We are all familiar with online peer-to-peer marketplaces, such as eBay, serving as online platforms to buy and sell preowned items. The secondary market has grown exponentially in the past decade (Gorra, 2019), and the fashion industry is no exception to this trend. With the growing fashion consciousness of consumers and spending awareness habits since the recession, it is no surprise that the fashion industry followed this path of “re-commerce”. In recent years, many online preowned fashion marketplaces started to pop up, focusing on the resale of preowned fashion and luxury products. One of them is Vestiaire Collective – “a leading global marketplace and community for preowned luxury and designer fashion” (Pallardo, 2017).
Introduction to Vestiaire Collective
Launched in 2009, Vestiaire Collective (VC) had the mission to extend the lifespan of beautiful luxury fashion pieces by bringing them back into circulation (“Vestiaire Collective”, n.d.). With over 7 million members located in over 50 countries, VC has established itself as one of the global leaders in fashion and luxury resale. The difference between VC and other preowned luxury and fashion marketplaces is that it focusses on the peer-to-peer interaction (buyers buy from sellers). Other competitors, such as The RealReal, have consignment models (sellers receive a listing price up front from a company that then puts the item for sale) and therefore focus on the business-to-consumer interaction. VC therefore has no inventory, yet leverages that of its customers’.
How does the platform work?
Access to the platform is only granted by becoming a member. Sellers can submit their item on the platform, which VC then evaluates. The item can be accepted, negotiated a different listing price, or declined. If accepted, VC lists the item on their platform (Figure 1). Once an item is sold, the seller ships the item with a prepaid shipping label (paid for by VC) to one of VC’s offices where thorough authentication and quality control of the item is conducted. VC’s experts then make sure the item is not counterfeited and in the expected state. Finally, if the item passes quality control, it is shipped to the buyer and the seller gets paid.
Vestiaire Collective’s Business Model
The platform mainly earns revenue from collecting commission fees for every item sold on their platform. Roughly 1000 to 2000 pieces undergo quality control every day and an average basket is worth €400 (Pallardo, 2017). VC takes between 18% and 34% commission, depending on the listing price (“Vestiaire Collective FAQ”, n.d.). This fee includes the free shipment of the sold product to one of VC’s offices and quality control services.
Why Vestiaire Collective?
One might wonder why sellers choose to list their items on VC instead of on other platforms where commission rates are significantly lower (for example, eBay charges a maximum of 10% (“eBay Customer Service”, n.d.)). Essentially, sellers must make a trade-off between lower commission rates and the benefits of VC’s platform. Many sellers, including myself, are choosing for the latter.
VC is specialised in luxury fashion. Although rivals such as eBay are large in the secondary market, they are not specialised in luxury goods. VC is also proactive with its members, creating a lot of content around their platform, educating them about fast-moving products and brands, and providing them with information on the latest trends (Figure 1). Once in a while special sales are organised to connect with members on a different level by featuring items for sale of famous influencers.
Convenience and scope
Listing an item is easy. VC step-by-step guides sellers in this process, and along the way, educates them on how more information and better images can increase sale likelihood and seller trustworthiness. Furthermore, shipping costs to VC’s office for quality control is prepaid, regardless of where in the world the buyer lives. Sellers simply print out the prepaid shipping label. No need for exchange of personal information. VC reliefs sellers from language barriers and the burden of having to factor in shipping costs, and simultaneously broadens sales reach.
Semi-anonymous peer-to-peer interaction
As a member of the community, you are not anonymous; names, countries and number of sold items are disclosed. However, as a bidder and buyer you are (Figure 2 and 3). Members cannot directly or privately contact each other, but can publicly comment on and “like” the item to ask questions and to give the community an indication of popularity of the item (Figure 2). Although direct contact among members is not possible, the main interaction on the platform is between peers. The platform basically functions as facilitator and regulator, by allowing peer-to-peer trade and ensuring ethical behaviour.
Trust in the platform: no market for lemons
VC’s community is built on trust, maintained by the rules and regulations of the platform. Members’ inability to send each other private messages does not restrict them from obtaining the right information about products and sellers. The quality control service protects buyers from counterfeit, and makes sure accurate information is provided by sellers on product condition (Figure 4). Additionally, members will not be cheated on. VC is a semi-centralized platform in terms of pricing. Sellers’ listing price must be accepted by VC to avoid extremely high prices (Figure 2). Also, buyers cannot offer sellers a price lower than 30% below the listing price, so sellers can anticipate their earnings up front. With its semi-centralised pricing system and trustworthiness, VC avoids a market for lemons, and assures fair prices for fair trade.
Opportunities and Challenges for Vestiaire Collective
VC’s trustworthiness has come at a cost, and still costs them a lot of money. Authenticating sold products is at the core of their business and trustworthiness. However, it is also one of their most expensive processes. The prepaid shipping label VC provides their sellers with, is extremely expensive, especially when items are deemed inaccurate and thus do not pass quality control. One of VC’s internal challenges is therefore to find more efficient ways of authenticating items. One interesting opportunity that requires adaptation from the entire fashion industry, is the use of Blockchain technology. Authentication could then be validated by the chain, instead of by expensive experts, and simultaneously mitigates shipping costs. Items that are especially susceptible to counterfeit often carry unique reference numbers that are registered at the manufacturer. Although a long shot, it might be interesting for VC to explore the possibilities of Blockchain for their business.
“The more products sold in the boutique, the more products sold on the secondary market” (Sherman, 2017). VC’s focus is on expanding to other countries and increasing user base to obtain more supply to fuel the marketplace. With a total funding of $130 million, VC therefore continues to expand their marketplace to China (Milnes, 2017), as the Chinese are the biggest spenders on luxury and making up 32% of its total spending in the global market (Pymnts, 2018). However, like every platform or online community, its success depends on member engagement, which in VC’s case is members’ willingness to put their items for sale. VC’s external challenge is to make sellers from boutique buyers, and to make sure that sellers remain boutique buyers as well. Without “buying sellers,” the platform has nothing to sell. Re-commerce is therefore not a threat, but rather a complement to traditional or e-commerce.