[Exclusive interview] Brands benefit from circular economy says boss of Secret Sales
We talk to serial entrepreneur and online retail disruptor Chris Griffin, CEO of Secret Sales.
Can you tell us about your background?
Before moving into retail, I worked in the music industry and launched high profile brands into global markets. I worked with Superdry for a few years (eCommerce) and then went on to setup a technology company, Anatwine, which really revolutionised the fashion retail market. We sold the business to Europe’s largest ecommerce fashion retailer Zalando in 2017.
Today, I am the CEO of Secret Sales. I acquired the company, along with my business partner Matt Purt, in March 2020 and since then we’ve shifted it from an antiquated members-only flash sales website to a dedicated marketplace.
Sustainability awareness in the industry has increased dramatically over the last few years, what are your thoughts on this?
Firstly, working to be sustainable is good for business and I’m ‘old School’ which means I’m not interested in ‘green gestures’. Sustainability is a big agenda item for us and internally, we’re continually looking at our place in a sustainable market. And this means financially sustainable (for both consumers and brands) and ecological sustainability for the supply chain and the planet.
The advantage for customers when buying through Secret Sales is that they are buying a product that is often half price, like fast fashion, but they are getting a product that will last them years. And it goes further than that. They are also getting an item they really want, will maybe wear for a year or two and then sell on for the same (if not more) though platforms like Depop or Vinted. This is the circular economy in action, it’s smart and it’s sustainable – both brands and customers benefit. How exciting is that!
By using our marketplace, our partners avoid eroding their brand with loads of discount products on their website. Plus, they clear products earlier in their lifecycle rather than selling them out to clearance houses. This means less waste and less stock movement. Both ecologically and financially sustainable. Brands can now think about excess stock and product lifecycles not as a transactional challenge but, a profit centre so they are making more and doing better by their brand and the planet.
How are economic challenges affecting your customers?
Right now, we could all do with a bit more certainty and consumers are being more financially shrewd, but they still need clothes, and they want a quality product that will last – not fast fashion.
What we’ve seen at Secret Sales recently is that our average order value has gone up which given the current living wage crisis was surprising to us. So, we did a load of work to understand what was going on by looking at the data, and we spoke to a number of our customers too.
What we found was that baskets sizes are increasing but the average item value is staying about the same. Also, customers are putting multi gender items in their basket – so they are shopping for partners or children as well as themselves. Our customers have told us that they are spending less on full price items and, they are planning their purchases more carefully. We believe this is a direct result of the cost-of-living crisis.
You say discounts can be a profit centre. Can you elaborate?
I’ve been in retail for the last 15 years and in that time, the industry has transformed in ways we could never have predicted. I remember when ‘discounts’ were a dirty word in the boardroom, but the reality is today, it’s just not possible to sell everything at full price.
Our platform connects the brand, the supply chain, the pricing and the overall presentation, allowing them to make margin rather than sell through wholesale or as a flash sale. This means that discounts can now be a profit centre. Plus, we share, in a GDPR compliant way, the customer data with the brands when they make a sale, so they are still in control of the customer experience, and they have a mechanism to engage with the customer too. It’s been transformational.
How is the global expansion going?
Very well. We launched in the Netherlands and Belgium about 5 months ago as the first phase of our European rollout. We were always built to be an international company, and it’s going that way very rapidly.
When we launched in the UK, we had about £500,000 worth of connected inventory. Today we have around £1.7 billion worth of inventory on the .com.
We will roll out two, maybe three international territories next year and we have our app going live in February 2023 so we’re already very busy with that. This is all part of our expansion strategy. Fundamentally though we will be really focussed on continually improving the customer experience, building on our customer service offering and developing strong relationships with brands.
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