If you’re on the lookout for great designer pieces without breaking the bank, savvy shoppers know that The Outnet is the secret weapon for shopping luxury labels off-season, and at a fraction of the price. With an extensive line-up of names that include mega-brands like Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Fendi, to contemporary labels such as Zimmermann, Equipment and Victoria Beckham, the e-tailer cleverly caters to the sartorial tastes of every type of woman, from the lover of Boho-luxe to the chic sophisticate, which has made it a powerful shopping platform for women the world over.
On a recent trip to Dubai to celebrate its 10-year anniversary, The Outnet’s managing director Emma Mortimer sat down with MOJEH to discuss the brand’s secret to success and its diverse new anniversary campaign that stars make-up artist Lisa Eldridge, singer Paloma Faith, photographer Quentin Jones, model Alec Wek and the region’s very own Jessica Kahawaty.
Emma Mortimer, managing director, TheOutnet,com
You’re in Dubai for a very exciting reason! The Outnet is celebrating its 10th anniversary – how amazing is that? Yes, it’s phenomenal! For me personally – having been with the business when it launched in 2009 to now – to see its evolution, how it’s grown and to come out here to market, and to celebrate it… it’s a very proud moment.
How has the site evolved since the launch? We’ve evolved so much. When we launched, we had a tiny buying team and the vast majority of the product came from Net-a-Porter (90 per cent of the product came from Net-a-Porter). Now, it’s completely the reverse with less than 10 per cent. We have this whole buying team who go out to market, and we’ve got 350 brands on the site.
The relationships that we have with those brands are so strong that now we’re in a position to be able to do these exclusive collaborations. And our customer base has grown; the business has grown, so to see that growth of the brand, the business, our customers – and speaking to our customers – I love it!
I’m excited to meet our customers here. They all they have similarities, are all very smart, confident and successful women, but there are nuances in every region, so it’s brilliant to be able to understand exactly what that is and then evolve and tailor what we’re doing to support them, make it easy for them, and exciting to them.
Tell us about the 10th anniversary campaign? Our 10th anniversary campaign is amazing. It’s the biggest exclusive collaboration that we’ve done to date and it really is a celebration of the relationships we’ve managed to build up with the brands over these years. We’ve worked with 35 different designers and we’ve got over 90 different pieces in the collection launching on the May 14. We’re working with some amazing talent, five different women, who we feel really resonate with our customer because they are successful in their own right; they’re diverse, inspirational and talented. They are so true to who our customer is: confident, successful, bright women who all bring some level of diversity to the mix.
How do you get brands on board with the site and for a discounted price? It’s a good question. In the very early days it was a more challenging conversation, because at the time we really redefined the model of the discount luxury business. At the time, brands really wanted to hide the fact that they had previous season stock that they were trying to sell and they would send it out to their bricks and mortar malls far out of town, and they would do flash sales. Now, because we’ve built up such a strong brand, we’ve got such credibility in the industry – we’ve always maintained that luxury aspect whether it’s how we present the product or the service that we offer. It all came from the legacy with Net-a-Porter being our sister. Everything was kind of ingrained in us in a luxury-focused way. And by being able to deliver that, or higher level, the brands themselves that we’re talking to don’t see it as detrimental to them. Actually, it’s a really good opportunity for them because it takes the pressure off them and it continues the life cycle of the product.
How would you describe The Outnet customer? I love our Outnet customer! I love talking to her because she is so switched on, she’s so savvy. She shops at The Outnet not because she can’t afford to buy in full price in season, it’s actually a choice that she made because she’s smart – she knows her style, she’s confident, she knows the designers she likes, so actually, she can then choose. I think the fact that she’s in her late 30s, she’s built up her own personal style, she has that level of confidence, she can come to us and we’ve got such an array of product from great brands, and we represent it in such a way that it’s easy for her to shop from. From a customer perspective, we’ve definitely maintained a really loyal customer base that comes back to us time and time again.
How would you describe the Middle Eastern customer? She’s very similar to our global customer. There are similarities in the sense that she is the savvy customer. The difference being here [in the Middle East] there’s been a sort of latency and a late-adopting to e-commerce, but now I think she’s leap-frogged. She is so much more mobile-centric that, for her, shopping is that much easier.
Do you notice any trends in terms of what the regional customers are looking for? Dresses, absolutely! From a brand’s perspective, she loves designer and contemporary, so she’ll shop Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci, Stella McCartney, but then also M by Missoni. Tory Burch is very popular here too. Interestingly, our own brand Iris & Ink is in the top five. So, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a designer, but it is something that is unique and beautiful quality.
Why was it important to add the ‘Modest Shop’ option as its own separate category? When you localise, it’s not just translating. You have to look at the whole 360- experience is going to be like. The Modest Shop is very relevant to the consumer here – it’s nice to be able to consolidate that for her and make it easier [to shop]. We constantly keep that area updated, particularly for Ramadan.
Brick and mortar stores versus shopping online? I think there’s always a place for the standalone stores, because it’s an experience. I think it’s lovely to go into somewhere and have that experience, but at the same time, I think there’s a huge importance to have the online presence. For us, we come to the region and we do our events because it’s an opportunity to really connect and offer our loyal customers that experience as well. There’s still a world for both I think, but if you don’t have a good digital e-commerce platform you’re going to struggle. Consumers and customers are on the go, they’re travelling and they want shopping to be easy.
What are your tips for shopping online? Personally, I find if you know brands that work for you then that’s great, because then you know actually that they run small to size or large to size. Trial and error, and don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t fit and don’t be shy of going up a size.
- Words by Meeran Mekkaoui