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Online Shoppers unhappy with Zara's offerings

Zara's push towards online shopping exposes issues with the retailer’s fit, product quality and service.

The recent shift to online shopping isn’t working in the interest of retail brand Zara, as its exposes its issues with the fit, product quality and online service, according to Credit Suisse analyst Simon Irwin.

Comments about Zara products “are poor and declining” on consumer-review websites Trustpilot and Sitejabber, the analyst wrote in a note previewing owner Inditex SA’s first-half results on Sept. 12.

“We believe the ‘treasure trove’ nature of a Zara shop is still a better experience off-line,” Irwin wrote. While online is driving like-for-like sales growth, that can have a negative impact on gross margin, he also said.

The broker estimates that the Web will represent about 10 percent of Inditex’s sales this year, up from 2.4 percent in 2013. It also expects 2018 to be the sixth consecutive year of Ebit margin decline.

Inditex shares had their worst week in seven years last week, falling 8.7 percent after Morgan Stanley published a scathing report saying the retailer has gone from great to good.

Credit Suisse lowered its price target to 24 euros from 25 euros and maintained its underperform recommendation.

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Start-Up Sells Luxury Items, Minus the Branding

We all know that markups in luxury fashion can be ridiculously high. The journey from the factory to floor, gets items to be priced at higher than they cost.

Now E-commerce site Italic is betting that removing the branding and the mark-up will prove a hit with consumers. A big bet indeed!

The start-up’s members-only marketplace, which launched last Thursday, allows manufacturers that create products for luxury brands to sell directly to consumers without the LOGOs adding markups. Shoppers who pay a $120 annual membership fee can choose from a selection of unbranded luxury goods, from bags and wallets to prescription eyewear and leather jackets, produced by the same factories that count names like Prada, Givenchy, Celine and Burberry among their clients.

The company has raised $13 million in funding, from various top end investors. Over 100,000 people joined a waiting list to be notified when membership opens, with signups initially limited to the US, said company founder Jeremy Cai.

Upon launching, the platform will have nearly 60 styles live on the site, with a view to double this number by the end of the year. However, customers won’t find unbranded versions of the Gucci Dionysus bag or any of the latest Celine creations. All products sold on Italic will be unique and exclusive to the platform to avoid infringing on brands’ intellectual property / copyrighted designs.

The start-up joins a growing number of brands, including Everlane and Warby Parker, which provide a premium-feeling, minimally branded product at relatively affordable prices. Within the luxury sector, high-end retailers, including Mr Porter, Joseph and MatchesFashion, are expanding their private label collections, which tend to be priced below standard luxury fare.

Italic goes one step further, selling items that lack even the private label branding. The marketplace will instead focus on providing the infrastructure — from marketing, design and warehousing to customer support — to enable manufacturers to sell products directly. The company will take a commission on sales.

“We essentially do everything that brands do and more, but we do it for the manufacturers,” Cai said.

For example, Italic’s merchandising team will work with factories that have product and pattern libraries to tweak existing designs so they don’t mimic products already on the market. Italic also has two designers, alumni of Armani and Calvin Klein, to work with manufacturers that don’t have in-house creative teams.

“We are very careful about every single product that we sell being originally designed, you won’t find an exact product like it in the market,” Cai said. “We want breadth and coverage of a lot of different styles.”

Branding can be a powerful tool, especially in a sector like luxury, where purchases are emotional rather than practical. That’s especially true for “statement” products, like handbags.

“People buy branded products to be reassured of the quality and style of the item and also for their projected image: they somehow communicate to other people the style, sophistication and preferences of their owner,” said Mario Ortelli, managing partner of luxury advisors Ortelli & Co. “You want to feel and show that you are part of the brand story.”

But Cai doesn’t anticipate the manufacturers on Italic’s marketplace competing head to head with luxury brands.

“For a person who is going to buy a Gucci bag, we are never going to win them over with unbranded product,” he said. “That doesn’t mean in some avenue of their life, they wouldn’t be open to switching up their sheets or maybe a shirt, or a leather jacket, where they actually don’t like a logo on there.”

As well as geographical expansion and international shipping, the platform’s short term goals include expanding into product categories like activewear and beauty. The focus will remain on luxury, Cai said.

“The reason we want to start in luxury is because we can say to the customer: we can make premium product effectively and replace a lot of your aspirational shopping,” he said.


What is Sephoria House of Beauty?

Publishers, Beauty of Fashion report, Sephora are organising an event for the retailer’s most dedicated customers to interact with their prized beauty brands. The event will be called Sephoria House Of Beauty, and will take place on October 21st-22nd in LA with installations from over 50 brands for consumers charged between $100 and $500 to explore and shop.

While Sephora cannot confirm which brands will participate in Sephoria, the retailer will likely draw on the many prestige brands in its portfolio, especially the LVMH-owned ones such as Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty. Sephora is joining a multitude of retailers in creating experiences for customers that go beyond shopping in a conventional store. Sephoria will feature a range of set-ups around the "house" theme, including a kitchen where consumers can “play with ingredient-based skincare,” and a laundry room that is the backdrop for cleansers. When it comes to product, Sephoria’s emphasis will be on limited-edition elements such as exclusive colours, packaging design and personalisation, rather than sales. Yeh said the company doesn’t want the event to overlap with the in-store experience.

The goal with Sephoria is to build community and give customers a fun, interactive experience — “lots of juicy experiences that she’s can snap and share and wow her social community with,” said Deborah Yeh, senior vice president of marketing and brand at Sephora. “We’ve been dreaming about something like this for awhile.

Sephora generated between $4.4 billion and $4.9 billion in sales in 2016, according to Coresight Research (LVMH does not break out Sephora's financials).

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