Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, commonly known as Richemont, on Monday said it would snap up the rest of online luxury retailer Yoox Net-A-Porter for €2.8 billion euros, or about $3.4 billion, according to a company press release.
The Swiss luxury goods group, like Kering and LVMH, is a major player globally. In 2015, Richemont received 50% of the share capital, but only 25% of the voting rights and two out of 12 seats on the board when Yoox and Net-A-Porter merged in an all-share deal.
Later that year the newly combined company reported its first profits amid record sales.
The major luxury players in recent years have all made concerted efforts to merchandising and operations, with special attention, at long last, to online sales. LVMH in November shuffled its executive suite for a 'new era,' after previously ditching its more middle of the road Donna Karan brand and taking steps to elevate its Christian Dior brand and its e-commerce operations across the board.
Kering has made similar moves, most recently unloading Puma to focus on more upscale brands. And Coach rebranded as "Tapestry" in October, reflecting its intentions to be a multi-brand entity newly re-focused on upscale customers.
While Richemont's move took many by surprise Monday, it makes a lot of sense, as those customers have become increasingly comfortable shopping online for purchases that for eons had depended on high-caliber, high-touch personal attention in well-appointed stores. Richemont Chairman Johann Rupert suggested on Monday that completing its investment in the online space was simply on that continuum.
"The success of our various Maisons has been dependent on giving our clients the best possible products and service," he said in a statement. "This client-centric obsession led us to invest in very many avenues. We are therefore proud to have participated in the growth of Net-A-Porter since its infancy and in the creation of Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, the world's leading online luxury retailer. With this new step, we intend to strengthen Richemont's presence and focus on the digital channel, which is becoming critically important in meeting luxury consumers' needs."
That doesn't mean that Richemont, or any luxury player, can rest easy, despite such e-commerce reinforcements, because their investments could inspire yet more from other corners as competition heats up, according to Bahige El-Rayes, principal in A.T. Kearney’s retail practice and author of their annual retail mergers and acquisitions report.
"[W]e are witnessing an accelerated growth in luxury e-commerce, with double-digit growth expected from the market in the next five years," he said in an email to Retail Dive. "Winners will be able to rethink their omnichannel play, beyond the 'buy and hold' concept. This includes thinking of specific brands and categories that can be sold online and in-store and developing a new customer centric merchandising strategy. This deal clearly paves the way for this to happen, and will likely trigger competitive responses."