Next is planning to expand its digital operations to act as an online host for other brands, in a similar vein to Farfetch and YNAP’s “white label” offerings.
CEO Lord Simon Wolfson told The Telegraph that the company had been quietly building a platform for the past year that will enable Next to run other brands’ online operations, including website and back-end services, for a fee.
“The website will have their URL, it will look and feel like their website, they will design it, they will have creative control over it, but it will link into all the other elements of our platform in exactly the same way as our own website does,” Lord Wolfson told the newspaper.
The “Total Platform” is being tested on an upmarket childrenswear brand called Little Label and an unnamed fashion retailer with sales of around £30m has signed up to use the service, which will see Next handle everything from warehousing, returns, customer credit and call centre services.
Some say the move will place Next in competition with Shopify, which powers the websites of a number of smaller retailers, however Next is expert in warehousing and logistics given its background in mail order whereas Shopify is only just moving into this area.
Luxury businesses Farfetch and YNAP offer their services as a white label offer, powering the online offers of dozens of luxury businesses from Manolo Blahnik to Isabel Marant.
The Next service is predicted to be popular since many smaller retailers and brands will be looking to create a credible online offer, having been obliged to close their physical stores due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Next has for some time been selling third party brands on its website and just last week, the retailer announced another innovation, a move into dedicated physical beauty stores. It will be taking over the beauty halls of five former Debenhams stores, based in Hammerson-owned locations including Bullring Birmingham, to launch its The Beauty Hall from NEXT concept.