The Net-A-Porter King on The New Direction of Ecommerce

We talk to the man who helped online fashion store NET-A-PORTER become a billion-dollar enterprise.


Christopher Colfer is a man who knows his Marc Jacobs from his McQueen. He also knows how to make big decisions, to keep high-end brands relevant. The Australian-Canadian ecommerce expert has overhauled ailing brands, like Dunhill, and turned them into luxury must-haves with year-over-year double-digit sales growth. Most famously he led the full acquisition of Net-A-Porter by Richemont in 2010, transforming a designer fashion ecommerce site into a billion plus company. Now in his new role as Non-Executive Director for online brand AHALife – a luxury goods market, much like Etsy for the craft community – he reflects on the emerging direction of ecommerce.

The global marketplace

Forget trawling the web for hours to find that elusive kombucha brew kit (it’s available from Brooklyn, by the way). The new ecommerce platforms will deliver the goods with a careful edit of covetable pieces from across the globe. AHAlife has over 3000 hand-picked designers selling their goods and wares which provides a huge opportunity not only to celebrate artisanal creativity, but make it accessible throughout the world. “It’s a new space that tackles new categories. They have a really nice addition which is the fact that they work with artisans from around the world,” says Christopher.

No backers needed

Traditionally Ecommerce retailers would purchase stock and hold it in a warehouse (or second bedroom!) but the new online marketplace skips the overheads and need for upfront capital. “When you own stock you use a lot of capital to buy stock, you use capital to warehouse stock, and then you use capital to have people and individuals to run those warehouses and the logistics behind them,” says Christopher. The new model of Ecommerce means anyone with a lightbulb idea and a laptop can open an online store.

It’s all about the backstory

The AHAlife team have pulled together the story behind many of the brands listed on their site. “One of the great things about AHAlife is that it has the ability to tell a back story and that’s a really important aspect as [to] why people buy these days,” says Christopher. It’s also a way to strengthen the customer’s emotional connection to the product. “I’m learning about the artist who’s done it. I’m learning about where they were, where they trained, what they’ve done and I can also look at their other stuff as well, and I think that for me is exciting,” he adds. “There’s that whole romance behind the backstory that really taps a chord with what’s happening from a consumer point of view globally.”

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