Chasing Luxury Market, JD.com Opens Chic Paris Office

JD.com announced today that it has opened a Paris office. The move follows an agreement with France’s official trade promotion agency, Business France, to sell €2 billion (US$2.4 billion) in French products to Chinese consumers over the next two years.

It’s a strategic move, putting JD.com in close proximity to many of the world’s top luxury brands at a time when China’s leading e-commerce platforms are battling for a bigger share of the luxury market.

JD.com France’s Managing Director, Florent Courau. Photo: JD.com

JD.com first made public its intentions to woo French retailers earlier this month when French President Emmanuel Macron made a state visit to China. This visit also coincided with another landmark announcement that French luxury fashion house Saint Laurent would be officially partnering with JD.com to sell its collections on the e-commerce site’s luxury platform, Toplife, joining the ranks of La Perla, Tod’s, Emporio Armani, and more recently, Derek Lam.

Company representatives called the collaboration with France a “milestone” for the e-commerce giant. The newly appointed Managing Director for JD.com in France is Florent Courau, who worked as COO of Sephora in North Asia and, before that, at LVMH for 12 years, six of them in China.

JD.com intends to leverage stronger relations with the country to broaden its luxury portfolio in Europe, giving its customers access to a wider range and a better quality selection of not only fashion brands, but categories like cosmetics, food, and wine and spirits.

“Our customers value the quality of French products, making this a critical market for us to further expand our brand relationships,” Courau said in a statement. “Our Paris office will be committed to providing tailor-made support to our French partners who want to seize the immense opportunity that JD offers.”

A new report released by Bain last week revealed that many luxury consumers were still wary about making purchases online and preferred shopping either at brick and mortar stores, on the brand’s official website, or on its WeChat platform. Luxury aggregators like JD.com’s Toplife and Alibaba’s Tmall Luxury Pavilion were the third most-preferred resource for these consumers.

Inside JD.com’s Paris offices. Photo: JD.com

But both JD.com and Alibaba have been ramping up their efforts to secure the trust of both consumers and brands in the luxury sector with the launch of these ‘pure play’ platforms—JD.com launched Toplife last fall—that keep luxury goods separate from their other mass market offerings and even counterfeit goods.

These platforms also let JD.com cater to the specific demands of luxury consumers through offering better customer service, guaranteed authenticity, and a “white glove” delivery service. JD.com has also spent much of the past year forging stronger networks in the luxury industry beginning with $397 million deal with UK luxury platform Farfetch.

“Since we launched Toplife the goal has been to provide the convenience of online with the personalized feel of making a luxury purchase online,” VP for International Corporate Affairs at JD.com Josh Gartner said. “Our physical presence in France brings us closer to the world’s leading luxury brands and helps us understand them better so we can ensure the integrity of their offline brand identity when they come online with us in China.”

To smooth the process of entering China’s world of online retail, JD.com also plans to offer a new training program for senior executives on reaching China’s online shoppers, as well as build a logistics center to smooth out the overseas shipping process.

“Now, we want to bring the best of France, not only in terms of world-class brands, but also in terms of a world-class shopping experience, right to the doorsteps of our luxury consumers,” Gartner said.

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