Monday, 29 August 2011

‘The Kate Middleton dress effect’ / Miriam Lahage / Internet Retailing 2011

Miriam Lahage is a keynote speaker at the
Internet Retailing Conference 2011

The Online Fashion Agency spoke to her about the future of eBay, working for the world’s largest online marketplace, professional similarities between the US and the UK, and e-commerce friends.
You’ve been at eBay since September as General Manager Fashion. How is it going?
With my years of fashion retail experience and particular vision for fashion e-commerce, the opportunity to lead the fashion vertical of the world’s largest online marketplace was an incredible draw.
I am committed to delivering fashion consumers the broadest selection of clothing, shoes and accessories online at incredible value and equally committed to providing brands, designers and small-business fashion entrepreneurs a cost-effective, highly competitive distribution channel and compelling shopping environment to drive growth.
eBay is incredibly well-positioned to drive shopping innovation and create growth opportunities for fashion brands and I’m thrilled to have the chance to lead such a dynamic business. No other destination can offer fashion savvy shoppers such choice and value.
I am now turning my focus to Europe. While I will continue to work with global brands and maintain a presence with the market and the media in New York, going forward I will be based in London, and will be turning my attention to Germany, France, and Italy, as well as the UK.eBay in Europe has experienced significant growth, and I am excited to be able to help it go from strength to strength.
Is there anything you can tell us about eBay’s strategy for this year?
eBay Fashion is uniquely positioned to keep growing, expanding, and of course, developing new business partnerships. With more and more people shopping on the go our innovations in mobile are extraordinary.
eBay Fashion
eBay Fashion
Take the 2.0 version of our eBayFashion for iPhone app that just launched; it features Augmented Reality in a feature called “See it On” where individuals can virtually try sunglasses on their face and then shop directly for the style they like the best, it’s incredible.
We are committed to growing theeBay Fashion team in order to have the best working group in the business. That means expanded roles for creative direction, inventory and merchandising, business development, and the like.
How do you split your time between London and San Francisco?
Let’s just say I am on a plane…a lot. I typically spend a week or so at eBay HQ in San Jose, a week in market in NY, and then back to London to connect with our European team and of course, my family.
As long as there is wi-fi, a comfortable seat, and my trusty iPad, I can work anywhere. I am lucky in that I can switch time zones pretty easily.
What do you miss about London when in San Francisco? And vice versa?
Is it wrong to say I miss London street fashion?
Also, it would be fun to get caught up in the Kate and Wills frenzy, if I was in London, maybe I could convince her to shop for her dress and wedding accessories on eBay! You wouldn’t believe how sales spiked over that little blue dress.
Who in e-commerce do you try to catch up with when you’re in London?
I catch up with Jo Jeffrey of Figleaves and Selfridges. I make sure to have a good chat with Amanda Metcalfe, who is just now heading to Cocosa to head up their marketing strategy. Frances Card who has been helping at Matches and Bunty Stokes, who runs Vente-Privee in the UK.

Miriam catches up with Frances Card (pictured) in London
And of course I keep in touch with colleagues from Net-a-Porter, as well as my contacts at emerging start-ups in fashion.
Do you notice any differences in working style between e-commerce professionals in the UK and USA?
The teams in San Jose and in the EU are sharp, creative, and results driven—they are not afraid of a challenge and truly want eBay Fashion to be an innovative force in the fashion landscape.
They problem solve efficiently and there is a real sense of “team.”  Collaboration across technical and business functions is a strong part of the culture. There’s a spirit of innovation of which I am thrilled to be a part.
UK and US e-commerce professionals are typically highly-driven entrepreneurs who are willing to try new things.
The thing that most surprised me in both countries was not the differences but the similarities. One great thing about eBay is the scale. With billions of dollars going through the eBaymarketplace, when we make enhancements to the business it is a big win for buyers and sellers alike, to the tune of millions of dollars or pounds.
Lastly, Sarah Curran ( CEO) recently told us she would be a florist if she wasn’t running her company. What would you be doing if you weren’t working in retail?
Knowing Sarah, I can definitely see her in her garden in her Wellies! As an economics major at university, I wanted to be an angel investor. I am lucky because I love the entrepreneurial aspects to the job I am thrilled to have found.
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