Emma Mortimer, The Outnet managing director, on its 10th anniversary; picking the designers and models; and her customer DNA
today May 21, 2019
The Outnet is one of fashion’s most successful e-tailers, and a key division within Yoox Net-A-Porter (YNAP), the fashion industry’s online store leader. Focusing on previous seasons' designs at discount prices, The Outnet was launched in 2009.
In May 2018, YNAP named Emma Mortimer as its managing director, a new role overseeing buying, merchandising, sales, marketing and creative teams. A highly experienced e-tail executive, Mortimer has done stints at YNAP rival Matchesfashion, and helped launched the happening Dubai e-tailer The Modist.
YNAP does not break out sales of individual divisions, though its off-price operations, including its founding company, Italian discounter Yoox, hover around €200 million per quarter. We caught up with Mortimer to hear about her latest project at The Outnet, a 10th anniversary special collection featuring ideas by some 35 international acclaimed designers, and how she manages a team that delivers to over 100 countries.
FashionNetwork.com: Why have you created this limited edition of over 95 pieces from 35 designers?
Emma Mortimer: This collection was launched to mark our 10th anniversary milestone with some of our most celebrated designer brands, and to thank our customers for their continued support. The Outnet’s 10-year anniversary collection is a celebration of the strong relationships we have built with our international designer brands since our launch in 2009. The sheer volume of this collection is a testament to that, as what was meant to be a capsule collection of 10 items ended up being made up of almost 100 pieces!
FNW: What criteria did you use in the selection, and the designers?
EM: Our buying team went to market with the aim of working with brands that have played a big part in The Outnet’s journey and success over the past 10 years. Hero brands include Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Diane von Furstenberg, Paco Rabanne, Delpozo, and Christopher Kane, to name but a few. Delving into each of the brand’s archives, the designers have done exactly as we had hoped and curated a bespoke collection exclusively for The Outnet’s global customer.
FNW: And why did you choose this unusual mix of models, from Alek Wek to Paloma Faith to Jessica Kahawaty?
EM: Our 10th anniversary campaign features world-renowned model, designer and UNHRC ambassador Alek Wek; law graduate, TV host, model and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty; makeup artist, creative director and author Lisa Eldridge; mixed-media artist Quentin Jones and singer, songwriter and actress Paloma Faith. This line-up of amazing women not only ties into our annual campaign but reaffirms The Outnet as the ultimate destination for smart, confident, diverse and cultured women around the world.
FNW: Define the Outnet? Is it an off-season e-tailer?
EM: The Outnet was launched back in 2009 by the people behind Net-A-Porter and has since established itself as the go-to destination for the global, style-conscious shopper looking for the best designer products at great prices. We stock an unparalleled selection of past-season designer fashion from over 350 brands, such as Stella McCartney, Chloé, Valentino and Alexander McQueen, to name but a few, at amazing discounts of up to 75% off. We have built great relationships with the brands over the years and are also able to offer exclusive collaborations, as well as our own in-house brand Iris & Ink.
Whilst we retail past-season product, we operate as a full-price retailer would, executing everything we do with a highly-editorialized approach. Everything on site, from the product buy, through to how we visually merchandise the site, is fully curated and relevant to our global customer. We also have a very successful private label, Iris & Ink, which sits within our top five performing brands globally. Having a seasonal collection created in-house is a great asset – we have full creative control and can react accordingly to our customer’s wants and needs. We are very proud of The Outnet’s journey over the past 10 years. Beginning as a small start-up, evolving into a globally-respected fashion business, renowned for disrupting the discount model.
FNW: Define the Outnet shopper?
EM: The Outnet customer is cultured, successful, well-travelled and incredibly fashion savvy. Fashion is an integral part of her personal life and a way to express her individuality. She is confident in her style and does not feel pressured to buy ‘IT’ items.
For her, TheOutnet.com is a reliable source of unique finds from her go-to designers. For us, it is key to be able to influence and help our customer without dictating, as they are confident and know what they want.
FNW: What did you learn studying biology that you apply to your job today?
EM: Interestingly I studied human biology, which may seem like an odd choice to some, but numerous aspects have proven helpful in my career today. I am able to absorb large amounts of information and retain it; when it comes to running a large global business this definitely helps! The other aspect is an appreciation of the body as a living form with regards to movement and dressing. I also have a personal interest in the human brain and how we feel and think, especially in our emotional relationship with clothing.
FNW: What is the average age, spend and annual household income of your consumer?
EM: Our customer's average age is 38, she is cultured, successful and expects luxury in all aspects of her life with an average household income of £160k.
We have a great customer insights team who really hone in on who our customer is, and what makes her tick. Our extensive insights allow us to tailor the business to best serve our customers and help us to understand what factors are influencing results.
FNW: How many countries do you operate in? And in how many currencies?
EM: We offer express worldwide shipping to over 100 countries with customers able to purchase in nine currencies. We offer a seamless shopping experience across mobile, tablet and desktop with a customer care team fluent in 14 languages, available 24/7, 365 days a year. Last year saw an exciting development as we launched a dual-language site in Arabic, which is proving very successful.
FNW: What is the most expensive item you have ever sold? And what are you annual sales, and growth?
EM: We don’t disclose annual sales figures but the most expensive item we have ever sold was an $18k demi-couture dress from Dolce & Gabbana!
FNW: What’s the hardest challenge about managing The Outnet? The most fun element?
EM: There are so many layers to a business of this scale, so I think familiarizing yourself with every aspect and all the moving parts is certainly a huge undertaking and responsibility. But with that comes a fascinating amount of information and learning. A fun part is all the fabulous product we have access to! I love seeing it all, especially when we do our customer events, but the most enjoyable and inspiring aspect is working with such a fantastically talented team.
FNW: What percentage of your sales are on mobile phones? What will the percentage be in five years?
EM: We have seen considerable growth across mobile year on year, as I’m sure you can imagine. It makes up for just over 50% of the business and we expect this to continue to increase.
FNW: What is next big development in The Outnet this year?
EM: We have had such an exciting start to the year with our 10th anniversary and have many more strong brand collaborations coming up, along with a very special Iris & Ink collaboration, which will be our next large-scale celebration. So, watch this space!
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