A year and a half since departing Net-A-Porter, a business she built over 15 years, Natalie Massenet has surprised many and joined rival online luxury retailer Farfetch saying she has closed “that chapter of her life”. Meanwhile Farfetch chief executive Jose Neves admits he still champions the retail experience of a bricks and mortar store.
“I’m a believer in physical retail experiences – you need the human element," says Neves, adding that brands can no longer ignore technology in-store anymore. “The future of luxury fashion is about a seamless merge of a fantastic physical experience with powerful, yet subtle technology," he adds.
His comments come as the retailer prepares to reveal the tech behind its Store of the Future division at its first industry event in April. Operating in a similar way to agency innovation hubs, the offshoot will focus on a range of disciplines, including bridging the gap between online and offline experiences.
The move to close the gap between physical and online follows similar moves from the likes of e-commerce giant, Amazon which has announced it is bringing its own offering offline with the opening of permanent bookstores in New York and San Francisco. Similarly, Hello Fresh is also jumping on the bandwagon with a pop-up store in London, a stunt designed to raise brand awareness.
However, far from being a gimmick, Farfetch has been hinting at the idea of innovation in physical retail since its 2015 purchase of Browns. At the time the company said it wanted to use the purchase to help advance the collaboration between fashion and technology, with Neves saying: “The vision is to answer the question, 'How will people shop for luxury fashion five or 10 years into the future?' This won't be purely online.”
Enter here the Store of the Future offering, which he hope will bring together “a customised suite of technologies that have been developed in order to help brands and boutiques enhance the customer journey."
Massenet, who joined Farfetch at the end of February, expressed her excitement for the future of the business, adding that her interest in joining was piqued by the company's advanced presence in the tech world. “I am joining a world-class tech company, it's no coincidence that all the most successful companies, Facebook, Amazon and Apple are also API enabled platforms.
“As well as the most innovative technology, as a customer I love being able to choose from the most beautiful fashion, curated by the world’s best boutiques and designer stores through one easy-to-shop platform. This is why when José asked me to come on board, it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down.”
Massenet’s step down from Net-A-Poter came as a shock in 2015, however her venture into her previous rival is one she is looking forward to with a promise to continue working hard to ensure Farfetch’s 70% year-on-year growth remains.
The departure from Massenet came suddenly as the online retailer prepared a milti-billion dollar merger with Italian ecommerce retailer Yoox Group amid reports of a clash between herself and the then-new chief executive Fererico Marchetti.
Having noted that the step away from Net-A-Porter was the "closing" of that chapter, Massenet has ensured she will continue to grow Farfetch, in an interview with the Financial Times she said: “We’re not planning on taking our foot off the gas. I will bring my love of fashion, technology and relationships with the brand to Farfetch, helping José to market the unique platform he has built.”