May 29, 2009
Bagging designer goods at a fraction of their cost is all the buzz in the virtual world and a local website has joined the fray. NOELLE LOH reports
How would you like to pick up fresh designer bargains every few days without having to jostle with sweaty crowds? This fashionista dream is now a virtual reality.
Invite-only websites that bring the thrill of sample sales - traditionally used by fashion retailers to get rid of excess stock - into the online realm are all the buzz.
The idea is not new overseas but home-grown site Reebonz (Photo 1) - pronounced 'Ribbons' - has latched on to the trend.
Launched in March by Singapore Management University business graduate Daniel Lim and National University of Singapore real-estate graduate Benjamin Han, both 25, the website offers new sales hawking anything from Marc Jacobs to Miu Miu thrice a week at discounts of up to 80 per cent.
To date, they have worked with about 35 brands. Here is how it works:
- Become a member by having an existing member invite you or by typing in the invitation code found in partnering blogs and publications.
- An e-mail message announcing sale details is sent out before sale time.
- Log on at the stipulated time and the retail therapy starts.
- Pay with your credit card and your order will be delivered within seven working days.
Lim and Han get the stock directly from labels and authorised dealers wanting to clear past inventory that dates back up to three seasons.
Reebonz is the only such site known to be based here so far but industry insiders estimate there are at least 50 such websites worldwide.
'With people tightening their belts, we thought it would be a good way to allow them to enjoy luxury products at affordable prices,' says Lim.
To date, the website is said to have garnered over 10,000 members.
Indeed, the recession has helped fire a trend that started in 2001 when the Paris-based Vente-Privee was launched.
The website, which has links with over 450 brands that go for up to 70 per cent off, posted sales of £545 million (S$1.25 billion) last year - a jump of 46 per cent from 2007.
Other such websites have also reported rising sales. Australian site Estile, for example, has seen membership grow 200 per cent monthly since its launch in January.
Nish Kukadia, director of Secret Sales, a two-year-old, London-based website, adds that opening the sales only to members lends a cachet.
'Being part of an exclusive club and online community is all part of the perks,' she says in an e-mail interview.
Dr Lim Sun Sun, an assistant professor specialising in the social psychology of new media at the National University of Singapore, explains: 'The Internet has always been a boon for shoppers who are economising; just consider the spate of websites that allow you to compare prices across retailers.
'Online consumers are always keen to try new shopping tools and options so the novelty certainly helps.'
Labels, too, love the idea of a new avenue to push their old wares.
Says a spokesman for home-grown multi-label luxury retailer The Link, which partnered Reebonz for its debut sale: 'It's a new and dynamic channel for us to sell past season stocks and reach out to new customers.'
However, experts say such sites may not be as exclusive as they claim.
Says Dr Fernando Paragas, an assistant professor specialising in public and promotional communication at the Nanyang Technological University: 'Many of these sites appear exclusive but you can get yourself invited, which really defeats the idea of exclusivity.
'It's hard to know how many members there are and how many more can be accommodated.'
Ultimately though, good bargains never fail to beckon.
Says corporate lawyer Serene Tan, 25, who is a member of New York-based sample-sale site Gilte Groupe: 'Less exclusivity just means the webpages take longer to load. A good bargain is still a good bargain not to be missed out on.'
Started: March in Singapore
How it works: A new sale event hawking one label kicks off every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon. Each sale lasts two to three days.
Discounts: 30 to 80 per cent off
Labels: Brands put on sale so far have included alldressedup, Coach, Etro, La Perla and Miu Miu.
Shipping: Local charges are a flat $9.90 and delivery takes up to seven working days.
Membership: Over 10,000
How to join: Get invited by another member or use an invitation code. Urban readers can use the code 'Urban' to register.
Started: January in Australia
How it works: Sales take place at least once a week, with members alerted through e-mail. Each sale carries one brand and lasts for two to three days.
Discounts: 30 to 80 per cent off
Labels: Aussie labels like Lifewithbird, The Casette Society and Josh Goot as well as denim brands Earnest Sewn and Paige Denim.
Shipping: International charges are a flat A$30 (S$34) and delivery here takes between three and 10 days.
Membership: Over 50,000
How to join: Be invited by a member or join the waiting list, where you typically wait several days before getting member status. Urban readers can skip the waiting list process by registering at www.estile.com/straights.
Secret Sales (http://secretsales.com/home/)
Started: 2007 in London
How it works: Up to two new sales are launched daily with each sale lasting up to a week.
Discounts: Up to 80 per cent off
Labels: Mid- to luxury-priced labels including Ben Sherman, Calvin Klein, G-Star and Alexander McQueen.
Shipping: Currently ships only in Britain but is said to be starting international delivery soon.
Membership: Declined to reveal.
How to join: Register online. Director Nish Kukadia says she will eventually close the website registration so that it becomes exclusive to members.
Vente Privee (www.vente-privee.com)
Started: 2001 in Paris
How it works: Daily sales that last between two and four days.
Discounts: 50 to 70 per cent off
Labels: European luxury labels like Givenchy, Dolce & Gabbana and Cacharel
Shipping: Ships only to the United States.
Membership: Over seven million
How to join: Get invited by an existing member.
Billion Dollar Babes (www.billiondollarbabes.com)
Started: 2001 in California
How it works: Two new sales are launched every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, each lasting 48 hours.
Discounts: Up to 85 per cent off
Labels: Mid-priced labels and above such as Seven For All Mankind, Kooba and Catherine Malandrino.
Shipping: US$45 (S$65) to Singapore with delivery taking up to 10 days.
Membership: Into the 'hundreds of thousands'.
How to join: One of the few sites that prides itself on being open to all. Simply register at the homepage.