Fashion brands Burberry and Zara plot online assault

LONDON - Two of the fashion industry's biggest names are upping their online investment, with luxury label Burberry set to launch its own social networking site, and high street retailer Zara to go online for the first time.

Burberry has created as part of a move to deepen its relationship with its customers, create brand advocates and attract new followers.

The site will initially feature users sending in pictures of themselves wearing Burberry's iconic trenchcoat.

It will be overseen by Scott Schuman from the influential fashion blog, The Sartorialist.

Burberry is currently in the midst of a three-year strategy review, which will result in a greater focus on digital.

Angela Ahrendts, chief executive of Burberry, told the FT today: "These might not even be customers yet. Or they may be a customer for a bottle of fragrance or for eyewear. But these are the customers who need the brand experience, who need to feel the brand.

"That word-of-mouth spreads through their social networks and continues to be a positive conversation [about Burberry]...that is so powerful."

At the same time Zara is to start selling online across the UK and a number of major European markets in time for the autumn/winter 2010 selling season.

The group already offers a Zara Home website, which sells home furnishings, but has so far shied away from selling the fashion label over the internet.

As well as the UK, Zara online will launch across Spain, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal, followed by a roll out across Europe in all Zara markets.

Pablo Isla, chief executive and deputy chairman of Inditex, the chain's parent company, said the online launch was an important strategic step for the group.

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