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Thu, Apr 23, 2009
The Business Times
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Royal treats
by Audrey Phoon

IF items with mass appeal and discounted price tags don't set cash register bells ringing for you, then type this into your Internet address bar:

Founded by Middle Eastern princess Kasia al Thani in December and backed by industry royalty - its directors include Larry Namer, the founder of E! Entertainment Television, and one of Hollywood's top fashion stylists, Rachel Zoe - the UK-based portal is even more exclusive than private-sale websites.

What you'll find here is a hand-picked range of very luxurious and difficult-to-find items for men, women, children and even pampered pooches: the website, developed after the princess couldn't find the perfect birthday present for her husband online, makes available the work of multiple high-end brands and artisans from around the world in one place.

There are established names such as Cartier, Boucheron and Bamford & Sons, along with less-well-known brands like Lyon silk specialist Carine Gilson and Loree Rodkin, a jewellery label worn by US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Says the company's Vanessa Ballauff: 'Many high-end brands have their own online shopping component but none offer the opportunity to purchase high-end gifts across multiple brands with a single shopping cart.

'Savoir-Faire takes all the inconvenience out of searching for the perfect, unique gift - we have an expert team of shoppers who have spent months scouring the globe for the most beautiful products from 70 designer brands. Many of our products you cannot buy elsewhere online.'

High-end does not mean unaffordable, however, and while the website's most extravagant item is a £14,000 diamond bracelet from Rym, there are also things like £50 By Kilian candles and beautifully sculpted soaps that cost £15 from Gianna Rose Atelier.

Given the economic downturn, such small luxuries are what have proven popular since Savoir-Faire's launch, notes Ms Ballauff. 'What we are seeing, surprisingly, is people buying small luxury gifts for themselves such as Anya Hindmarch purses, jewellery, leather goods, cashmere accessories: comfort buying.'

But even if people are not buying big-ticket items right now, it's clear they're still window-shopping: Savoir-Faire has garnered 'several thousand registrations to date' including 'a handful from Singapore' (the company ships to Singapore though this is not listed on its website).

'Our global reach is spreading through word of mouth, especially due to blogs such as luxist,' Ms Ballauff says, adding that the company plans to 'see sales of just under £1 million over the coming 12 months'.

That target shouldn't be difficult to achieve, considering the website's attention to customer service. It processes and stores the goods in its London office so there is complete control over the quality of the products as well as the ordering and delivery system - all of which it feels is essential to staying competitive.

'As broadband penetration and speeds increase, Internet shopping will be an everyday part of life. But online retailers must work hard to improve their game, with lots of information about products, such as detailed pictures, a size chart or accurate measurements.

'Savoir-Faire is very conscious to maintain up-to-date information about things like product availability and delivery details to track products. We will continue to make our site best in class,' states Ms Ballauff.

Loree Rodkin Bracelet with turquoise, diamonds, white gold and sapphire Loree Rodkin Bracelet in bone, wood and white gold
KOTUR’s mosaic minaudiere clutch – entirely
handcrafted from penshells, wood and brass pieces
The Elie Bleu watch winder, in macassar ebony wood features high-precision movement electronics, and is a great gift idea for watch enthusiasts and collectors.

This article was first published in The Business Times .

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