Ashford.com Buys Online Perfumery

In an early sign of consolidation among high-end online retailers, Ashford.com, a touted luxury-goods seller, is acquiring Jasmin.com, an online perfume retailer. The company didn't disclose terms of the acquisition.

Ashford began selling high-end watches online in April 1998 as Newwatch.com, and soon expanded to 11 lines of luxury items, including perfumes, diamonds and leather. With the acquisition of Jasmin, Ashford hopes to gain entree into the beauty category, riding on Jasmin's 300 lines of perfume and its female customer base.

For its part, Ashford is coming off what it called a banner holiday season; CEO Kenny Kurtzman says he is "very comfortable" with analyst estimates that report his company took in $15 million in fourth-quarter revenues. The company has a market capitalization of about $440 million.

Ashford is one of many companies jockeying to take the lead among high-end retailers. Mondera.com, Sephora.com and iJewelry.com are among a dozen or more recent entrants into the luxury-goods sector, with many spending tens of millions of dollars in advertising in the past year.

The Jasmin acquisition comes as one of the first signs of consolidation among these retailers. Analysts predict that as sales figures from the holiday season roll in, similar deals will surface as winners scoop up lagging competitors.

Among the most likely targets are pure-play niche companies that focus on one product line, such as Jasmin.

"Is it viable to be a pure-play in this space [and] to achieve the growth and size and status that you want to achieve?" asks Jasmin CEO Dale Dewey. "It was just a no-brainer for us in a variety of ways."

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