Online sales? Maybe one day, says Chanel
By Sarah White, Pascale Denis


A woman walks past a wall with logos of French luxury goods maker Chanel in Nice, France, February 22, 2017.    REUTERS/Eric Gaillard/File Photo

France’s Chanel has no immediate plans for online sales of its coveted outfits or handbags, a senior executive said on Friday, making it one of the fashion world’s last hold-outs as rivals experiment with websites to win over new clients.

The label, known for its tweed suits and $4,300-plus quilted leather bags, already sells perfumes online, like its Chanel No 5, as well as eyeglasses and beauty products.

But it will draw the line there for the foreseeable future, said Bruno Pavlovsky, president of fashion at Chanel.

“If you give everything to everyone straight away, I think you lose that exclusivity,” Pavlovsky told a Vogue conference in Paris. “I‘m not saying we won’t try it one day, but if we do it will be because we’ll really think there’s some added value.”

Luxury goods brands were slow to develop e-commerce sites as they worried that making products too widely available would  erode their cachet.

But most have now taken the plunge. Conglomerate LVMH (LVMH.PA), parent to Louis Vuitton, hired a former Apple executive and recently launched a site hosting multiple labels, though its online strategy at each of its brands still varies wildly.

Web sales will make up some 10 percent of revenues in the luxury goods market this year, according to consultancy Bain, which projects they could reach 25 percent by 2025.


Chanel logo is seen on the company's store in central Kiev, Ukraine, May 11, 2016.  REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko/File Photo

But Chanel’s out-of-step attitude was not a drag on the business, Pavlovsky said, adding that the label, founded by Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel in 1910, was reaching an increasingly young audience and had waiting lists for best-selling bags.

Controlled by secretive billionaires Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Chanel does not regularly release financial results.


A guest attends the Chanel Fall/Winter 2016/2017 women's ready-to-wear collection show at the Grand Palais in Paris, France, March 8, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

According to figures filed with the Amsterdam exchange, Chanel’s net profit fell nearly 35 percent in 2016 and sales dropped 9 percent to $5.7 billion.

Most major rivals have enjoyed a sales bounce in 2017.

Chanel is no stranger to digital marketing, however, showing images on media like Instagram and Twitter from its extravagant catwalk shows and collections by designer Karl Lagerfeld.

But buyers want to try on the clothes, Pavlovsky said, adding that the business would look into providing “e-services” to allow buyers to reserve items online or make store appointments.

“Every time I‘m in China I meet clients who come and say,  ‘whatever you do don’t do e-commerce. The day you do it for us this won’t be exclusive anymore’,” Pavlovsky said.