March 5, 2013, 2:22 PM

Condé Nast invests in e-commerce

The publisher leads a $20 million funding round in online marketplace farfetch.

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Condé Nast, the publisher of such magazines as Allure, Bon Appetit and Vogue, has led a $20 million investment in U.K.-based farfetch.com, an e-commerce marketplace for independent fashion boutiques. The funding round also includes existing farfetch investors Advent Venture Partners, Index Ventures and e.venture. The publishing house and farfetch have been in talks for over a year, says Jose Neves, CEO of farfetch.

“Farfetch has a unique position, connecting boutiques around the world by e-commerce to sophisticated fashion customers like our magazine readers and web site users,” says Jonathan Newhouse, chairman and chief executive for Condé Nast. “It’s a natural for Condé Nast.” 

Farfetch, launched in 2008, is a fashion marketplace that enables more than 250 fashion boutiques in the United States and Europe to sell their wares online. The combined boutiques sell more than 2,000 brands. Consumers can shop from any boutique on the marketplace, add their purchases to a single shopping cart and check out once.  Farfetch says more than 150,000 consumers from more 140 countries have made purchases through the site.

“This investment will fuel our entry to new markets while assisting our growth in existing ones,” says Neves. “Our goal to build a unique curated global franchise in online designer fashion is brought several steps closer through the exciting involvement of Condé Nast.”

Farfetch.com says it has employees located around the world to find boutiques that would fit well on the marketplace. Farfetch charges each boutique a percentage of each sale, though the marketplace did not disclose those rates.

In addition to its head offices in London, farfetch has offices in Portugal, Los Angeles and Brazil. The marketplace says it sold $129 million worth of merchandise last year and that its most recent annual sales growth rate stands at about 145%, though farfetch did not provide sales figures from previous years. It attracts 4.3 million total visits per month, its average order value is $638 and sales are spread around the globe, with 65% of stemming from outside the United Kingdom and United States

James Bilefield, president of Condé Nast International Digital, will join the farfetch board. Condé Nast International publishes 139 global magazines  and operates 100 web sites and more than 170 tablet and smartphone apps.

Condé Nast and farfetch would not provide details on plans to connect magazine readers to the farfetch marketplace. The move, though, represents the latest investment by the publishing house in global e-commerce companies.

That includes a 26% investment in Berlin-based designer goods start-up Monoqi last month, along with an increased stake in Munich-based online jeweler RenéSim to 46%. It also comes on the heels of the $20 million November investment in  U.S.-based Rent The Runway by by Condé Nast’s parent Advance Publications Inc. and Bain Capital Ventures, Highland Capital Partners and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Rent the Runway rents designer dresses and accessories to online consumers.

The Condé Nast investment also represents the latest in a string of marriages between editorial, digital and e-retail.

In November, for instance, men’s magazine Esquire began using Netpage, an iPhone app that turns paper pages of print magazines into digital interactive pages. Readers can use the Netpage app to interact with the print edition of Esquire and do things such as purchase items in ads, play videos, and digitally clip and save an article, photo or ad and share it via e-mail, text, Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. 

Other retailers retailers have launched their own editorial content. Flash-sale site Gilt Groupe Inc., for example, offers Gilt Du Jour, a digital and quarterly print magazine. Home goods retailer Wayfair.com, meanwhile, enables  fans of Coastal Living to shop an online boutique featuring products selected by the magazine’s editors.

Wayfair LLC is No. 50 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.  Gilt is No. 49.

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