Click, click click. The future of retail is online, with all its convenience and cheapness. But what if you are buying an €1800 Chloé handbag? Or an €800 pair of Armani heels? Surely here the touch and feel are important, as are the schmoozing by the shop assistant (who insists it is your colour), and the glitzy store front. So luxury retailing is still very much a store-based affair. Just 6 per cent of luxury sales were made online last year, Euromonitor says.
But that will grow to nearly 8 per cent by 2019, or an extra $9.4bn of sales. That is a big prize, so online luxury houses are scaling up. Milan-listed Yoox said on Tuesday it will combine with Richemont’s Net-a-Porter. The deal will create a company with €1.3bn of revenues and €108m of earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation.
The deal looks more favourable for Yoox (whose shares rose 10 per cent in response) than for Richemont (whose shares were flat). Net-a-Porter will contribute 59 per cent of the combined company’s sales and 54 per cent of ebitda, but Richemont will only get half of the shares. Worse, Richemont’s voting rights will be limited to 25 per cent and it will only have two of 12 board seats.
That is mainly because both parties want to maintain Yoox’s independence. The Italian company provides the online infrastructure for a variety of other retail brands (including some owned by French group Kering), as well as having its own customer-facing sites. These big name clients might be reluctant to deal with a company controlled by a rival such as Richemont. And more of those clients will be needed if the new company is to build scale.
Earnings at the combined company will be improved if it delivers the promised €60m of savings. And Richemont is not getting a bad price for Net-a-Porter. It will receive €1.6bn of Yoox shares, equivalent to 27 times Net-a-Porter’s 2014 ebitda. That is a big premium to Richemont’s own rating of 12 times ebitda and closer to the average of 32 times at which Yoox has traded over the past year. But then a combination of luxury goods and online retail is unlikely to come at a bargain price.
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