Susanne and Christoph Botschen, founders of online luxury women’s fashion retailer MyTheresa.com, are setting their sights on a new, more streamlined business model. After thirty years in retail, they’re convinced: Less is more.
This month, they launched MarthaLouisa, exclusively selling footwear, mostly by designers like Prada and Saint Laurent. (Gucci and Balenciaga are coming soon, according to the site.) Emerging contemporary brands, including Leandra Medine’s MR by Man Repeller and model-turned-designer Chloe Gosselin’s namesake label, are also in the mix.
The couple, best known for MyTheresa.com, opened physical boutique Theresa in Munich in 1987. About twenty years later, they launched its e-commerce counterpart. They sold both businesses to Neiman Marcus Group in 2014 for a reported $185 million. At the time, they boasted 200 designer brands and were pulling in $130 million in annual revenue between them.
MyTheresa.com is in a crowded space that also includes behemoths Net-a-Porter, Farfetch and MatchesFashion. A reported three-year non-compete clause prevented the Botschens from jumping into a new fashion venture straight away, so they spent the break following the industry and pinpointing a white space. “There was no e-commerce website dedicated to luxury footwear,” Christoph said.
The Botschens have positioned themselves well: According to Euromonitor, the global luxury footwear market grew by 4.4 percent in 2015 to reach $28 billion, and it’s expected to reach $36 billion by 2020.
The couple has no plans to open brick-and-mortar locations or to extend offerings far beyond what’s in place. It’s all about a fine-tuned curation, Christoph said — to some extent, anyway.
Direct-to-consumer shoe brands, like Sarah Flint and M.Gemi, will never be competitors, he said, as “none of them have MarthaLouisa’s range.” He went on to reference the retailer’s variety of brands and price points.
This week, Chistoph spoke with Glossy about what he learned from MyTheresa.com, what defines an online luxury shopping experience and why specialty stores are the future of retail. Edited highlights are below.
What key learnings from MyTheresa.com are you applying to MarthaLouisa?
We have learned to trust our intuition. If you want to be successful in e-commerce, you must combine your knowledge of pure e-commerce with your experience as a real merchant. The luxury market has changed quite a lot. There are more competitors now, and the customer is used to see-now buy-now, even for luxury goods. On the other side, the number of luxury consumers has grown tremendously and is still growing.
What do you see as the biggest challenge for multi-brand retailers?
The biggest challenge is to not give in to the urge to offer a product’s whole range, in all colors and all heel heights, as this results in an outrageous amount of product for both the shop and the customer who doesn’t want to sift through 10 colors. Shoppers want a curated selection of special styles and essentials. This is where we want to stand out: positioning ourselves as shoe specialists. The time is right for specialists online, in general.
How important were the relationships you built while at MyTheresa in getting luxury brands on board for MarthaLouisa?
They were essential. More than once, designers told us during buying appointments that they would not be working with us if not for our past. Some of them are quite overdistributed, but they liked our idea and encouraged us to order whatever we’d like. My wife [Susanne] is our buyer, and her good taste is well-known.
What made you decide to balance the luxury brands you carry with emerging, more affordable brands?
There is no [footwear-only] site that has this mix of top designer brands and contemporary brands, and I think the customer has always wanted this. There are women who love stylish and well-manufactured shoes, like you get from top designers, but can’t afford them — so it was important to us to be able to offer them beautiful shoes in the contemporary, affordable-luxury price range.
What’s your definition of a luxury shopping experience online?
It is a luxury shopping experience when you enjoy the process. You should have the feeling that someone competent has chosen the best styles for you from worldwide brands. And when you’re facing an occasion, like a summer holiday, and don’t know what kind of shoes to wear, you should be able to find a nice selection that helps you choose quickly and buy in one click. Specialty stores are the future, because they give the joy of shopping back to the customer.