Independent etail portal Farfetch has acquired London designer boutique Browns for an undisclosed amount and will use the store to develop and test innovations in retail technology.
Former Net-a-Porter fashion director Holli Rogers will join Browns as chief executive in a couple of weeks. She will be responsible for growing the business on and offline, running it separately to Farfetch.
Farfetch has created a new business unit called Store of the Future, which will be led by former Harvey Nichols multichannel director Sandrine Deveaux as managing director.
Under her leadership a new team will develop and test innovations in retail technology and omnichannel at Browns, before rolling the results out across Farfetch’s network of 300 boutiques.
It comes after Farfetch received a £56m investment led by Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner’s DST Global firm in March.
Chief executive José Neves, who founded Farfetch in 2007, said he was “putting his money where his mouth is” in order to show independent retailers using the Farfetch platform how technology can boost profitability.
“It is our responsibility to demonstrate how innovation can help sales. It is difficult to ask other retailers to change the way they run things and how they incentivise staff so innovation grinds to a halt. This way we can use this one boutique to show our community and the rest of the industry how our technology and data can boost profits.”
The technology to be trialled includes mobile payment, cross-channel promotions and loyalty programmes, and radio frequency ID technology that updates inventories automatically. The team will also measure how long customers spend in store and what they look at while there.
Browns was founded by Joan Burstein – known as Mrs B – and her husband Sidney in 1970. It has its own transactional website and began selling through Farfetch in 2012.
Following the buyout, Joan will become honorary chairman and her children Simon and Caroline Burstein will remain as advisers, with seats on the board.
“We have been a partner of Farfetch for over two years and have enjoyed the journey,” said Joan. “We couldn’t think of a better, more forward-thinking partner to take the reins and respond to the challenges of the future.”
Neves said Farfetch is not looking to buy any more bricks-and-mortar stores.
The Browns Bride and Vera Wang bridal shops will be run separately under the stewardship of Caroline Burstein.