Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cashing in on the Secret Online Bargain-Hunters; ENTREPRENEURS

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cashing in on the Secret Online Bargain-Hunters; ENTREPRENEURS

Article excerpt

Byline: Rosamund Urwin

ON his honeymoon, Nish Kukadia brought a laptop to the beach every day. After "countless" late nights slaving away alongside his co-founders of online shopping club secret sales, its 28-year-old chief executive was meant to be having a break.

But -- just after his wedding in November 2009 -- Germany's Brands4Friends was carrying out due diligence before it invested in the company.

"It didn't turn out to be much of a holiday; I was always on my mobile or my computer," he admits. "Luckily, my wife is very understanding."

Kukadia set up secret sales with his brother, 27-year-old sach, who is the website's buying director, and a married couple, silvia and Michael Cody.

The site sells brands such as Tommy hilfiger, Aquascutum and John smedley at prices 30% to 80% lower than the high street.

It now receives up to 3000 orders a day and although the best-sellers are still jeans, shoes and accessories, secret sales has expanded from fashion into homeware, electronics, tickets for events and even holidays.

Last month, it also gained a very high-profile investor: eBay. The internet auctioneer owns a minority stake in secret sales after its takeover of Brands4Friends. secret sales' customers, who have to register for access to the sales, are mostly between 25 and 40. They are split fairly evenly between the sexes and come from all over the UK. What unites them, according to sach, is the rush they feel when snapping up a bargain: "Our customers are addicted to deals. sometimes they don't want the brand, they just want the discount.

"Some are buying products that they wouldn't normally be able to afford but there's no guilt attached because of the price."

Nish adds that shoppers also enjoy the feeling of exclusivity: "We often get the same feedback. People say: 'I want to tell everyone about your site but I also want to keep it to myself.' They usually do end up telling though, as we offer them e-vouchers for introducing new customers."

He believes that they can help suppliers too: "We help them clear stock to make space for new products and help with their financial planning." however, secret sales does not buy the stock until it has sold it -- initially a difficult concept for brands to warm to: "We had to educate them about how it works: they can get a better price with us, and we protect the brand's integrity: cut-priced goods are not flooding the market," Nish explains.

"Plus there is an urgency to buy because our campaigns are timerestricted, so we can sell hundreds of units in a few days."

Secret sales has a similar business model to France's Vente-Privee, whose success gave the Codys the idea of emulating the business in this country.

The Codys had run a clothes manufacturing business for 30 years, making garments for a host of high street shops, but they wanted partners with digital expertise and a more youthful approach. …

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