World's top 50 luxury companies add 40 percent more online shopping gurus to boards

Dec 18, 2017 | City A.M.

The world's biggest luxury companies are appointing more online sales experts to their boards, as the historically tech-averse industry catches up with ecommerce.

The number of directors with backgrounds in ecommerce at the top 50 luxury goods firms jumped 40 per cent this year to 28, according to analysis by DHR International.

High-profile appointments included Pietro Beccari's move to become CEO of Christian Dior, after his digital strategy helped Fendi to bring in more than €1bn in 2017.

This follows a period in which luxury firms have been slow to move online, due to concerns over lack of control over exclusive products.

"This attitude is beginning to change," commented DHR principal Pierre-Jean Francon. "The luxury goods sector must adapt to an increasingly digital market, and hiring directors with the relevant e-commerce expertise could be necessary for driving sales, whilst retaining their high net worth clientele."

The change has partly been driven by the rise of online luxury shopping sites such as Net-a-Porter and FarFetch, which have displayed rapid growth since launching.

Net-a-Porter's founder Natalie Massenet moved to rival FarFetch this year after stepping down from Net-a-Porter two years ago following the Yoox takeover.

Following her was Stephanie Phair, former president of Net-a-Porter subsidiary, who is now chief strategy officer at FarFetch and joined the ranks of digital experts on top luxury boards with an appointment to the board of Moncler.

However, luxury retailers are still negotiating their approach to online selling, with an ECJ ruling earlier this month determining that luxury brands could restrict sales through third-party sites.