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Drapers Next Generation: Sarah Curran lifts lid on Very’s luxury ambitions

Sarah Curran MBE has given a hint of what the luxury arm of etailer will look like at today’s Drapers Next Generation event.

As revealed by Drapers back in December, Curran was hired to spearhead the Shop Direct business’ move into the luxury market. Since then the company has been tight lipped about its plans, but today Curran offered a glimpse of the conversations taking place behind the scenes.

She acknowledged that one year prior she would “never” have thought of working for a retailer like Shop Direct, but had been won over by the company’s extensive data on and understanding of its loyal customer.

Asked if she had received much “push back” from brands, Curran said her existing relationship had helped with “bringing down a barrier”. 

Conversations had largely focused around how the product would be merchandised, how it would be packaged to the consumer and adjacencies.

“You need to understand what is important for that brand – we need protect that brand’s luxury integrity on our site,” she added.

“They want to know ‘will you send that Mulberry bag with a toilet brush?’ – but you can understand why that would be a concern.

“Once you go into luxury you are entering a different world, a world of high maintenance. You can’t change it and you need to reflect it to the customer.”

Brands also wanted to be convinced that the new platform would offer a point of difference, Curran said. “It’s not so much who you are, but how you are going to be different. It’s so competitive online now – that is one thing I’m very focused on.”

The luxury arm will be largely targeted at existing Very customers rather than drawing in new customers, although Curran added she aimed not to “exclude” anyone.

The biggest challenge with the launch, expected to take place later this year, “will be people’s perceptions”, she said. “Although that might only be the industry.”

Curran – who started out as a sub-editor for the online edition of The Times – said her biggest career challenge was launching My Wardrobe in 2006 when “[etail] was a really young sector – there were no experts”.

She said: “It was hard to find the right people, the right team with the right expertise. But because I was building something I was becoming an expert in my own right and I loved it.”

Of her time at My Wardrobe, Curran said: “I remember thinking ‘never have your own business because you’re never with your family, and it would be really boring’ and had this realisation a few years ago that I was doing exactly what I said I wouldn’t. And that was the moment I left.”

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