"Don't make plans. Just do."
Mr. Michael Kliger
"I'm 49. I live in Munich."
"I have the honorable task of being President at this beautiful, fast growing eCommerce company in luxury fashion."
What's up today?
"I'm here for a press day that was organized by my team. Tonight I travel to Germany."
Nice to meet you, Mr. Kliger
Michael Kliger is slightly jetlagged as he greets me in Bedford Stuyvesant, an American coffeebar on the east side of Amsterdam. The German born mytheresa CEO has a long day ahead of him. We've got exactly ninety minutes before Mr. Kliger is off to Bar Botanique, another fashionable café in the Dutch capital. Sipping from his cappuccino, he shares his afternoon schedule. "It's fashion magazines and vloggers day. My team at mytheresa.com arranged this press day in Amsterdam so that we can share our story with our Dutch clientele and following." The Benelux market is important to the luxury fashion e-tailer, that is what I'm about to learn from Michael. I can't wait to find out more about this 'Webheld' (web hero) and his views on selling designer products online across the globe.
They did not hire me for my fashion expertise
"I joined mytheresa in March 2015, so I'm only in my second year right now. What I absolutely love about this company is that it's relatively small compared to what I've been used to for a long time. We are with 400 co-workers and I can easily get to know all of them personally. Because our lines of communication are completely open, I can go and discuss something with an intern in the morning and speak with the advisory board in the afternoon. And any co worker who wants to approach me with their ideas is more than welcome to do so as well. It's amazing that with only 400 people, we are able to create for and reach thousands of fashion savvy women all over the world."
Funny you should say that. I've Googled you and found out lots about you and eBay and you working for the likes of Accenture and McKinsey, but nothing about Michael Kliger and fashion before March 2015. Why mytheresa.com? Why did they appoint you their President? "Well haha! I suppose it was not my fashion expertise that got me hired in this position. I was hired by mytheresa's parent company Neiman Marcus Group, one of the oldest and largest luxury goods retailers in the world. And I think they hired me for my background in both strategy and technology. I'm skilled at making technology actually work. And I have a lot of experience in driving and managing fast growth. That is what mytheresa requires, a strong and smart technological operation on one end and an unparalleled growth strategy at the other end to continuously become bigger and better at what we do: providing the best selection and service in luxury fashion. I'm well qualified I guess for the tech part and the management part. And I work closely together with the people who really know fashion, like our head buyers. As far as I can tell, everyone is pleased with this cooperation. Speaking for myself: opportunity is why I joined. mytheresa is full of opportunity. It's not a start up, they've been successful since 2006 and there is still a great deal of growth potential. Being backed by one of the best luxury retailers on the planet, we're in a great position. I'd be happy to drive growth for another five to ten years."
Really, five to ten years? What would you like to do after that? "I have no idea. See, I don't make plans like that. Planning years ahead is useless, because you just can't know what life will be like for you by then. I am always 'happy to stay, ready to go'. I very much enjoy working with the mytheresa.com team because there is such a pleasant and effective balance. A large part of my colleagues are women who are passionately into all that is fashion. The other part are men working on the tech side and operations side of our global eCommerce operation. That balance is rare in retail and e-tail. Mostly you see way too much focus on tech and too little on fashion or the other way around. It's very exciting to be in this unique position where we 'just' have to maintain this perfect balance whilst growing internationally."
I find it hard to believe that a company's CEO who was hired for strategy, does not plan ahead? Is that truly something that you would advise my readers who are dreaming of making it in eCommerce? "Yes it is. I would advise them to steer clear of focussing too much on two things and one of them is making detailed plans for the medium future. Of course you need to have clear objectives for your company, you need to set long-term goals. But then focus mostly on the next say six months and create actions to obtain your goals within those six months. Do not try to set goals that you want to have reached by 2 to 3 years, you have to grow much faster than that and also be much more flexible and agile than that. Or you won't make it. If you look at technology alone, one must simply admit that you do not know and therefore you cannot plan. You have no idea what the next development in eCommerce technology will be. Today it's smartphones, apps and social commerce via social media. Tomorrow it will be something else. If you want to be successful today, you make sure that you do great on the smartphones and that you have an outstanding shopping app, today. And at the same time you are ready to move to the next big thing, tomorrow. The right time to grow is never tomorrow, it's now. Only now is what matters."
"Insist on fast growth. Be agile and flexible."
Michael is the tall guy posing casually next to Victoria Beckham (!) at the launch of the mytheresa X Victoria Beckham capsule collection.
You said you advise eCommerce professionals to steer clear of two things, what is the second thing? "Focussing too much on trends and letting them distract you from what should be your everyday focus: what your customer wants right now. When you talk to certain consultants, or when you attend retailing or eCommerce events, it is very likely that a lot of the conversations will be about trends. Like today, it's all about multichannel. When your mind is being filled with information about 'the next big thing', question yourself: is this trend honestly a big improvement for your customer? If so, is it in any way feasible? If the answer is not very clearly positive, let it go. While I'm for sure an advocate of multichannel, I believe it can help many retailers in growing faster, it's not something we would focus on at mytheresa.com. At least not right now. We started out as a bricks and mortar business with the Theresa store in Munich, but ever since then almost a hundred percent of all growth was achieved online. As we want to reach and sell to thousands of women all over the world, online channels like our website and shopping app combined with the best service and delivery options will remain to be our best bet."
On the left: mytheresa's desktop website. On the right: two screens from the mytheresa shopping app.
Despite not being able to predict the future, what do you believe could be the biggest success for your company in the years to come? "I have this dream of us creating the number one, most coveted fashion shopping app in the world. An app that every female who loves fashion will want to use for shopping and inspiration.
What was the last thing you bought online? "A sweater for myself. And yesterday I shopped some Christmas gifts, spent 400 euro's on books. They should arrive in Munich tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that. I must say that over all, my online shopping experiences keep getting better. In the past six months I haven't been disappointed anywhere."
What can you share with my readers about mytheresa's plans for 2017? "Without going into details, I can share with you that we will be launching more very interesting and unique collaborations with designers. Also I can say that we see ourselves moving more and more to smartphone commerce. Further more we will continue our international expansion. With native payment, customer service in more native languages and local social media."
You're in Holland today, does that mean mytheresa wants to put effort into reaching Dutch fashionista's? "Of course we want that, the Dutch market and basically the entire Benelux market is important to us. The size of the Benelux market may be smaller than other markets, but almost everyone here speaks English. Because of that and the fact that Benelux online shoppers are not afraid of cross border online shopping makes it very interesting to us."
Actress Keira Knightley attended mytheresa's intimate dinner in Venice, in honour of the Erdem capsule collection.
mytheresa.com is a leading online retailer in women's luxury fashion. At mytheresa you can shop a carefully selected collection of designer items from over 180 internationally known fashion designers. mytheresa.com ships to more than 120 countries and your coveted fashion wants and needs will be delivered where ever you like, within 72 hours.