Luxury Retailers Rediscover the Web


October 21, 2004

Luxury Retailers Rediscover the Web

More and more luxury marketers are giving the Internet another try this holiday season, reports the Wall Street Journal. Bergdorf Goodman opened its extensive site recently, while Barney's revamped its site to be more user friendly. Even smaller boutique retailers that sell luxury clothing and accessories are getting in on the act, retoooling their sites for the upcoming holiday buying season.

Studies show that, despite initial reservations, luxury buyers are increasingly making online purchases and retailers must be in that space. Forrester Research predicts there will be a 39% increase in sales to $2.8 billion in jewelry and luxury goods during 2004. As well, retailers know busy professionals often lack the time to visit stores or spend much time comparison shopping. The Web facilitates this process, even if they end up in a store to buy their merchandise. Finally, luxury retailers are seeing the children of their customers beginning to shop at their stores, and they know Gen Y is the most online-friendly generation yet, with no reservations about the products they buy online.

Vogue did a Web experiment with the luxury products featured in its huge September fashion issue. It found many women willing to buy pricey merchandise online, such as a $3,950 18k gold Tiffany bangle, a $1,570 Dior bag and a $3,135 designer gown by Chloe.

WSJ also tried out some of the new or retooled luxury sites and found the biggest challenge for luxury retailers online is to offer an extensive enough inventory to satisfy Web customers. They also must work harder to follow through on packaging and shipping products reliably. WSJ shoppers gave high marks to retailers who had easy navigation, well-lit and well-photographed merchandise and ensembles of merchandise featured prominently. They also highlighted several sites that offered online personal shopper chat options. WSJ shoppers liked sites that allowed buyers to return online purchases to the stores, rather than going through the hassle of return mail.

by Peggy Jo Donahue

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