June 25 - The French are renowned for their traditional fashion houses and sense of style. Now an Englishwoman is trying to show the benefits of shopping online with her internet retail guide, Nettement Chic, which analysts believe could help boutique brands thrive in an tough trading environment. Joanna Partridge reports.
The French are renowned for being stylish - but it's an Englishwoman who's trying to get them hooked on online shopping. Kate Davis used to be a corporate lawyer - now living in Paris she's become an internet entrepreneur. She's set up Nettement Chic - a website which reviews some of the best boutique fashion and beauty brands. SOUNDBITE: Kate Davis, Founder of Nettement Chic, saying (English): "it's an online guide to the very best shopping on the net." Kate's internet shopping portal, like an online magazine, recommends brands for their products and websites. It's available in French and English and gets 1000 new unique visitors every month. SOUNDBITE: Kate Davis, Founder of Nettement Chic, saying (English): "We write about the site, what we feel about it, what we like about it. There's a link that goes through to the site itself at which point the reader leaves Nettement Chic and goes on to, you know, Netaporter, Lounge Lover, Milli Millu. We also sum up in a section // the key points about delivery charges, whether you can return items." Kate set up the business six months ago - and online shopping's now taking off in France. The French are still behind the game with online sales accounting for just 8% of the total retail market, compared with 12% in the UK, 9% in Germany and 8.5% in the United States. One of the brands featured on the site is Lounge Lover, a clothing range created by Sylvie Gabriel. SOUNDBITE: Sylvie Gabriel, Founder of Lounge Lover, saying (English): "We have clearly the same customer as a Nettement Chic visitor, because we had hundreds of visitors from Nettement Chic on to our site, we had a quite a few conversions out of it, conversions meaning people buying online on our website." PTC Loungelover already has concessions in department stores like here in Fenwick in central London. But when it comes to reaching out to new customers, Loungelover and other small boutique brands are increasingly concentrating on their online presence. Smaller brands are no longer looking to open bricks and mortar stores says Malcolm Pinkerton from Planet Retail. SOUNDBITE: Malcom Pinkerton, Senior Analyst, Planet Retail, saying (English): "Nettement Chic is actually a very interesting and innovative idea actually. It does combine social media with blogging, with really a sort-of one stop shop or portal if you like, so some of the smaller players who really find it far more challenging in an increasingly competitive market to get traffic to their site." Many European retailers are finding trading tough. And some French shops see British High Streets as a way to grow. But smaller brands are increasingly looking online to net more customers. Joanna Partridge, Reuters