Fashion and retail have faced major disruption from the Internet. Europe currently leads the way on e-commerce and is a major market for online sales.
E-commerce is expected to represent over 16% of global retail sales by 2021.
The business models range from (i) “try now, pay later” - curated products are sent to potential purchasers; (ii) to “click & collect” - goods can be collected and returned from convenient locations.
Another approach is typified by Rent the Runway which allows you to rent high end items on a short term basis so you pay a fraction of the cost for an item which has a limited shelf life. There is a subscription option for regular users. Unsurprisingly, this is particularly popular for weddings and similar events.
E-commerce involves significant savings in retail space and employees but it's important that you know the rules of the internet before setting up shop. In the EU, e-commerce is tightly regulated and issues such as returns of undesirable or faulty goods can be an expensive and logistically challenging process.
The EU’s consumer focused legislation includes a two week cooling off period following delivery. The consumer can notify the seller at any point in this two week period that they wish to return a product. This is followed by a further two week period in which they can arrange for the product to be returned. In other words, you may sell an item online, deliver it and find it returned in a month following which you are obliged to reimburse the purchase price and delivery costs.
As well as there being significant pan EU legislation, there are also important local laws to consider. For example, even if you have only sold a few products into Germany, you may be forced to rename all of those products worldwide on the basis that the goods are available online and can theoretically be shipped to Germany.