Zalando co-founder David Schneider has revealed the German etailer will transform trade event Bread & Butter Berlin into a consumer-facing “festival of fashion” next year, after it agreed to acquire the business out of insolvency last month.
“Usually big fashion shows are closed to the public so we want to open it up – the final concept will be announced in autumn but it all is part of our long-term strategy to democratise fashion,” Schneider told Drapers in Berlin.
He would not disclose full details of the plans but said the event would likely be held at a weekend in order to appeal to a consumer audience and it should be a relevant time for the public, such as the start of a season.
“It will be focused on ready-to-wear fashion, with special events, music and food, and consumers can buy from brands there and then,” he said. “Perhaps they won’t take their purchases away; maybe we’ll come up with some other concept though.”
Zalando, which was founded in 2008, had a turnover of €2.2bn (£1.6bn) last year and works with 1,500 brands including a number of UK labels such as Topshop and Whistles, both of which were introduced over the last few months.
It operates in 15 markets including the UK, although sales here are relatively small, said Schneider. The firm employs more than 8,000 people in Germany, with the biggest ecommerce warehouse facility in Europe – a four-storey 130,000 sq m (1.4 million sq ft) site employing more than 3,000 people alone.
“We have grown so fast that it has been a challenge to find the right people,” said Scheider, explaining that the average age of employees is currently 30 and the firm was employing up to 10 people from the UK a week.
Zalando floated on the Frankfurt stock exchange last year and Schneider said: “This is our most exciting phase ahead. We have built up a great retailer profitably but now the question is how do we strategically develop over the next five years.
“I think fashion ecommerce is still at the start of its journey – we want make fashion more transparent and open so for us it is about looking at best to serve the customer and also how best to work with brands.”
The etailer is continuing its rapid growth plans with the launch of special sizes including plus-size, petite and maternity collections for autumn 15.
This will be closely followed beauty ranges before the end of the year, as well as a tall category and an environmentally-friendly category for spring 16, explained vice president of the women’s category Dalbir Bains.
The company launched a free personal shopping service called Zalon in April, which VP fashion director Claudia Reth said had been very well received with over 1,000 requests in the first week alone. In May it acquired a minority stake in UK tech start-up Anatwine for a seven-figure sum.