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Online retail mogul talks success

By Tiffany Tan ( China Daily ) Updated: 2014-07-10 07:17:47

 Online retail mogul talks success

The Chinese mainland is one of the major markets for online fashion retail company Yoox. China had 618 million Internet users by the end of 2013, 302 million of which shopped online. Provided to China Daily

Online retail mogul talks success
Shanghai Tang's certain something
Online retail mogul talks success
Graceful Zhang Ziyi attends Dior show 
Yoox's founder built success on venture capital grasped just in time and beat the dot-com bust. Now he's riding the wave in virtual China, he tells Tiffany Tan.

If anyone knows the importance of timing, it is Federico Marchetti. The Italian entrepreneur established his online retail business in March 2000 after securing 1.5 million euros ($2 million) from a venture capitalist. Soon after that, the dot-com bubble burst.

"If I'd started probably one month after, I wouldn't have found any money to start my own business. Impossible," Marchetti, 45, says in Beijing. He likens the experience to zooming past closing gates just before they snapped shut.

But with one Internet startup after another collapsing at the time, observers were skeptical about the future of Yoox.com, which was selling end-of-season and prior-season luxury clothes at a discount. (The online fashion store Boo.com had gone bankrupt in May 2000 after devouring $135 million of venture capital in 18 months.)

"I remember a call from a Dutch journalist," Marchetti says while sipping Chinese tea. "The first question was, 'Are you crazy?' And I said, 'No, I'm not crazy. I think it's gonna change the world of fashion.'"

A decade and a half later, his Yoox Group has become one of the fashion world's biggest onl

ine retail companies, with 1.1 million active customers. It's valued at 1.2 billion euros.

Marchetti expanded the company, headquartered in Milan, by setting up Thecorner.com, which offers in-season high-end fashion, and Shoescribe.com, a site dedicated to women's footwear. Yoox.com has since added art, furniture and other design pieces to its merchandise.

In 2006, Yoox also began partnering with major fashion houses in running their online stores, providing them with services that include Web development, merchandising, delivery, returns and customer service. It now has 38 "mono-brand" sites for labels such as Armani, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Jil Sander and Valentino.

Yoox has "proven to the world that there is indeed a market for fashion shopping online, and it is huge", says Gelati Ting, sales marketing manager at Fashionbi, a fashion market research and analysis group with headquarters in Milan. "There is a market segment that is highly interested in luxury e-shopping.

"This might seem like an obvious fact, but it was a taboo a decade ago. Yoox is definitely one of the innovators. It enjoyed the first-mover advantage when the e-commerce market was much less saturated."

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