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Luxury Brands Are Stupid to Snub the Internet

Luxury brands are stupid not to sell goods on their websites
Luxury Brands Are Stupid to Snub the Internet
Photograph by David Brandon Geeting for Bloomberg Businessweek

Imagine, if you can, the following Champagne tragedy: You’re wealthy and stylish and have decided to buy a handbag after a tough day at the office. You pour yourself a glass of red wine, flip open your laptop, and head to chanel.com. After clicking around for a few minutes, you’re annoyed to discover that cosmetics are the only thing for sale. Next you visit dior.com, where you can enjoy runway footage, browse product images, and even learn that some of its shoes embody, as the French couture house puts it, “all the modernity of Dior.” Except you can’t actually buy them using modern technology.

These and dozens of other labels illustrate luxury’s dumbest paradox. Brands are happy to run their own Twitter accounts and live-stream their runway shows, but how dare they be so base as to sell their wares online? “We don’t like [e-commerce]. I don’t care,” Miuccia Prada told a reporter in 2013. “We think that, for luxury, it’s not right. … Personally, I’m not interested.” With the exception of a few companies, such as Saint Laurent, Gucci, and Burberry, the last of which takes online orders directly after its seasonal presentations, she’s pretty much speaking for the entire industry. Some brands are so snobby about the Internet—like the thriving, LVMH-owned Céline—that not even Barneys New York, a top account in terms of sales, is permitted to put the line on its e-commerce site.