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Can online private fashion sales work in the UK? Leon Bailey asks how one goes about marketing such websites.

Fifteen years ago if someone said they had ordered their groceries at home, you’d imagine it would be a once-a-year Christmas hamper type thing.

Now it’s the norm to do your Ocado or Sainsbury’s shopping from the comfort of your home – or the discomfort of your office desk, where you minimise the screen as soon as someone approaches a one metre radius of your desk.

We’re now seeing niche crazes becoming viable business models, and last month Rupert Murdoch’s News International launched Brand Alley, a private designer fashion sales website, in the UK.

If you’ve never come across sites like Brand Alley or koodos, they normally work like this; you become a member of the exclusive club, receive email alerts detailing when a sale begins and what’s on offer, and then you log in, browse and ultimately buy.

It’s going to be quite a step change to market this in a culture of fast fashion where we’re used to buying clothes we want whenever we want them.

The internet is supposed to make it easier for us to shop when we want. So how does one market a site that only lets you buy certain items at specific periods and only if you’re on the guest list?

Perhaps what could confuse and frustrate some (having to be on the guest list and timed sales) is what makes other potential customers happy.

Maybe in the culture of fast fashion where anyone can do a certain look, some want that aura of exclusivity around their purchases and the satisfaction that they paid less than 'Belinda in PR' for a pair of Chloe heels.

The internet makes this way of shopping commercially possible – can you imagine a bricks and mortar shop only stocking a particular item and opening for a few hours every week to limited customers? It just wouldn’t work.

Leon Bailey is an online marketing, PR and partnerships professional specialising in fashion, beauty and celebrity media. He currently works for OSOYOU.com.  

Contributor

Published 4 March, 2008 by Contributor

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Comments (4)

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Gabrielle

Leon - you make some really good points. There is a grey area between desire for exclusivity [where only 'I'm'in on the secret] and convenience [I can get it whenever I want, but then so can everyone else]. The real key for keeping the model sustainable lies in the merchandise itself. It has to deliver on the promise of being hard to get and not found on many of the other Private Sale sites. The more we see the same product on different websites, each claiming to be 'exclusive', the more the notion of a truly private sale diminishes.

almost 9 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Nish

An interesting article and one that certainly highlights what appears to be a new and exciting movement in fashion ecommerce. The French have been successfully employing this business model for over half a decade and there are a number of UK-focussed versions spawning with the same mentality.
I believe Gabrielle raises an interesting issue of websites claiming private sales where the stock is essentially the same across a host of traditional fashion ecommerce outlets. I would add that there some sell branded stock in a way that may be perceived to harm a brand's image, which demeans the exclusivity of this market and potentially marks them as 'cheap and discounted' fashion e-tailers.
As with any good ride, a lot of these new 'private sales' sites will be streamlined out of the picture over time, leaving only those firms who have brokered proper and direct relationships with brands. This will ultimately provide a better proposition for both suppliers and customers, though I'm sure we're all going to have to wait it out for this to happen as I've heard of 3 more new-comers to our UK market in the last 2 weeks alone!

almost 9 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

www.secretsales.com

An interesting article and one that certainly highlights what appears to be a new and exciting movement in fashion ecommerce. The French have been successfully employing this business model for over half a decade and there are a number of UK-focussed versions spawning with the same mentality.
I believe Gabrielle raises an interesting issue of websites claiming private sales where the stock is essentially the same across a host of traditional fashion ecommerce outlets. I would add that there some sell branded stock in a way that may be perceived to harm a brand's image, which demeans the exclusivity of this market and potentially marks them as 'cheap and discounted' fashion e-tailers.
As with any good ride, a lot of these new 'private sales' sites will be streamlined out of the picture over time, leaving only those firms who have brokered proper and direct relationships with brands. This will ultimately provide a better proposition for both suppliers and customers, though I'm sure we're all going to have to wait it out for this to happen as I've heard of 3 more new-comers to our UK market in the last 2 weeks alone!

almost 9 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Dan Hayter

This made for very interesting reading. Having lived in France before returning to the UK last year I was well aware of websites such as vente-privee.com which are hugely succesful on the continent.

These websites will face tough challenges in the UK that probably did not pose as great a problem in France, Spain and Italy. Two point seem to be the most relevant. First, discount designer sales on the continent are rare. Legally a store in France can only hold a sale twice a year - after Christmas and early summer. In the UK - cheap designer goods are available 7 days a week 365 days a year. Second, recruiting new members will pose a challenge. UK internet users are seasoned, savy, and much less likely to provide their email address and personal details to an unknown company, for fear of Spam or even identity fraud.

I think if private sale etailers such as vente-privee.com, the largest such site, can overcome these obstacles by smart marketing and maintaining a catalogue of highly desirable brands (to differentiate themselves from primark, topshop, tk maxx etc) then this could become the next big thing in the UK and eventually even the US.

over 8 years ago

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