Two more luxury labels launch e-boutiques

Polo Ralph Lauren has announced that it will further extend its e-commerce reach with the launch of Ralphlauren.com in the UK. The news follows hot on the heels of another top label relenting to the internet's pull.

After the success of Ralph Lauren's US e-boutique, launched in 2000, the company has decided to roll out a British version on October 14. The site will offer a full assortment of clothing and accessories for men, women and children, in addition to a full array of home products. For women that includes the glamorous Ralph Lauren Collection, Black Label, Blue Label and the technical sports apparel line RLX. For men, that includes the refined Purple Label, Black Label and more casual Polo line.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after avant-garde label Maison Martin Margiela joined the world of e-commerce. The e-boutique, launched on October 1, is powered by the fashion retailing site YOOX and is rendered in MS-DOS font, giving it the cool look of a syntax error message. The site sells key pieces from Lignes 0, 10, 22, 11, and 6, as well as shoes, jewelry, menswear, and online exclusive pieces like the reinterpretation of the brand's signature "5 Zips" leather biker jacket.

Just four years ago, 68 percent of top luxury brands did not sell their products online, according to the Retail Bulletin. But wealthy customers are of growing importance to e-commerce. Affluent customers are arguably doing a disproportionate amount of online shopping. Households with incomes of $100K or more comprised 37 percent of total online spending in the second quarter of 2010 while households with incomes of less than $50K comprised 22 percent, according to an eMarketer report.

"Affluent consumers now expect luxury retailers' websites to replicate the same shopping experience they offer in their stores," says Jeffrey Grau, a senior analyst at the firm. "Yet many luxury brands have not risen to the occasion. Several, like Chanel, have been slow to launch fully transactional websites and need to take e-commerce more seriously or will risk alienating their customer base."

Ralph Lauren UK:  http://www.ralphlauren.co.uk/home/index.jsp?ab=int_fd_unitedkingdom

Maison Martin Margiela: http://eboutique.maisonmartinmargiela.com/home.asp?tskay=2B0A884F

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