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Drapers Next Gen: Marry content and commerce with integrity, says Mark Sebba

Mark Sebba, non-executive director and former chief executive of Net-a-Porter, said while fashion content has an important role to play in the world of ecommerce, it must be well managed to ensure editorial integrity and sales are of equal importance

Speaking at Drapers’ annual Next Generation event, held today at 30 Euston Square in London, Sebba revealed to attendees that having come from a strictly business background, he did occasionally end up in “skirmishes” with the luxury etailer’s editorial team, many of whom had come from a magazine background.

“The fashion writers would see a product that was new, that they loved, and obviously they wanted to feature it heavily on the website, but if it’s sold out then that’s no good from a retail perspective,” he explained. “At the same time, if the buyers had made a mistake and bought too much of a certain piece, we couldn’t expect the editorial team to push the product on that basis alone. It has to be well managed.”

Discussing Net-a-Porter’s move into print media with the launch of Porter magazine in 2014, Sebba said the decision was based largely on a survey of Net-a-Porter customers, 78% of whom said they preferred to read fashion content in print format. “We said ‘let’s allow our customers to access Net-a-Porter in whatever way they want to’. People said ‘you’ve gone back to print’ but we didn’t see it like that. To us it was a move forward, a natural extension of what we were already doing.”

Sebba also touched on his close relationship with Net-a-Porter founder Natalie Massenet: “Natalie has a remarkable eye for spotting and identifying. Our personalities are very different but we complement each other.” He added: “Natalie knew how women shopped, and she wanted to make it easier for them. When you look at Natalie’s original business plan and compare it to where we are today, you’ll see that we are extremely close to her vision.”

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