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If you’re not familiar with vente-privee, it’s a French pure play selling famous brands at 50% off retail price. And it does it on a big scale.

The company had €1.5bn turnover in 2013, an increase of 18% year on year.

120,000 parcels are shipped every day by vente-privee to eight EU countries and also to the US. It’s the number one fashion brand in France and the fourth biggest brand in all French B2C distribution.

I listened to Seb Bellone, Head of European Transport and Distribution at vente-privee, who gave me these stats at MetaPack’s Delivery Conference this week.

I thought I’d lay the stats out for you, so you can get an idea of the scale that vente-privee works on and how they deal with delivery.

Company overview

  • vente-privee currently gains an average of 10,000 new members every day. The company employs 570 permanent employees.
  • Members spend an average of a massive 50 minutes on site with every visit.
  • 65% of vente-privee’s current inventory is clothing.
  • 18.2m parcels were shipped in 2013.
  • vente-privee’s competitors include Privalia in Spain and Amazon’s BuyVIP in Spain, Italy and Germany.

Inventory and flash sales

100 salesmen work for vente-privee going out to brands to secure inventory at half retail price.

Seb gave an example of how these transactions work. A salesman will go out to a brand such as Lacoste and request 100,000 polo shirts.

If Lacoste agrees, vente-privee sells the stock at 50% discount for five days. Say customers buy 80,000 shirts, vente-privee asks Lacoste to fulfil this order in a week.

The order is fulfilled to vente-privee’s warehouse in Lyon. From there the goods are shipped out to customers, who receive their parcels about two to three weeks after payment.

As an example of the type of flash sales that can be achieved, last year vente-privee sold €7m of North Face apparel in under one hour.

Delivery

vente-privee lists its current aims as serving brands, satisfying members and targeting international expansion.

Part of the challenge for vente-privee is simplifying exchange of information with supply and logistics and convincing new brands to work with them.

Delivery options in France are four in number – home delivery by local post, post office collect, locker collect and collect in partnered stores.

This collect in store option, a click and collect solution such as eBay is trialling with Argos stores, is the most popular in France, with over 20,000 collect stores.

Outside of France there are generally three delivery options but vente-privee is working to provide a click and collect option in other EU countries.

Return rates are 5% in France and 14% in the UK. There is no exchange option, only refund, so this keeps returns fairly low.

One of the rules for delivery is that the charge should never exceed 10% of the product price.

Delivery costs the company around €80m a year, which is transparently charged back to the customer with no profit made.

The average weight of a parcel in 2013 was 2.2.kg.

Seasonality

vente-privee is seeing later and later orders in December ahead of Christmas and this is one of the future challenges for the company.

More flexibility is needed to satisfy the customer.

Diversifying

In 2013 vente-privee shipped 4m bottles of wine, making it the number one wine distributor in the world.

There are challenges with this, such as the €2 tax on each bottle into the UK, but food is an increasing market for the company.

The two week deliver time means vente-privee obviously doesn’t do grocery shopping, rather it stocks luxury items such as caviar, fois gras and meats.

Ben Davis

Published 6 February, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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