The fast-moving digital retailing sector, which needs cash to grow, has attracted two very big players at the high and low end of the market.
Richemont, which owns brands like Cartier and Chloé, succeeded a few days ago in its bid to take over control of Yoox Net-a-Porter (YNAP) in a deal that values the company at about €5.2 billion. Responding to a tender offer made in January, Richemont, which already owned 25 percent of YNAP, obtained acceptances from other shareholders that will raise its stake in the company to nearly 94 percent.
YNAP is a competitor of Zalando in the fashion market with more than 3 million active customers and sales of €2.1 billion in the past year. The company will continue to operate independently from Richemont under the leadership of Federico Marchetti, the 49-year-old Italian manager who founded Yoox in 1999. He is handing over his own shares to Richemont for about €200 million.
Marchetti told the Financial Times that it will be looking to invest in China, possibly through a partnership with a local retailer. China is expected to represent more than 40 percent of the global luxury market by 2025, but only about 10 percent of luxury goods sales made in the country are currently made through official online channels, according to McKinsey.
He will be assisted by a new chief operating officer, Olivier Shaeffer, who was most recently the the global COO of Sephora, to handle technology and logistics. He worked previously for Valeo, PWC and Carrefour.
YNAP just published its results for the first quarter of this year, the last ones before its takeover by Richemont. Its sales for the period inched up by only 0.5 percent to €518 million, but with growth of almost 8 percent in constant currencies. They rose by14 percent in the in-season sales channel and by more than 20 percent for YNAP's online marketplace, which hosts the online stores of important brands like Giorgio Armani and Valentino.
The highest growth rates were recorded in Italy, North America and Asia-Pacific. As YNAP is definitely moving upmarket ahead of its wedding with Richemont, sales at its off-price operations, Yoox and Outnet, went up by only 2 percent in local currencies, reaching €183.3 million. During the quarter, Outnet expanded its offer of discounted footwear and launched websites in the Middle East and Japan.
Meanwhile, a few days ago, Walmart made its biggest takeover so far with its takeover of a 77 percent stake in India's biggest e-tailer, Flipkart, with a record investment of $16 billion. It was also the biggest acquisition in India's history. As part of the investment, Walmart will inject $2 billion in new equity into the Indian company. At the request of its minority shareholders, Flipkart will seek to go public within the next four years.
Founded by two former Amazon employees in Bagalore in 2007, Flipakart is estimated to control 40 percent of the Indian online retailing sector, compared with Amazon's share of 31 percent. Forrester predicts that India's online retail market will go from €21 billion to €73 billion a year by 2022.
Observers noted that this bold move by the largest American brick-and-mortar retailer shows a major shift in its international expansion policy, which was previously focused on the acquisition of large local supermarket and hypermarket chains like its own.
It is evidently going also for the likes of Amazon around the world, following its $3.3 billion purchase two years ago of an American start-up discounter, Jet.com, which helped it to boost its own e-commerce revenues with the help of its founder, Marc Lore. Walmart previously acquired several fashion-related retailers such as Bonobos and ShoeBuy, whose items are now sold on Jet.com's website.