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Zalando launches partner programme in the UK

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Zalando is inviting British retailers and brands to sell through its platform as it looks to become more relevant to local shoppers.

The shoe and fashion retailer’s partner programme, which launches in the UK today, comes after similar launches in eight European countries including Germany and France. Across Europe more than 170 brands already sell through its website in a model similar to the marketplaces run by retailers such as Amazon .

The launch also comes two months after Gap said it would start selling its goods from summer 2015 on a shop within a shop on the Zalando website.

Zalando says local partners from the UK will help it to make its website more relevant to a British audience.

“The focus is always on the consumer,” said Robert Schütze, country manager for the UK at Zalando. “We aim to increase local relevance by attracting more brands from the UK, whilst at the same time maintaining our high standards to create the best shopping experience for our customers. The first partner has just been launched in the UK and we want to continue working with more brands and retailers who fit our portfolio, fulfil our standards and bring something new to the Zalando website.”

Partners signing up to sell through the Zalando site must meet criteria around the quality and relevance of their products and the be able to meet the Zalando customer promise, which includes free delivery and free returns within 100 days.

Zalando says they will benefit by selling to its broad customer base as well as from its ecommerce expertise: it will handle ordering, payments, returns and customer care while partners need only ship the item. In the third quarter of 2014, it had 14.1m active customers, and attracts more than 100m visits per month. In that quarter, 43% of visits came from mobile devices.

Our view: Zalando is the latest retailer to see the benefits of a marketplace model, following in the footsteps of pioneers such as eBay, Amazon and, more recently, Tesco Direct and Asos. Zalando’s specific aim in the UK will be to increase awareness of its brand. British retailers and brands will use the site when the balance between the upsides of gaining exposure to a wider audience and the downsides of losing control of the way goods are presented and the data gained from direct relationships with shoppers works in their favour.

Where this trend will take us in future is interesting to ponder. Will retail ultimately consolidate onto a smaller number of mega-websites as marketplaces gain name recognition and consumer trust, or will there be a more balanced ecosystem of marketplaces acting as alternative outlets alongside retailers’ own websites? We shall watch with interest.

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