Holiday Central

Who's the best mobile shopper? Try the rich

Anyone looking for the big winners in mobile shopping should keep an eye on the jet set.

Cyber Monday mobile sales rose 178 percent on sites operated by Italy's Yoox SpA, which runs individual Web stores for 37 luxury brands along with three other sites offering a variety of labels. Clients include the likes of Armani, Valentino, and Dolce & Gabbana, along with Kering's Saint Laurent and Brioni. The sales increase is essentially a like-for-like figure since Yoox only added one new store over the last year.

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Yoox's growth was far higher than the increases seen across broad retail. U.S. mobile retail sales rose 27.6 percent on Cyber Monday, according to IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark.

Luxury is one of the last segments of retail to embrace Internet sales. Some, like Burberry, have developed on online presence very aggressively. Still, others like Louis Vuitton have moved slowly because they are extremely conscious of brand image and want to control it closely. Chanel doesn't sell any apparel or leatherware online, and most high-end watchmakers also avoid it entirely, according to Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Mario Ortelli.

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Even so, it appears the rich and fashionable may be ideal online shoppers—especially on mobile. After all, wealthier people have had access to iPhones and other mobile devices for longest and have grown comfortable with them.

Some highlights from Yoox's holiday shopping season are eye popping. On Cyber Monday, the highest-value purchase from an iPhone was a $4,300 Saint Laurent jacket from Memphis, Tennessee, according to Clement Kwan, president of Yoox Corp., the company's North American division. On Black Friday, the most expensive item purchased on desktop was a $20,000 order for Saint Laurent handbags from Colorado; the highest from an iPhone was a $7,200 Dolce & Gabbana outfit from California.

Yoox may have plenty of runway for growth on mobile. Mobile accounted for 46 percent of traffic on Yoox on Cyber Monday. That appears less than the amount of mobile shopping for everyday items: Wal-Mart Stores said 70 percent of its Web traffic came from mobile between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday.

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By category, Yoox saw healthy gains across the board. On Cyber Monday, mobile sales of shoes (its largest category) rose 153 percent while bags increased 236 percent. The watches and jewelry category saw a 770 percent rise over last year.

Despite the signs of strength, shares of Yoox have been on a rollercoaster: The stock doubled in 2013 but has fallen 42 percent so far this year. One concern is that luxury brands will take online operations back in-house if they become successful on Yoox.

But for now, Yoox should keep winning when fashionable shoppers make mobile splurges.

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