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Shop Direct hires Sarah Curran to spearhead luxury push

My-Wardrobe.com co-founder Sarah Curran has been appointed as a director of Shop Direct, charged with wooing luxury brands to build a roster that can compete with the likes of My-Wardrobe and Net-a-Porter.

Curran, who joins on December 16, will work across Shop Direct’s fascias including Very, Littlewoods and Isme, reporting into group retail and strategy director Gareth Jones.

Drapers understands Curran’s longer-term responsibilities will include the development of a spin-off luxury fascia, with the working name Very Exclusive.

Jones said no decisions had been taken as to the final strategy, saying Curran would be central to that process, although he noted “the adjacencies have to be right, the experience has to be right, it has to work for those brands”.

He added: “The experience you need to create for this customer and how you navigate that customer has to be different. In a world of personalisation, fascias and brands aren’t necessarily defined by what URL you type in.”

Conversations are already taking place with brands, most of which sit at the high premium or lower luxury levels, drawn from a hit list compiled using Shop Direct’s customer research. Jones said they were “as excited as we are about getting a new customer they wouldn’t normally reach”.

Curran’s arrival will help to “have this conversation on a much more balanced footing than someone trying to bang the door down”, Jones said.

He added: “The big difference here – and why [brands] see it as a new opportunity, rather than just stealing market share from My-Wardrobe or Net-a-Porter – is our credit offer, which allows a customer to spread the cost of an expensive handbag or dress over three months. That is a huge USP and allows us to get to a different customer who doesn’t normally have the money up front to get those products.”

Curran is now expected to put together a strategy for the end of the first quarter, although Jones would not be drawn on a date for a potential launch. Brands will be introduced to Shop Direct’s retailers intermittently, joining the likes of recent introductions Radley and Hugo Boss. Other brands set to join the home shopping group include Gant, Paul’s Boutique, Ted Baker and Seven For All Mankind.

Curran, who received an MBE this summer for her services to fashion, left My-Wardrobe in July, although she stepped down as chief executive in 2011. She founded the company with her former husband Andrew Curran seven years ago.

She said: “When I launched My-Wardrobe back in 2006, my ambition was to democratise luxury by bringing fantastic brands to as wide an audience as possible… Shop Direct takes that ethos to the next level.

“The business offers a fantastic range of aspirational brands and there’s a huge opportunity to do more.”

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