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Mytheresa: how do online retail and sophistication fit together?

By Regina Henkel

24 Mar 2017


The luxury market is by definition opposed to online retail: after all, nothing is in greater contradiction with the demand for style than the ubiquitous availability of an online shop. Still, a successfully merger between the two can be achieved with a large dose of ingenuity as demonstrated by Mytheresa.com.

Not growing at any price

Sebastian Dietzmann, Managing Director of Mytheresa, took to the stage of the trend arena during the Internet World trade show in Munich to provide the assembled world of IT specialists with insights into an online market that consists of several special features. In it, growth happens, but not at any price. The luxury fashion brands Mytheresa is collaborating with as well as the wealthy clients both demand sophistication and special service. ”We would certainly be able to increase our growth quickly in the short term,” explains Dietzmann who has been with the company since 2015. ”But we deliberately restrain ourselves – this restraint is part of our USP”.

It starts with the choice of brands and extends to the selection of each individual item offered online. Dietzmann: ”it is extremely important to us that every single product in our collection is offered exclusively because we like it”. He explains that the secret of success is in the curated offering, saying that: ”our client visits us because she believes that Mytheresa has purchased this item specifically for her”. More than 500 new products appear online each week, as part of the product categories clothing, footwear, bags, accessories and genuine jewellery.

Style is also possible in the internet

Strictly speaking, it is difficult to fulfill the claim of offering a sophisticated line of products online. After all, an online shop is by definition accessible to anyone willing to pay the appropriate amount. Still, an adequate solution was developed for Mytheresa. For example, last year, only Mytheresa and Net-à-Porter were granted permission to sell the new Prada ready-to-wear merchandise online. Because of the curated approach, the product overlap with the competition was as low as 30 percent, says Dietzmann. ”This kind of exclusive access can be limited for example to a specific period of time”, continues Dietzmann, such as it was the case for instance with the launch of the Missoni Yoga Wear, for which Mytheresa obtained the permission to sell it worldwide in the first 14 days. The trust of the brand is important, and maintaining a foothold in this industry is impossible without it. The foundation for this was laid many years ago by the stationary store Theresa in Munich, from which Mytheresa emerged in 2006.

What does service mean in an online luxury fashion shop?

The high-class clientele of Mytheresa is not only wealthy, but it is used to excellent service and naturally also demands the same from an online store. ”Using a chatbot for our customer service would be unthinkable”, chuckles Dietzmann. At Mytheresa, everything must fulfill the highest of standards, from a personal shopping team that provides guidance to the logistics, packaging and after-sales support. Mytheresa clients hail from 120 countries, and patience is not a pre-eminent trait of this clientele group. The company promises to ship the merchandise anywhere within 48 hours. In the USA, the package even arrives at the client’s doorstep the next day. Everything is delivered personally, if necessary several times at Mytheresa’s expenses, if the client is not at home the first time.

International growth

Mytheresa has been online since 2006, increasing its growth since the establishment by approx. 50 percent each year. In October 2014, mytheresa.com GmbH was acquired in its entirety by the American Neiman Marcus Group. Since then, the company has been operated as an independent subsidiary by the local parent company NMG Germany GmbH headquartered in Aschheim/Munich. The company is poised to increase its potential, especially with the global expansion. ”We are in the convenient position of growing geographically”, says Dietzmann. Mytheresa is available in eight languages and six currencies.

"The topic Mobile was a hard nut to crack”, reflects Dietzmann in view of the Asian and East-Asian markets. In these countries, online shopping means mobile shopping, that is, the look & feel of an online shop on the desktop had to be transferred to the small mobile format. In the meantime, 50 to 60 percent of traffic is generated via mobile, and 30 percent of transactions likewise take place through this channel. The company is planning to invest more in this area, for example in an Android app, which has yet to be created and is extremely important particularly in Asia. In spite of the multinationalism, Germany contributes nearly one third to the total revenue and this share is growing. But the significance is steadily declining in the context of international growth. Dietzmann: ”in reality, we are growing to a much larger degree in other regions, but these markets obviously required a great deal of attention”.

Channels are also changing in the luxury segment

These days, almost 10 percent of sales in luxury fashion retail occur online, and the trend is rising. Still, this percentage is lower than it is common in the broad fashion market. On the one hand, this is due to the high basket prices in the luxury segment and on the other hand to the fact that it is virtually impossible to compete with the physical store when it comes to service. Dietzmann: ”our clients are obviously just as online savvy as anyone else, but we are selling emotions. It is not easy to achieve the same experience online as it is in the physical store”. Nevertheless, there is movement in the market to change this. Especially China is a major player in luxury online shopping. In contrast, expanding the stationary retail is not a strategic goal for Mytheresa. “This is where our roots are, but stationary stores or the expansion of omni-channel solutions are not relevant for us”, continues the manager. And how is Mytheresa coping with the competition of pure players such as Zalando and Amazon? ”The barriers to entry into the luxury market are extremely high”, explains Dietzmann. ”Designers are actually looking to decrease rather than increase their sales, and therefore, I’m not worried about Zalando.“

Photos: Mytheresa.com / FashionUnited
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