Our guest this week is Michael Kliger, CEO of Mytheresa, the fast-growing global e-commerce destination for luxury fashion---and one of only a handful of retail "disruptor" brands that actually makes money. We learn about Mytheresa's rapid evolution since its founding in 2006, and get a glimpse into how an intense focus on the customer--characterized by curation, personalization, and localization--has fueled their success.
Our guest this week is Michael Kliger, CEO of Mytheresa, the fast-growing global e-commerce destination for luxury fashion---and one of only a handful of retail "disruptor" brands that actually makes money.
With Steve facing technical issues, our interview segment turns out to be a duet of Michael's, who explore the current state of the international luxury market and what makes Mytheresa truly remarkable within it. We learn about Mytheresa's rapid evolution since its founding in 2006, and get a glimpse into how an intense focus on the customer--characterized by curation, personalization, and localization--has fueled their success.
We also go deep on how Michael thinks about "acquiring the right customers" and the magic formula that is essential to driving strong customer lifetime value. We close with a discussion of sustainability in the fashion world and the importance of story-telling and making memorable emotional connections with customers.
But first we open with our hot-takes on the past week in retail news, including what it means to live in a VUCA world and why our season opening admonition to "buckle-up buttercup" almost makes us retail prophets. We also try to make sense of the blockbuster Kroger and Albertson's merger, TikTok's rumored entry into e-commerce, and the latest results from Steve's old employer (and MyTheresa's former corporate parent), Neiman Marcus.
We close by highlighting strong results from fast-growing Aritzia--one of the OG's of DTC--while wondering aloud whether Vuori--part of the newer generation--can successfully expand globally.
Mr. Kliger has served as Chief Executive Officer and as a member of our Management Board since September 2020. He has served as President and Chief Executive Officer of mytheresa.com GmbH, Theresa Warenvertrieb GmbH and MGG since March 2015. He previously served as VP International at eBay Enterprise from March 2013 to February 2015. Prior to that, Mr. Kliger served as Executive Director at Accenture from September 2010 to December 2012. Prior to that, Mr. Kliger served as Managing Director at First Capital Partners GmbH from September 2007 to September 2010. Prior to that, Mr. Kliger served as Vertriebsgeschäftsführer at real,- SB-Warenhaus GmbH from January 2005 to April 2007. Prior to that, Mr. Kliger worked at McKinsey & Company from February 1992 to December 2004 serving last as Principal. Mr. Kliger serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Valora AG since March 2017. He holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management and a Diploma degree from the Berlin University of Technology.
Steve Dennis is an advisor, keynote speaker and author on strategic growth and business innovation. You can learn more about Steve on his website. The expanded and revised edition of his bestselling book Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption is now available at Amazon or just about anywhere else books are sold. Steve regularly shares his insights in his role as a Forbes senior contributor and on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can also check out his speaker "sizzle" reel here.
Michael LeBlanc is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice. He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career. Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast, The Voice of Retail, plus Global E-Commerce Tech Talks , The Food Professor with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois and now in its second season, Conversations with CommerceNext! You can learn more about Michael here or on LinkedIn.
Be sure and check out Michael's latest venture for fun and influencer riches - Last Request Barbecue, his YouTube BBQ cooking channel!
Michael LeBlanc 00:05
Welcome to Remarkable Retail podcast, Season 5, Episode 15, presented by MarketDial. I'm Michael LeBlanc.
Steve Dennis 00:12
And I'm Steve Dennis.
Michael LeBlanc 00:13
Second time we've been on the mic this week, Steve, yesterday, a pre-prep call with our upcoming session at NRF. With Gretchen Ganc from The Container Store. Looking forward to that, right.
Steve Dennis 00:24
Yeah, I think it's going to be super, super, interesting. First of all, The Container Store is, I think, a truly remarkable retailer or they've been doing a lot of interesting things to improve their performance of late. A little bit of a teaser, I'm going to preview some new material I'm starting to work on, more on that probably next season. But yeah, I think it's going to be a great session. And we got a great, great moderator I hear.
Michael LeBlanc 00:47
For those of you who are heading to NRF, Monday, January 16, at the Javits Convention Center. So, looking forward to that, and I guess we should also give a bit of a hint, we'll have someone else from The Container Store on the show coming up very soon, right?
Steve Dennis 00:58
Yeah, we've got two exciting CEOs coming up, one from TCS, The Container Store, and one from TSC and Tractor Supply.
Michael LeBlanc 01:10
I was confused (crossover talk), I was looking at the spreadsheet (inaudible) dude, writing my script and like do I have that right. Oh, did I? Oh, no, that's, that's right. Kind of a funny, funny coincidence. Now speaking of interviews, in this episode, we're off to Europe to talk to Michael Kliger, CEO of Mytheresa, which is a fascinating, multi-brand online luxury retailer that actually, wait for it, makes money.
Steve Dennis 01:35
What! (crossover talk), but I do have to correct you, when you say we're off. Oh, that's true. It's not exactly true. Because apparently, there's some rule about the conservation of Michael's. And since I was Steve, my computer decided to shut down very awkwardly, about two minutes before the interview started. So, listeners will be blessed with a Steve free interview. But I can assure them having listened to it rather than participated in it. It's a great, great conversation. And thank you very much for persevering.
Michael LeBlanc 02:11
We're a little bit inside baseball, I mean, with particularly when we're interviewing CEOs, public companies, there's a lot of timing involved with quiet periods and when we can do it, and of course, getting someone with a time zone change. So, we just decided not to try to move the date, but just to go ahead with the interview. So, I guess why don't you just take the news for the rest of the half hour and then, (crossover talk),
Steve Dennis 02:31
Here's, here's my monologue. Sit down, get a cup of coffee,
Michael LeBlanc 02:36
A cup of coffee and listen. Well, listen to all that being said, let's jump into the news. So, I guess a quick mention of some economic reports, the CPI, PPI reports, you know what's going on, we see US inflation easing slightly, but a little higher than expected, the market went crazy up, down and sideways. What, what's your take on the latest news?
Steve Dennis 02:57
I want to briefly mention this, I guess, you know, I don't want every week to be talking about inflation. You know, that's obviously a hot topic. And I guess the broader point, and it's something that I get into in, in my book, but I've been talking a lot about in my keynotes is this idea of living in a so called VUCA world, which is an acronym, it kind of comes out of military strategy for the world being volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. And when I put that in the book, which I finished, you know, almost three years ago, now, in the first edition, I absolutely believe that was the case.
Steve Dennis 03:19
I now see the world as even more, certainly more volatile. We could argue, maybe about the other three parts of the acronym. And, and I think the broader point is, you know, we are in a period that is quite unusual, on a lot of dimensions. And when you layer on top of that the geopolitical risks, you know, whatever the hell Putin is going to do, as well, as you know, anything else that might emerge, you know, particularly in the US, it's a very divisive politics. So, I just think, you know, the message, really, and it's something where we will actually, will talk about in our NRF talk is how to fundamentally be more agile, how to be able to realize what you don't know, and be able to adapt quickly. So, I just think that's the theme we're going to be coming back to. I do feel a little good, though, that we, when we did our trailer, and I know we got a little bit of while we got both positive comments, in terms of it being funny, but other people like come on you guys are so negative when we talked about you know, buckling up, buttercup.
Michael LeBlanc 04:33
Steve Dennnis 04:34
I think wow. We're more (Inaudible), at that time, than, than we thought.
Michael LeBlanc 04:44
Breaking news, well it was breaking news today. We're recording this on Friday. By the time you're listening to this. It's kind of not old news. But well-known news our friend Lauren Thomas now at Wall Street Journal. Congratulations to Lauren, if she's listening. She confirms the deal is happening. Kroger is going to buy Albertsons in a 24.6-billion-dollar deal. What, what, do you think of this shakeup in the grocery space?
Steve Dennis 05:05
Wow, this is huge news, as we say in New York. Yeah, the second largest grocery company merging with the fourth largest player, I didn't realize I was looking at just some of the numbers. But you know, 5000 stores, over 5000 stores, I guess, together, they would represent about 16% of the total market. So, it is still a very fragmented business. Walmart is being, being the leader. But I think you know, this is, you know, we talked about our time at Groceryshop, grocery has become kind of the most dynamic part of retail, in the last year or two and in a lot of fronts, and I suspect this is driven by, you know, more cost synergies, perhaps, trying to gird themselves from an increasing threat from Amazon. But yeah, it's just a hyper-competitive industry with a lot of things changing. So, whether this will get through antitrust? I think that's a big question. I think but, but pretty interesting.
Michael LeBlanc 06:05
Well, it's pretty interesting, because in the US, and you know, in Canada, we've got basically four, maybe five big players who divide the market up. And two of those players are Walmart and Costco. So, I think, you know, Amazon's not really considered a player in any meaningful way here in Canada. I mean, they've got, I don't know, 14 Whole Foods. And I think that's exactly the same today, current state in the US. I mean, it's interesting that they call out, you know, got to protect against Amazon, they're so far behind. Listen, it's a fascinating industry, because it got a huge tailwind from the COVID era with so many people shifted their consumption into grocery. And it, it, it from the outside in, it's an interesting merger, because there's a lot of a ton of overlap. I mean, they've all got, like, dozens of brands that probably step on each other in interesting ways.
Michael LeBlanc 06:37
But grocery is a business of scale, right? They measure things and tonnage. And the more scale you have, the more buying power you have. It's really allows them to compete with who really matters, which is, you know, Walmart, Target, Costco, Sam's, I mean, these are big, big, big players. So, you know, I think, I think they're girding their way to a, not too much of a fight in terms of consolidation. But I don't know, I've seen it go the other way, right. Staples, tried to get together with Office Depot, and, and that got denied. And they said, Listen, it's true, we're the two biggest but you know, there's a lot of players who play in our category.
Steve Dennis 06:49
Michael LeBlanc 06:52
So, it'll be super interesting to watch, (crossover talk),
Steve Dennis 07:24
Plenty of places to buy this stuff that they, they, both sell.
Michael LeBlanc 07:27
Other than that, I don't know if it's this in the world of rumor. TikTok talking about a US fulfillment center, which made me laugh, because they're like they're taken on Amazon. I think Amazon's got a few more than one, (crossover talk).
Steve Dennis 07:40
Yeah, I mean, this story is sort of interesting. You know, on the one hand, given how strong TikTok is, as a platform, particularly with Gen Z customers, I saw a couple of stats about how much time the typical Gen Z person spends on the platform, something like 50% of Gen Z product searches start on TikTok. So, you can see the potential appeal of actually getting into retail in a more significant way. I'm not sure I understand why they would necessarily have to own their own fulfillment facilities. And this story is actually sourced based upon job postings. This is not an official announcement, as far as I've seen, from TikTok. So, it's still sort of rumored but there's a lot of evidence that they are, they're looking to make a move. So, you know, sort of understandable in a way, but yeah, there's a long way to go before they would be a significant retail player. But when you get that kind of traffic and that kind of engagement, you know, you could see why they would want to perhaps explore this in a more significant way.
Michael LeBlanc 08:45
Yeah, that's fair. That's fair. Let's talk about Neiman Marcus, some good results, some good news coming out of the Dallas based former employer of yours, what say you about their latest results?
Steve Dennis 08:55
Yeah, this, this got, actually, because they're a private company. They don't share a lot about their financials, but GVR as their CEOs, apparently nicknamed, because it's more complicated name, Geoffroy van Raemdonck, I think I probably totally butchered that. But, but yeah, (crossover talk), they reported, (crossover talk),
Michael LeBlanc 09:13
Feel free for the Neiman Marcus folks to correct us in person at the NRF show, because I think he's speaking there. So, (crossover talk), we will have to get him on, (crossover talk),
Steve Dennis 09:20
He is, yeah, maybe we'll, we'll learn from him. But yeah, they had huge (inaudible) store increases. Now they're compared to pretty easy numbers, but also reported strong EBITDA. What was interesting to me, and folks may know that, that between the time I left, there were new private equity owners. Then eventually during the heart of COVID, they filed, Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy, closed a bunch of stores that now have gotten their debt down to a very manageable level. So, that it's kind of a new day for them and they seem to be getting some momentum
Steve Dennis 09:39
But it's interesting to me as far as I could tell, the sales level, first party sales, there are, less if you adjust for inflation, are less than when I left in 2008. And while the EBITDA percentage is pretty healthy and greatly improved, if you adjust for inflation, it's still significantly less than the EBITDA that we had in 2008. So, you know, it's a little bit, bit of perspective. I mean, overall, they have not gained ground in the luxury market in the last 15 years. But they are on a much, much better trajectory than, than they had been. So, that's encouraging, you know, but I think, you know, we'll, we'll need another year or two to see if they're, they're really back to kind of the role of luster.
Michael LeBlanc 10:47
Well, let's talk about a Canadian based company that's a little bit under the radar screen. But has released the results and is really doing quite, quite well. Aritzia, what, what do you think about Aritzia?
Steve Dennis 10:59
Well, there's a couple of reasons why I wanted to talk about this story. One is I just think that Aritzia is one of these brands, (inaudible), you know, as you know more far better than I do. They're, they're a major, major player in Canada, but they're becoming a more significant player in the US. And I feel like they're kind of under the radar screen, in a lot of ways, because they're like, you know, close to $2 billion, I think and in sales, very profitable, (crossover talk),
Michael LeBlanc 11:24
Beautiful stores on Fifth Avenue and SoHo like they're, they're, (crossover talk),
Steve Dennis 11:27
Yeah, great growth trajectory. So, I partially just want to lift them up. I think it is a, as a great example of remarkable retail, that perhaps doesn't get as much attention as they deserve. I also and this was something I've, you know, I think we've discussed a couple of times in the podcast, but I was I was kind of messing around on, on Twitter yesterday about, you know, trying to point out that DTC is not a new phenomenon and that they're actually some of the, the OGs of DTC, like a Aritzia, like Duluth Trading Company, that are quite sizable, and quite profitable, unlike many of the brands, you know, the Allbirds in the world or whatever, they get all this attention that are quite a bit smaller and not necessarily anywhere close to making any money. And you know, they didn't invent direct-to-consumer, you know, at all so,
Michael LeBlanc 12:17
Nor did they perfect it by the way.
Steve Dennis 12:24
Michael LeBlanc 12:25
Listen, I could go on about Aritzia, you know a fantastic company, Brian Hill who started Aritzia is one of the best merchants I've ever met. Last but not least, our friend. He's been on the podcast before Joe Kula from Vuorie is heading east, he kind of hinted at that in the episode, but it sounds like he has manifested it and made it happen.
Steve Dennis 12:40
Yeah, a couple things. Well, first of all, I would encourage you. I've gotten so many great comments about, about Joe's interview, just as being really, really insightful. And you know, of course, a lot of folks didn't necessarily know the brand. So, it was fun to learn. But Joe is a guy who comes from an accounting background, who's now you know, created and led this really fast-growing brand. But folks that know the brand may know that it's got kind of this Southern Cal-vibe to it. So, the move of opening, actually, they opened a new store in London last month, I believe. And they just opened their largest store ever, a 5000 square foot store, in New York. And they've got store openings coming to actually the Dallas store I think's going to open in the next few weeks, Boston and some other international locations. So, a big move for them. It'll be interesting to see, you know, certainly a great brand, still relatively small, but whether that, that Southern California vibe will, will translate to different sorts of geographies. So, I think that's, that's they're going to be a brand really to watch across the next year or so.
Michael LeBlanc 13:46
All right, well, let's, let's leave it there. Let's hear from our great sponsor, presenting sponsor MarketDial before we get to our fantastic interview. Sorry, my fantastic interview. That sounds a bit (crossover talk), self-serving.
Steve Dennis 13:57
Rub it in Michael.
Michael LeBlanc 14:00
It's Michael Kliger from Mytheresa.
Michael LeBlanc 14:04
MarketDial is an easy-to-use testing platform, emboldens and Bolton's great decisions leading to reliable, scalable results. With MarketDial you can be confident in the outcome of your in-store pilot initiatives before rolling them out across your fleet. In a challenging retail climate of supply chain disruption, labor shortages and dynamic customer behavior. The need for reliable insights has never been greater. Validate your remarkable ideas with MarketDials in-store testing solution. The proof is in the testing. Learn more at marketdial.com. That's marketdial.com.
Michael LeBlanc 14:31
Michael, welcome to the Remarkable Retail podcast. How are you doing this afternoon?
Michael Kliger 14:42
I'm doing very well. Thanks for having me.
Michael LeBlanc 14:45
Well, thanks so much for joining us. Where are we finding you today?
Michael Kliger 14:50
You can find me today in Munich, where I haven't been in quite a while because I've gone on the fashion circle. Down to New York Fashion Week and then (inaudible) in Paris. So, this is the second day I'm back.
Michael LeBlanc 15:06
All right, well listen. Let's, let's jump right in, let's talk about you. Tell us a bit about yourself how you got to where you are and, and what you do for a living.
Michael Kliger 15:15
Half of my career was spent in consulting, I worked for McKinsey. And then I switched over to real work and worked in retail, worked in physical retail but then also worked in digital. Before joining Mytheresa, I worked at eBay, I worked at the eBay Enterprise Division for bringing brands online, to eBay in Europe and Asia. And since 2015, I am the CEO of MyTheresa, I joined the company in the, in the, wake of Neiman Marcus acquiring the company from the founders and I have been CEO of Mytheresa ever since then.
Michael LeBlanc 15:59
I've interviewed lots of great McKinsey consultants who, some of whom have stayed in McKinsey for their entire careers, but many have moved on. Was that your plan when you joined consulting? Was it or did you have a plan so to speak or did retail which sometimes has been described as the accidental career come up as just an opportunity that you couldn't miss?
Michael Kliger 16:17
I mean, I worked on retail as I was in McKinsey from the beginning. So, I mean, my very first project back in 92, was for a retailer. I never planned to stay so long at McKinsey, I stayed for 12 years that was not planned. Luckily, I still got out.
Michael LeBlanc 16:36
Well, you made it, you made it out. And of course, anyone who makes it out of McKinsey's (inaudible) got both the opportunity to prove all those great things that they've been telling everybody but also it's a, it's a very different life. Let's talk about Mytheresa, tell us for the listeners who may not know of it, give us a sense of the brand, who's your target customer, the scale, scope, where you operate and, and of course what makes it remarkable.
Michael Kliger 17:00
I am happy to do so. You need to stop me if I talk too much about Mytheresa because I really like the company. We are an online or digital luxury platform for fashion and lifestyle products. We are really focusing on the high-end luxury part of that business. That means we focus on luxury shopping. You could broadly differentiate two types, two extreme types of customers. The one is the intermittent customer; they want to own one pair of luxury sneakers or one luxury bag. But that may be the one and only luxury item they ever buy or at least that one item they buy in that year.
Michael LeBlanc 17:43
So maybe they're buying a suit or a nice dress for a fundraiser or something. So, they, they, there are the occasion, (crossover talk) shoppers, so to speak.
Michael Kliger 17:49
Not even that because I mean the, the, the, the occasional intermittent, they will really want that one piece that, that they, it's more of an investment. So, if you buy a luxury bag, if you buy a MS bag, that is your bag for the next X years. If you move into ready-to-wear that is of course, much more fashion. So, if you buy a dress, this could be out of season next year. Whereas a sneaker, I mean particularly in accessories, there are many luxury items that are what we call our carryover, they are sold by the brands for many seasons. On ready-to-wear, most pieces are only sold for that one season and don't come back in the next season, meaning spring, summer or fall winter.
Michael LeBlanc 18:06
Michael Kliger 18:07
There are new items coming and therefore the other extreme version of customers are the ones that really live a luxury lifestyle, their wardrobe buildings, builders, they buy a lot of ready-to-wear, that's our business for over 40% of our business is ready-to-wear. And these are of course, the much bigger spenders, the occasional shoppers, they're many and many of the big brands build a huge business on selling a lot of accessories to many people but we focus on those that spend a lot, buy a lot. And, and, and, and the advantage of that is A) these are quite lucrative customers because once you acquire them and manage to retain them, they come back and back.
Michael Kliger 18:03
So, on your initial marketing investment, you get a higher return. But also, these customers what they really look for is inspiration. So, if you set your eyes on a certain pair of sneakers or if you set your eyes on a, on a, on a particular luxury bag, you will go to the .com of that brand. You know you want to have a sandal, (inaudible) you probably go to Sandaleshomme.fr and purchase it there.
Michael LeBlanc 18:21
Michael Kliger 18:22
Our customers are much more occasion driven. So, as you mentioned, I have a gala next week. I need a dress, I want to update my work wardrobe, I have a family affair. And so, they clearly have a set of brands they like. But if you look for a floral dress, you are still open, you want someone that presents to you floral dresses. And this is where curation is so important. And this is what we do. We have (inaudible) brands, we curate, you look for a floral dress, you have a chance to go through 100-150 dresses of luxury brands, and, and, and that is our core business. And when I joined Mytheresa was a $100 million business. In the meantime, we are a $750 million company. We are, I would say one, if not the only luxury platform that makes money. And so, it is really the focus on high end on only luxury brands, focus on the high end customer that produces a very unique financial profile.
Michael LeBlanc 18:51
And, and do you consider yourself global? I'm sitting here in Toronto, Canada, can I order from your brand? Or what's your scale around the world?
Michael Kliger 18:57
You could absolutely and we have a great business in Canada and very happy clients. It's growing very fast. Last fiscal year, we shipped to 133 countries in the world.
Michael LeBlanc 19:43
Fantastic, (crossover talk),
Michael Kliger 19:28
Business 50% of our business, a bit more sits still in Europe, 25% sits in Asia Pacific, 15% in North America. And then there are still many places in the world, particularly the Middle East where we have significant business.
Michael LeBlanc 21:34
So, interesting. Now you mentioned you were at fashion week did you happen to catch this, this spray on dress that was on the model, Bella Hadid who was getting some, some buzz. Did you catch the buzz or catch that event where they sprayed a dress on and then she walked around in it? And what do you, what do you think of that?
Michael Kliger 21:51
Great marketing and not a product for me to sell.
Michael LeBlanc 21:56
That's a diff-, as you know, it leads me to the discussion around how your business has evolved. You know, basically you touched on at the beginning part, you were part of the Neiman Marcus group. So, over the years that even pre-, before you joined, but in the years that you've been a CEO, how, how's the business itself evolved in your mind?
Michael Kliger 22:16
The business was set up by the founders who operated a classic boutique, (inaudible), in Munich. We still operate that boutique, and it still exists. And, and I think it's very important to understand this origin because it defines our DNA. They started online to serve clients. They had clients in Hamburg and said, look, we rarely come to Munich, is there no other way. And so, they started the online business in 2006, the boutique, they opened in 87. And then it grew, it grew with customer demand. But they always saw that as an extension of the boutique. And so, they really saw it as a continuation of curation, of inspiration of, presenting to your clients, things they will like, not an endless aisle concept. And it grew and grew. And it first started with German, French, Italian websites. And then the business further evolved and by 2014, the online part was much, much bigger. It was already sort of, five times the size of the boutique. And then in, in, in 2015 with the new ownership, we of course said okay, how will we grow this business?
Michael LeBlanc 22:58
Michael Kliger 22:59
And, and there was a debate, shall we stay in Europe, shall we increase the brand count, shall we also include premium and contemporary. And at that time, we made a very firm decision. We stay in high end luxury. We will grow by serving the same type of customers around the world. And so the decision was not to go broad but to go global. (N) We added Arabic in 15, Korean in 16, Mandarin in 17. We really tried to be much better at, at localizing the offer. We expanded from women's wear to menswear In 19, in 20, we added (inaudible) in 19. We have set up offices around the world. We now have offices in New York, with a team of shop-, personal shoppers, PR, social events. We now have an office in Shanghai again with personal shoppers, PR, social marketing. So, this is, and this is unique about luxury. It is a global market. I mean a good (inaudible) bag is a product that is liked, understood, desired across the world. And in many other consumer sectors there are quite huge differences in consumption patterns in, in behavior, I mean, this is a global product. And we go after the global luxury spenders. And, and so the business evolved. I mean, obviously, with the growth, we, we, we had to update all the infrastructure, be it IT, offices multiple times, We, we, (crossover talk),
Michael LeBlanc 25:21
I was going to say, that's a very important decision to make, right? Are we going to go through breadth? Or are we going to stay rigorously curated, but then go global? And, and really do global, well. Which is what you're describing, right? Different offices,
Michael Kliger 25:35
Michael LeBlanc 25:37
Real localization, real, real focus now, around you, the industry itself, what's happening in the industry? Of course, we just went through a couple of years of the COVID era, which, you know, suppressed demand for certain commodities and, and you know, as you as you reflect on those years, were in some kind of post quasi-post-COVID era. Did you, did you witness changes in the industry that, that have impacted you and, you know, how is, how are you thinking about the customers today? Is there a big bounce back, kind of a, you know, let's get back to it, how are you thinking about that.
Michael Kliger 26:09
The main impact of the pandemic was an acceleration of things that happened before. Okay, so what is the state of the industry when I joined Mytheresa, it was at 4% of personal luxury that was sold online, it was slowly growing. That was also why I actually joined the company because I firmly believe luxury would follow the same trend in other categories. But the pandemic has, of course, really jumped it. And last year, we were at 22%. online arbitrage research, we will reach 30% by 25. But the pandemic pushed clients towards online, that may work that may only, would have joined us in a couple of years. So, this is number one.
Michael Kliger 26:33
Number two, online because of the increase in penetration was a booming market with many platforms, many startups and many companies developing nicely. With the pandemic brands really said okay, are we sure we want this on which platforms and also during the pandemic? As you said, on the one hand stores were closed, great for Digital's but on the other hand, all the occasions for which you buy luxury will also be closed or not existing. So, it wasn't like oh, superb time, it was a difficult time. And the second thing that the pandemic is accelerating is consolidation. Only a few players that can really add value for customers be it because of curation, inspiration, be it of being the largest aggregator so we clearly since and I think at least in the US and Western Europe, we are post-COVID. We have seen real signs of accelerated consolidation in the market.
Michael LeBlanc 28:01
Now let's get to the business model itself. I mean, you are one of the few, Steve and I talk about this often on the podcast, we call it the wobbly unicorn segment, where we look at these startup unicorns that are really struggling. You seem to be, and you mentioned it off the top the, the growth and, and profitability. What's behind that success, is it the curation, is it, is it the focus? And, and what is it in the business model that everyone else seems to be getting wrong, that you're getting so right?
Michael Kliger 28:28
We're doing well, and we're very proud of it. But we also are quite aware of the shortcomings we still have. So, a healthy dose of paranoia keeps you going, but I think you mentioned, already, the two important words. One is focus. This is my learning after seeing many, many businesses. You need to focus on things and do them really, really well. And interesting enough, in real world competition. If you do one or two things really, really well. You can win already and don't even attempt to do 10 things really, really well. And what we are trying to do is serve this one customer segment, this one customer segment that is focused on curation, on inspiration that has a high loyalty. And because of our focus and our dedication, we are the leaders in curated and inspirational luxury shopping.
Michael Kliger 28:49
And then the whole mechanics of eCommerce, I mean, as you will know, the biggest expense of eCommerce is online marketing, customer acquisition costs. This is a large chunk, and it gets more expensive every year to acquire customers. And the main question that we always ask ourselves is not how much revenue? How much customer growth is, are we acquiring the right customers. And so we work a lot with AI algorithms to give us a view on future lifetime value of customers. Because if you acquire someone and that customer then stays with you for the next X years, five, six, 10 years and comes back, then you have a great return on your investment. If you acquire a customer that he or she buys one bag and is then gone. You have a revolving door business concept, and that is almost impossible to make profitable.
Michael LeBlanc 30:33
So, the retail industry, I guess, we should say the broader economics are changing I mean, I know, reading, I was just interviewing Ira Kalish from Deloitte talking about the global state of economies and Europe may or may not be heading into more difficult times, certainly, for a whole bunch of different reasons. The consumer continues to seem to be powering through it, at least your segment, is that a true statement that the folks that participate in your category are fairly recession proof to a degree and, and you're confident that you won't be kind of impacted too, too much by any economic headwinds.
Michael Kliger 31:12
I think it is fairly true. And we are absolutely confident that we, we will not be impacted, at least from what we know today from all the challenges we already know. I mean,
Michael LeBlanc 31:16
Right, (crossover talk),
Michael Kliger 31:19
In terms of numbers. So, the overall luxury market is at the moment and is still predicted for next year to grow five to 7%. The online part inside luxury is still predicted to grow 12 to 15%. And we guide our investors that we will grow 16 to 22%. So, it's a resilient sector overall, within this resilient sector online is growing faster. And within the online market, we are growing faster. And so the 16 to 22% that we put out as our guidance is not on the basis of zeros, it is on the basis of a very healthy sector. And our employees are, for example, are quite challenged. If you will need to spend 2000 euros more on just energy that is for our teams and our warehouses a huge amount. But for many of our customers 2000 euros is not a financial problem.
Michael LeBlanc 32:27
Let's shift gears a little bit. Let's talk about sustainability. I saw it described on your site, I think as a journey, not an end state. I mean, in one way, the goods that you sell are inherently sustainable and that they're built to last, right your higher end products. You're not talking fast fashion by any means, even though there's some seasonality to it. Is that the way you perceive sustainability or are there particular things that you wanted to call out in terms of that file that you, that you work on that you're proud of?
Michael Kliger 32:54
Well, we put out a commitment beginning at the beginning of the year, we divided our commitment into four buckets. We actually next week, we'll publish our first ESG report, reporting on progress on the four buckets and there are good things and, and things where we still need to improve a lot. So, around product you’re, you're absolutely right. I mean we have, relatively speaking, a good product. Most of our products are manufactured in Europe and manufactured from materials of highest quality to last. So, many of the aspects of fast fashion where it is sourced from the other part of the world is actually more geared towards fast consumption and fast throwing it out. This is not our case, it's a word often used in luxury is, timeless. So, we
Michael LeBlanc 33:48
Michael Kliger 33:49
Think we have a very good product story, and we actually promote it actively. The circular economy was luxury. We offer our customers the special service to sell their products on Vestiaire Collective, because if they don't like them because they're out of season, they're still of excellent quality. So, they're really good things to talk about. On the other hand, we are a company that is leaving a large carbon footprint. I mean, we ship around the world.
Michael LeBlanc 34:20
Michael Kliger 34:21
Shipping means (inaudible), shipping means airplanes. And so, we have commit-, we have made a commitment to offset this. We are carbon neutral as of the last fiscal year. But offsetting is, is, is of course still that we, we, we have a carbon footprint we actually offer to our customers, in addition to our commitment to offset. In addition, they can also offset all the offsetting with gold standard projects. But still, we have commitments to reduce the carbon footprint commitments to reduce waste. And, and that's the responsibility of the company. And there of course, it is true, it is a journey, as a company, as a business, you do produce a footprint, and you try to mitigate it, but you will always do so.
Michael LeBlanc 35:12
You touched on, which gives me a nice segue to my next, next question, talking about the resale market. So, you touched on, you know, a service that you would reach out to your customers who maybe got maybe a little bored of their product, it's still in wonderful shape. How do you, how do you see the resale market? Is it a competitor? It's a buzzy trend for sure. Is it rr is it a serious and lasting element as a luxury business or is it, is it de minimis it? Is it ancillary? Do I mean, the folks who participate in it say it's going to be huge, but what's your perspective?
Michael Kliger 35:43
I mean, I think this is, what do you mean by huge? I mean the, the, the global luxury market, just in fashion and fashion accessories is a market of 350-360 billion euros a year. So, if part of that also sits in, in circular and recycling and resale, it is still a significant, very significant business. My fundamental view is it is part of serving the customer. I don't think you should view the world in business models, and this is resale, this is firsthand, secondhand. The customer is who we serve. And, and, and, and we have customers that buy luxury, and you still find them buying fast fashion and you still find them buying and reselling on, on, on, resale platforms. The world is multifaceted and, and what the digital world is doing, it gives more and more power to the consumer. So, I think if there's a consumer demand, it's not good advice to resist it. It is much better advice to embrace it. We decided to embrace it with a partnership (inaudible). Some brands are now also actively in resale. Will it be bigger than the real luxury market of real means firsthand? No, I don't think so.
Michael LeBlanc 37:12
Well, let's, let's turn our minds to the last question, turn our minds to what's important going forward in luxury fashion? If it's not spray on dresses, how do you, you know, you've, you've just come out of New York, you you've got your hand on the pulse of leading edge, you're dealing with the best of the best, you both have a bespoke customer and you've got fantastic vendors. How are you, how are you thinking about luxury fashion, and then retail in general? How, what's your, what's your prognosis?
Michael Kliger 37:41
The days and times are quite risky to make any prognosis or, or forecast, you may get it wrong, but I would call out some fundamentals. Number one, luxury is pure emotions. The reason people buy luxury is because they don't need it, but they want it, it's a desire. And the emotions driving those, this desire can be quite different. I mean, pride, feeling of success, feeling of beauty,
Michael LeBlanc 38:03
Accomplishment, (crossover talk).
Michael Kliger 38:06
You need always to remind ourselves that in this industry, we serve an emotional need. And therefore, we need to approach this business. We need to make our customers feel good about their purchases. If they don't feel good about their purchase. we deprive them of their emotional benefit. And therefore, stores online, again, this is a business model, I can tell you there are fantastic stores out there you go in, you have a great feeling. You're, it's delightful, if you provide an experience, they will survive. There are many stores, unfortunately, that don't do that.
Michael Kliger 38:25
But it's the same on digital. I mean, just because you have a website, that doesn't mean the customer has a great experience. That doesn't mean the customer gets the emotional benefits that they're looking for. So, the divide in the industry is not bricks versus online. It's not, it's not marketplace versus 1-P, 2-P, 3-P whatever it is really, the divide is good or not good for the customer. And therefore, the fundamentals are really focused on that as a business. Listen to your customers. We do customer focus groups regularly. I read the Net Promoter Score comments every week. If you do that, you will do well, even though the world will probably look again quite differently in five years than what we see today.
Michael LeBlanc 39:40
Well, it's a remarkable story. And I guess my last question is what's next you've got, you've got a fast moving business. You've, you've already articulated plans for growth that, that go beyond the growth of the industry, anything you wanted to call out as in which you're particularly focused on for next year that you want folks to hear about.
Michael Kliger 39:57
I mean, there are two reasons we focus on, which is the US. We think we have many more opportunities there to grow, to make us known. To increase brand availa-, brand awareness, the same as for Asia. Second thing I want to call out, we will continue to add categories that we feel are relevant to our customers. So, we launched in May, home and lifestyle products that will be more, will be more products for the luxury customer, even outside of fashion, coming. And the third one, we are constantly thinking about service-, services for our top customers, money can't buy experiences that go beyond buying products, meet the designers, be at the shows, have virtual experiences, I think we are about inspiration, shopping and experiences. That's our core. And we will try very hard to please as many customers as we can going forward.
Michael LeBlanc 40:55
Well, Michael, it's a fantastic story. And I want to thank you for joining us on the Remarkable Retail podcast and sharing your journey with us. I know I learned a lot and I applaud; I congratulate you and the team on all the success, and I wish you much continued success. And hopefully, maybe we'll run across each other in person at an event soon and, and have a chat together. So, until then, thanks again for joining me on the Remarkable Retail podcast. And I wish you a great rest of your evening.
Michael Kliger 41:24
Thank you very much. And remember, you can shop with us in Toronto.
Michael LeBlanc 41:29
I'll spread the word. If you like what you heard, please follow us on Apple, Spotify, or your favorite podcast platform so you can catch up with all our great interviews, like our discussion with Seth Godin on what retailers can actually do to fight climate change. New episodes of Season 5 presented by MarketDial will show up each and every week. And be sure to tell your friends and colleagues in the retail industry all about us.
Steve Dennis 41:51
And I'm Steve Dennis, author of the best-selling book, ‘Remarkable Retail: How to Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption’. You can learn more about me, my consulting and keynote speaking at stevenpdennis.com.
Michael LeBlanc 42:05
And I'm Michael LeBlanc, Consumer Retail Growth Consultant, keynote speaker and producer and host of a series of retail trade podcasts including this one, plus, the host of the popular YouTube cooking show Last Request Barbecue. You can learn even more about me on LinkedIn, or at meleblanc.co.
Safe travels everyone.
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