D. Porthault Enters Cyberspace

Armed with a new CEO, luxury linens merchant D. Porthault is poised to enter the world of e-commerce. The Paris-based company, founded in 1920, plans to expand its business with a transactional Website scheduled to launch by the end of January.

John Barrett, head of public relations for the New York-based U.S. corporate division of D. Porthault, says the decision to create a transactional Website was made after Alexander Vreeland, a former marketing executive for Giorgio Armani, was hired as CEO in September. And the Website isn’t the company’s only expansion effort: D. Porthault will soon expand its product line to include upscale nightgowns and tableware.

Barrett says the company has had a print catalog since the 1950s, but it mails only every other year. “The Website is new,” he says. “Right now it’s very basic, with just the locations of our boutiques. But we’re hoping to expand our Web business with the Website. [Vreeland] is the driving force behind that to bring us out of the dark ages. Right now we’re very busy, so we’re not looking for the Website to become transactional until the end of January.”

D. Porthault has approximately 3,000 linen prints in its database. “Beyond e-commerce, the Website will help us build knowledge about the brand,” Barrett says. “There’s a huge focus on that.” The site is “going to expand into a younger market because that’s how people shop today. We’re an old-guard brand, and we need a new tool to reach new customers. I see a younger customer coming into the store.”

The company’s 26-page catalog is mailed to about 6,000 customers. D. Porthault has flagship stores in Paris, New York, Dallas, and Dubai. Its linens and bath towels have graced the Kennedy White House and the country homes of Britain’s royal family. Celebrities pay up to $4,600 for a set of Porthault’s signature color-splashed, silky sheets, some decorated with tiny jewels.

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