Net-a-Porter Founder Massenet Signals She’s Staying Put

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Net-A-Porter Founder: We're Our Biggest Competition

Net-a-Porter Chairman Natalie Massenet signaled that she plans to stay at the online fashion and luxury-goods retailer after it merges with Italy’s Yoox SpA, saying she’s someone who’s “super happy in the background.”

With Yoox founder Federico Marchetti becoming chief executive officer of the combined company, some analysts have expressed concern over Massenet’s long-term plans. Yet in an interview with Bloomberg Television, the 50-year-old gave every indication that she doesn’t intend to go anywhere soon.

“We’ve only just begun,” said Massenet, who formed Net-a-Porter in 2000 and will be the merged company’s executive chairman. Describing herself as a “reluctant leader,” Massenet said the scale of the business is all that will change. “We’re going to be the same, but bigger,” she said.

After the merger was announced in March, Exane BNP Paribas analyst Luca Solca said the executive “seems to have little in the way of direct business responsibilities.” Yet she could prove to be “a dynamic group ambassador to the luxury industry,” according to Citigroup Inc. analyst Mauro Baragiola.

Yoox is buying Net-a-Porter from Cie. Financiere Richemont SA in an all-stock deal due to complete in September. Richemont will own half of a new company known as Yoox Net-a-Porter Group with annual revenue of 1.3 billion euros ($1.5 billion).

When the merger was announced, Marchetti said Massenet will chair the board and have “defined responsibilities” in areas such as editorial content, advertising strategy and fashion press, calling it “a long-term partnership.”

Time Flies

Net-a-Porter, based in London, is seeing “really exciting, strong growth in China,” Massenet also said, predicting the Asian country will become one of the retailer’s top 10 markets next year.

Menswear, meanwhile, could become as big as womenswear in the next decade as the shift toward a more creative economy allows males to express themselves through style, she said.

To stand out in an increasingly crowded market that will soon include Vogue magazine publisher Conde Nast International, Net-a-Porter needs to keep innovating “because I don’t think anything is going to stand still,” Massenet said. Conde Nast’s Style.com, once a destination for fashion photos and reviews, will become a Web retailer in 2016, blending e-commerce with editorial content as Net-a-Porter does.

By 2018, Massenet said she sees herself “being happy with my family and hopefully innovating and looking towards the future, but enjoying the moment.”

“I’ll probably be exactly the same as this and I will be like, ‘Is it three years already?’ Time flies.”

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