Grazia is the Latest Publisher to Sell Fashion Online

The Mondadori Group, owners of Grazia Magazine, have become the latest publisher to announce a move into e-commerce.The group has acquired London-Boutiques.com- an online marketplace which allows users to purchase a curated collection of items from London's top fashion boutiques, including Austique on the King's Road, Precious in Shoreditch and Teacup in Hampstead.The acquisition marks the first step on the road to a global e-commerce strategy, as outlined in a statement by Mondadori chief executive Ernesto Mauri:“This acquisition is the first step towards a development plan that starts from London, the biggest European market for e-commerce fashion, and that will soon also include many of the most important trend-setting boutiques in the main cities of Italy and France. The aim is to expand also to the other countries where Grazia is published and beyond.”As Grazia is published in 23 countries and has access to an audience of 17 million readers and 14 million unique users per month, the potential for online sales is considerable. By autumn, the plan is to integrate the London Boutiques site into a new portal, graziashop.com, which will allow Grazia's readers to purchase items selected by Grazia from international boutiques.Grazia is by no means the first-mover when it comes to publishers driving new revenues from fashion sales. Back in December, Condé Nast announced the formation of an e-commerce division under Franck Zayane, formerly of Paris-based Galeries Lafayette. This move followed Condé Nast's purchase of a $20 million stake in Farfetch.com, a site through which customers could shop the inventories of high-end boutiques around the world - a similar offering to that which Grazia is proposing.This is move driven by revenue. Print circulations are in decline and print revenues are going with them. There is simply too much competing inventory out there for online offerings to fill the gap, and tablet sales have not been the nirvana that many hoped. Moving from purely recommending fashion and accessories to their readers, to making profits from those recommendations is a logical move.But it is a calculated risk as graziashop.com will now be competing with some of Grazia's existing advertisers.Clearly, Mondadori feel that focusing on the 'boutique' end of the market offers the lowest risk, or the greatest rewards (or both!) It may have decided that high end boutique fashion from the likes of Victoria Beckham, Alexander Wang and Acne (as well as emerging labels including Clover Canyon, Majdan Rocks and Dice Kayek) is more complementary than competitive to their main advertisers. They may even feel it offers a route to increase existing ad revenues as these boutique brands will be more likely to advertise if the magazine can offer quick, easy and cheap fulfilment for their wares.But there are risks.Firstly, will readers continue to trust recommendations when they find those recommendations being fufilled through a branded e-commerce outlet? Editorially, Grazia will have to walk a fine line between recommending items that can be fulfilled through graziashop.com and those that have to be purchased via branded websites.Secondly, existing advertisers that aren't featured in the ecommerce offering may feel they're at a disadvantage to those that are. What will happen if they push to be featured - will Grazia cave in and potentially dilute the boutique nature of their fashion offering? Or will they stand firm and risk losing a potentially valuable client?Clearly, Mondadori feel these are risks worth taking. With more and more of their advertisers focused on creating their own content, and a plethora of fashion blogs, they clearly feel the value of their own core offering is getting diluted. But if retailers can become publishers, why can't publishers become retailers?It's going to be fascinating to see who the winners will be in the newly merged world of content and e-commerce providers.

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