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Luxury Brands Refuse To Sell Their Collections Online: Elitism Or Protecting Traditionalism?

Luxury brands including Chanel, Celine, Hermes and Dior still refuse to sell ready-to-wear collections online and limit them to stores. In 2014 why is this?


It is confusing to many that fashion brands do not sell their full collections online. Brands including Chanel, Céline, Hermes and Dior sell fragrances and cosmetics online but require you to go to their stores to purchase their ready-to-wear clothing collections. In a time like 2014 when shoppers are increasingly choosing to spend money online why do these fashion houses refuse to sell online?

Bruno Pavlovsky, Chanel’s president of global fashion, told Bloomberg last January:

“Fashion is about clothing, and clothing you need to see, to feel, to understand,” adding that the company’s digital initiatives are designed “more to bring the customers to the boutique.”

These are luxury brands that prize their exclusivity but this cannot be the only reason they refuse to sell online. Surely the high prices alone are enough to keep the brands exclusivity in tact whether they sell online or not.

For brands such as Dior, “you have to look at their business model” said Katalina Sharkey de Solis, managing director at ad agency Moving Image and Content.  “It’s a diffusion business model, so the percentage of revenue that ready-to-wear actually represents is very, very small.”

Brands may earn more of accessories than their ready to wear collections. They still make profits off selling clothing but Sharkey de Solis said by selling their clothing online brands run the risk of “cannibalizing in-store traffic.”

The decision to sell online also has to do with who owns it and the type of company it is. “If you’re a public company, you have to err on the side of making yourself more available,” Sharkey de Solis, referring to Burberry as an example. “They have their diffusion lines with different prices that are critical to that strategy.

By trying to maintain exclusivity brands could be missing out on opportunities to sell their goods and therefore result in loss of revenue. However, Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester said “yes, maybe they could increase sales [by selling online].”

But, “a brand’s goals aren’t always to increase sales. It may be to preserve the quality of the brand so that it stays in business for another 100 years.

By selling in department store Sharkey de Solis said it gives sales associates the ability to vet who buys the items and allows brands to interact with prestigious clients.“The best merchandise often goes to pre-existing clients, people who have longstanding relationships with those department stores. [Brands are] counting on those sales associates to vet who should have the product and who shouldn’t.

Brands including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy, Burberry and Saint Laurent sell their ready-to wear online. It’s clear it is all to do with the brand and their business models. Brands such as Givenchy sell a lot of clothing online however they limit what items they sell. For example they sell many t-shirts but their couture gowns are not available online.

In future if brands do decide to partake in e-commerce it will undoubtedly be in a controlled way and the decision will most likely not be driven by profit but brand image. Despite not selling online products brands such as Chanel and Celine have done incredibly well over the years. “There’s no real reason until that market changes, for those brands to put ready-to-wear items online” said Sharkey de Solis.

For now it looks like to buy unique pieces from these luxury brands we’ll still have to hot-foot it to their stores. This refusal to sell online however cannot be truly seen as a negative. This preserves a long-standing and traditional experience of shopping that the internet cannot replace.

Unique clothing and craftsmanship must be seen to be truly appreciated. There is nothing more disappointing than finding your eagerly anticipated clothing has arrived in the post only to find the size does not fit.

Any true shopper will know there is no better feeling than when the cashier hands over your pristinely tissue- wrapped purchase in the surroundings of luxury and expense. That self-satisfied high will never fade.

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