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Flash sales pioneer attracting increasing numbers of UK brands

ItÂ’s the biggest employer of models and operates the largest digital agency in Europe with 1,200 people working within its production department to make the products it sells online look their very best. By Glynn Davis in Paris


Flash sales pioneer attracting increasing numbers of UK brands

ItÂ’s the biggest employer of models and operates the largest digital agency in Europe with 1,200 people working within its production department to make the products it sells online look their very best. By Glynn Davis in Paris

We are talking about Vente-Privee the pioneer of online flash sales whose innovative model for selling end-of-line and over-stocks of fashion goods has been copied around the world. But as well as being the biggest such operator it also uniquely handles the whole production process –involving photography, sound, video, and catwalk production, which combines to portray the products in a way that fits the objectives of the brand owners. 

As well as having contemporary art-filled offices on the edge of Paris, its sizeable production team sets it apart from the competition, according to Priya Thangaveloo, key account manager for the UK at Vente Privee, who says it has been vital in the company attracting some of the bigger UK brands who had “not previously got into flash sales”.

The company opened an office in London in 2008 but closed it in 2011 having recognised it was a slow burn to attract recognised UK brands on-board. But over the past year – operating out of the France office – the UK team have made serious progress.

“It has taken time but we work strategically with the brands and we only do sales twice per year whereas for some of our competitors they might do five per year and so the brands do not have control, which can devalue the brand,” says Thangaveloo.

In contrast, she says that Vente Privee is effectively acting like an agency to the brand when creating the visuals, with it working to a strict brief, and the spending can run to £100,000: “We know that this is how we have continuity with the brands.”

This has given confidence to the likes of Karen Millen, LK Bennett, Dunhill and Joseph who have been tempted to run sales. Karen Millen recently ran its first sale - it is understood the company found it extremely beneficial - and LK Bennett used the expertise of the Vente Privee production team to jazz up its brand with younger models as it aimed to attract a new customer.

Eilidh Stewart, UK sales co-ordination manager at Vente Privee, says: “For some brands Vente Privee has run competitions, which have created some buzz. We are finding that they want to use the medium to get the brand out there and more brands are doing this.”

What is particularly interesting about Vente Privee for the brands is that its various international websites allow these fashion houses to sell their stock in other countries. “We give them a choice of markets to sell into,” adds Thangaveloo.

On the UK site – along with UK names – there could also be DVF, The Kooples, Pull & Bear, Valentino and the brands of Inditex. Such has been the progress made in the UK this past year that the number of sales has doubled to 90 per month with 20 people involved in the production process.

Like the UK brands, they are keen to sell their excess goods into overseas markets where they will find a new audience and avoid any potential devaluation of the brand in their key domestic markets.

The British site is still some way behind the French operation where 300 sales per month are delivered to an eager online audience of members who sign up to receive the daily Vente Privee emails.

The other big difference is how the French site has developed into offering much more than clothing – shoppers are just as likely to find jewellery, watches, home and decor, food, holidays, and event tickets. And Iggy Pop even launched his latest album on the site.

This is understood to have pushed non-clothing sales to less than 50% of total sales whereas in the UK clothing is still more likely to account for as much as 70% of revenues. But this is expected to change, according to Stewart, who says “members are not expecting non-clothing at this stage” but that they will over time as Vente Privee moves into being more of a lifestyle than a fashion brand.

She says this will also have the advantage of bringing in new members that will push up the numbers in the UK to beyond the present 550,000. This compares with 13 million in France and 2.5 million in Spain.

The UK is clearly some way behind other territories in hard numbers terms but it is clear that progress has been made, which will undoubtedly put increased pressure on its many competitors.

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