logistics challenges that cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. Its fraught technology contributed to pandemic shutdowns which allowed some rival sites to surge ahead.
Once the undisputed luxury e-commerce leader, YNAP’s future in particular has come into question as it lost key clients like Kering’s Saint Laurent and Balenciaga brands at its white-label e-commerce service, and as parent company Richemont announced plans to invest more than $500 million in rival Farfetch, whose marketplace model, which connects a network of boutiques — and increasingly brands — with consumers, proved its resilience during the coronavirus crisis .
In a call with reporters earlier in November, Richemont’s chairman Johann Rupert insisted his Farfetch stake wasn’t a vote of no-confidence in YNAP. He said in-season website Net-a-Porter would continue to play an important role curating luxury products for clients, but did not specify what his vision was for online outlet store Yoox or the white-label unit operating e-commerce flagship stores for brands going forward.
Rupert didn’t rule out the possibility of a spin-off or combination between YNAP and Farfetch, which also has a white-business, saying simply that such a move would be subject to “timeliest disclosures.”
Marchetti’s successor Lefebvre is a former McKinsey consultant whose previous roles at Richemont include a stint as chief executive of watch brand Baume and Mercier, and as operations director of Vacheron Constantin.
“I am delighted to be handing the baton to Geoffroy Lefebvre as CEO,” Marchetti said in a statement. “We have worked together over recent times and he fully masters our business model..”
Net-a-Porter was a pioneering force in luxury e-commerce, using a glossy front-end experience to convince high-end brands to make their products available online. It combined in 2015 with Yoox, a fellow e-commerce vanguard focused on off-season retail and B2B support, and known for its back-end operations with Marchetti taking the reins. After floating shares on the Milan stock exchange, Richemont took full control of YNAP in 2018.
Analysts agree market consolidation is inevitable — especially as top luxury brands take more and more of their sales direct — but there are different strategies being put in place to achieve success. One is to play the scale card and try to build the Amazon of fashion, which Amazon itself is trying to do through its Luxury platform. Another is to create a more specialised business that might not rival the likes of Farfetch in size, but can be profitable. Mytheresa, which plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange in early 2021 at a $1.5 billion valuation, may continue to focus on its personalised experience for top clients rather than trying to catch up with the broader-based approach of YNAP and Farfetch. MatchesFashion is trying to straddle the two paths, and it remains to be seen whether the site can sustain its reputation for strict curation while marketing to a broader audience.
In a bit of a switcheroo, Von der Goltz will be replaced by MatchesFashion’s commercial director Lea Cranfield, according to a report in Drapers, which BoF confirmed through sources close to both companies. Cranfield is coming back as buying and merchandising director at Net-a-Porter, where she previously worked.