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How Farfetch is becoming a key player in the luxury realm

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

Dec 15, 2017


Farfetch has always been on the fashion radar, but ultimately never a place where I would choose to shop. What initially kept me from making transactions was price inconsistency across retailers and markets. A pair of Saint Laurent boots that cost 595 euros at a store in Belgium, could be 630 euros in Italy, 675 francs in Switzerland and a whopping 1100 dollars in the United Stated. Comparison shopping and webrooming would make even the least sophisticated online shopper think twice about paying more for goods outside their own market.

But FarFetch is proving to be far more than just conglomerating retail store's products across various markets in a single website. It works with over 700 boutiques worldwide and is proving to be a tech company worth reckoning with; a clever set-up (selling fashion from 100s of stores but not owning any stock) means it has pioneered a new omni-channel, omni-market approach without any risk. All of the clothes and accessories it sells are neither bought, warehoused, packaged and shipped by FarFetch. All the benefits but none of the headaches of being a retailer.

Much like Zalando, which has recognised its brand partnerships are what set it apart from other pureplayers, Farfetch has cleverly been cultivating a series of partnerships with some of the biggest names in the luxury business.

Saint Laurent benefits from Farfetch's partnerships in China

Saint Laurent, for example, has partnered with Farfetch to grow its Chinese ecommerce business. How? By utilising another of Farfetch's partnerships, this time with JD.com, the world's third largest ecommerce company.

According to Luxury Daily, Saint Laurent is able to benefit from JD’s logistics, marketing and service capabilities designed to cater to local clientele. Farfetch’s Shanghai-based team will tap into the company’s relationships with both JD and WeChat to better market and sell to the Chinese consumer, particularly millennials.

Similarly, Condé Nast worked with Farfetch to host the combination of commerce and editorial content previously hosted on Style.com after the media group ceased operation of the site.

Earlier this year Farfetch debuted its Store of the Future in East London, linking together the online and offline worlds through data touch points that enhance and personalize the retail experience for consumers while presenting sales associates with chances to become in-store influencers.

Luxury retail is reconfigured to respond to modern consumers’ shifting behavior and expectations, and Farfetch is seamlessly blending technology with its new bricks and mortar premises. The company is also increasingly positioning itself as a technology provider. It handles data from all four corners of the globe, selling over 2,000 designer brands from hundreds of stores. Luxury brands are keen to tap into its rich data pool.

Founded in 2007 by José Neves, a London-based Portuguese entrepreneur, Farfetch began as an online portal for luxury boutiques. Neves previously launched shoe design business SWEAR in the 90s, followed by B Store in 2001, a fashion licensing and wholesale company selling a range of up-and-coming designer labels in a physical store.

During a trip to Paris Fashion Week in 2007, when Neves was wholesaling for his B Store brand, the idea for a virtual boutique marketplace came to fruition. A 2013 interview in The Daily Telegraph details the moment when Neves realised the need to give independent fashion boutiques an online retail presence: "Dozens of boutique owners had been through our doors and what they were saying was really sobering. Business was bad, they couldn't rely on local custom any more but they didn't have the experience to do e-tailing either. They had amazing taste levels but they were having to play it increasingly safe."

Photo credit: Farfetch homepage; article source Luxury Daily, Wikipedia