Vente-Privée, founded in 2001, is Gilt Groupe’s big sister, the original and world’s largest flash-sales site offering luxury brands in Europe an online event-based sales channel to quickly sell large quantities stock without harming the brand’s image or competing with other distribution channels.
Run as an invitation-only private shopping club, 14 million members get access to regular limited-time, limited-supply sales of luxury brands with VIP member-only discounts of often 50% or more. Member email alerts, gift-vouchers, blog, and a widget called VPbubble inform members when sales go live. On average, Vente-Privée buyers are 36 years old, city-based and loyal (more than four purchases a year).
A success story à la française, Vente-Privée ignited the flash-sales social commerce category, spawning US clones in the form of Gilt Groupe, Rue La La, Hautelook and Ideeli. More than that, Vente-Privée has become one of France’s most recommended brands, and one of Europe’s biggest online success stories – rivalling that of Skype with revenue of $968m (2009) from 41 million items sold and 75,000 parcels dispatched every day (2010).
The online flash-sales concept, also known as “private sales”, was pretty much invented in 2001 by Vente-Privée CEO Jacques-Antoine Granjon. Vente-Privée adds value as a media and distribution channel for partner brands in a wide variety of upscale sectors including: prêt-à-porter, accessories, housewares, toys, sports equipment, electronics, fine foods, cars, as well as theatre tickets and travel.
Benefits to Retailers
Appearing on Vente-Privée.com helps brands increase brand awareness. According to information obtained from the site, awareness increases an average of 13 points among members and 24 points among members who have made a purchase in the last six months.
Thanks to its large audience, Vente-Privée also serves as a platform for new product launches or special sales to help brands generate buzz and increase sales.
Retailers also use the site when they have a large amount of stock they would like to sell discretely. A big emphasis is put on user-experience, with the goal of creating an online version of a luxury store experience, to avoid any negative impact on brand image.
Vente-Privée also offers useful customer analytics, because as a members-only site, users must be signed in – with their profile – to browse what’s on offer. This is rarely the case for e-commerce sites.
Unique offers on Vente-Privée include the first ever travel sale on the UK website with Disneyland Paris, the first sale of New America in Europe, the jean collection from iconic brand William Rast and sales of theatre tickets including Sister Act, Holiday on Ice and Crazy Horse.
Relationship to Social Commerce
Is Vente-Privée social commerce? As a private shopping club, powered by an online member-get-member mechanism, it certainly uses social technology in the context of commerce – but there is a noticeable lack of social network integration (unlike Gilt Groupe). On the other hand, there is an active members forum to discuss sales, providing a club-like feel. So yes, insofar as member-get-member mechanics and forums are first-generation social technology, Vente-Privée can be seen as a social commerce success story – with the learning that there is perhaps more to social than social networks.
Vente-Privée, along with other flash-sale sites are sometimes bundled with group-buy couponing sites such as Groupon, but the business model is very different. Group-buy sites are effectively advertising companies, selling ad units with an integrated conversion mechanism; they sell coupons rather than merchandise. In contrast, flash sale sites sell merchandise, holding and managing inventory (typically only after it has been sold or on a sale-or-return consignment basis to minimize inventory risk).
Cost to Retailers
According to a Vente-Privée spokesperson, cost to the retailer depends completely on the sale. No concrete information is available as different factors are taken into account for every sale.
Vente-Privée Sales Records
- £8.5 million: Highest turnover for a single sale.
- 470,000 products: Record stock sold in one sale.
- £18,700: The most expensive item (a necklace) ever sold, excluding car and apartment sales.
- 1.2 million: Highest number of members signed up for a 2-day sale
- 2,500: Watches from a prestigious brand sold in just 48 seconds.
- 1 million: Bottles of wine and champagne sold on the site each year.
- vente-privee.com has become the No.1 wine distributer in France.
- 2,000: Models worked for vente-privee.com in 2010.
- 160,000: Square metres of warehouse space, equal to 25 football
- pitches (70m x 100m).
- 100,000: Roses sold in three days.
- 50,000: Sex toys sold in three days.
- 3,400: Swimming pools sold in one sale.
- Jacques-Antoine Granjon, CEO and Founder;
- Michael Benabou, Business partner and co-founder in charge of business development;
- Xavier Court, Communication and new business director and co-founder.
249 avenue du President Wilson
La Plaine Saint-Denis
Paris, 93210 FRA