In these days of Coronavirus, the situation is not easy for anyone. As previously reported, many retailers are facing difficult times due to the obligatory closures they have to bear (also read here and here). It’s a similar situation for many e-commerce giants (see also here). Yoox Net-a-porter informed its users that it is temporarily closing its distribution centers and suspending service in the US, Europe and Middle East, although it continues to operate in Asia Pacific. Zalando has lowered its Q1 2020 earnings forecast while Asos and Amazon were accused of having unsafe conditions for their employees. As a result, Amazon workers recently started striking in the US and Italy.

Despite present difficulties many retailers that used to sell only through their own brick-and-mortar shops are considering the possibility of going online, especially because times for re-opening seem uncertain and the danger is not over yet. Also China, despite already restarting many of its activities, is registering a few new cases often brought in from foreign countries. Therefore the situation still appears critical.



“We expect this suffering period might last for a long time. Many retailers are becoming more and more aware that online could give them an opportunity to start selling again,” says Giovanni Meda, founder of Zerogrey and Kooomo, consulting companies specialized in building and running online stores for globally renowned brands, and also an expert in creating digital commerce platforms.

Giovanni Meda
Photo: X
Giovanni Meda
“Joining vast marketplaces can help retailers, though the best opportunity for a store is to start organizing their own direct online store,” continues Meda. “In fact, being part of huge online platforms, like Amazon and eBay, and to some extent also Farfetch, doesn’t guarantee immediate visibility. One cannot expect that such platforms will evidently show your boutique immediately. Such marketplaces need at least three months for analyzing each single player’s performance joining them as they have specific KPIs [key performance indicators] to satisfy.”



Out of the vast selection of global marketplaces that sell very different products, fashion retailers often opt to work with specific platforms that only host other fashion shops. One of the most renowned ones grouping fashion retailers is Farfetch. This platform was founded in 2008 by José Neves, the current CEO. After he had opened his own small Bstore boutique in London in 2000, he thought that small boutique owners like him needed a platform for fashion consumers globally. “I built this platform for the love of fashion, to help the world’s most incredible curators and creators of fashion reach people around the world,” he says. “This is our community. We’ve built Farfetch together. And we will continue to do so, throughout this crisis and beyond.” Today Farfetch hosts more than 700 boutiques, most of which are family-run, from 50 countries worldwide. Its overall selection includes more than 3,000 designers, mostly small and unique brands.

José Neves
Photo: Farfetch
José Neves
As most of these stores are family-run and cannot welcome customers into their physical stores, they can trade online. “We are doing all that we can to help all of our partners, but especially the smaller ones,” continues Neves. “The most immediate help we can give is by ensuring that these boutiques are front and center on our site, so users can find their products. In some cases, we are managing their logistics so they can deliver orders safely, directly to consumers’ home. And we are waiving or reducing some of their costs of using our marketplace.”



Miinto is another e-commerce platform and was born in Denmark in 2009. It connects online consumers, boutiques and brands from seven different European markets and offers the opportunity to buy from 2,000 independent fashion stores. Thanks to it brands and stores can collaborate together by expanding their online market, while benefiting from its marketing, digital and technical competencies. The platform gets a 20%-24% commission from each store, based upon different product categories.

 

“The entire industry was hit by the Coronavirus like a train coming from nowhere and the same goes for us. We don’t have any products ourselves, any warehouses or similar. We only work through partnerships, mainly with physical retail boutiques, who are affected significantly right now, because of the closure of most of Europe,” explains Konrad A. Kierklo, CEO, Miinto.

Konrad A. Kierklo
Photo: Miinto
Konrad A. Kierklo
“We are an important part of many of our partners’ revenues these days, and we are doing everything we can to sell as many of their products as possible while also adding new partners to the platform.” To help its members, Miinto has started a new strategy, as explained by Kierklo: “For this period we have introduced free integration and sign-up to the platform for the two coming months to ensure all boutiques can go online and get revenues, and this has caused an explosion in inbound and boutiques that need to get online. Normally we get around 50-60 new partners per month, while at the moment we get more than about 20-30 new partners per day.”



Another key aspect that characterizes Miinto is its support of local shopping. “Our concept is built around local boutiques, and we have seen many customers wanting to support the local boutiques and visiting Miinto to buy their clothing and shoes instead of international ‘renown’ webshops with warehouses,” Miinto’s CEO explains. “We have seen a drop in terms of consumers’ demand compared to 2019 and some markets are more hurt than others, but we do feel a lot of support for buying local and are therefore able to sell a lot of products for our partners. We see a strong shop local movement in Scandinavia where we are strongest though we see less from others like, for instance, Poland.”



Another marketplace grouping various retailers together is Giglio.com, a platform founded by the Italian chain of fashion stores Giglio at the end of 2019. The platform collects about 100 stores, mostly Italian ones, and asks its participants for a 27% commission.

 

Although the platform has debuted recently, it is generating increasing interest. “We have been literally submerged by participation requests to our Community Store,” says Giuseppe Giglio, president of the board of directors, who manages the group together with his brother and CEO Federico Giglio.

Federico and Giuseppe Giglio
Photo: Bio Min
Federico and Giuseppe Giglio
“We have entirely dematerialized the company, having IT, customer care, marketing, supply chain, editorial and merchandising teams all acting via smart working. Shipments, instead, are managed by our fully operating logistics. We presently think it’s important to keep our machine working in order to guarantee the best possible service to clients asking for our support.”



From a geographical perspective the site has seen the highest decrease of orders from Europe and the US. Meanwhile, orders from Asia are growing despite the slow rhythms of February and the Middle East business has stayed stable.



The platform has also launched its new solidarity project “Kum!” through which revenues generated from products’ sales are shared among all boutiques participating the Community Store. “It’s a virtuous way for helping each other reciprocally. Those hit by the pandemic first are now returning to normality and this makes us hope that restrictive measures taken by governments–before or later–are effective. It will take months before markets return to the usual regular rhythms. Selling worldwide will help us keeping a balance among different geographical areas’ difficulties,” adds Giuseppe Giglio.



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