If your favorite fashion brand never went on sale, would you still buy it? Consumers across Europe and North America would probably answer “no.” Why would they say yes? Given the current economic atmosphere and the proliferation of online discount retailers, buying at full price has fallen out of the norm.
Online flash sales were introduced by the self-made, colorful French entrepreneur Granjon in 2001 as a way for brands to quickly clear surplus stock. His company, Vente-Privee.com, has been a huge success and is now competing for a bigger slice of the US market via a joint venture with American Express.
Over the last several years, similar sites have popped up throughout the West, to the great satisfaction of consumers and brands alike. But is it really this simple? It didn’t take long for this concept to become distorted into a regular sales channel, with brands producing specific, large volume/lower-cost lines just to put them “on sale” at discounts of 50, 60 or even 70 percent off.
Large retail groups have the financial strength to use these strategies and make them very profitable. But what about smaller brands? How could independent, creative labels, such as those we support on Shop des Createurs, survive tough contracts and near-zero margins? They simply can’t. With fewer and fewer consumers ready to pay full price for products that actually warrant it, flash sales sites are slowly killing creativity in the West.
More recently, the flash sale concept was introduced to mainland China and throughout Asia via sites such as Glamour-Sales — apparently with great success. The unfortunate thing about this is that the rise of online flash sales across Asia is taking place right on the eve of a creative boom, with bustling designer scenes emerging in Singapore, Hong Kong and elsewhere, new trade shows giving opportunities to up-and-coming labels, and interest growing among media and consumers for unique items.
When price becomes the predominant purchase factor, the small designers and brands are always the ones who suffer. Fortunately, at the moment, consumers at the higher end in Asia seem to value brand quality and soul as much as the price point. Let’s see how long it stays that way.
Cedric Delzenne is the founder of the Hong Kong-based online store Shop des Createurs, a virtual fashion “boutique” offering hand-picked collection of designers from places as far-flung as Paris, Buenos Aires and Hong Kong. Available in two languages (French/English) and four currencies, the secure site currently stocks nearly 30 designers from eight countries.