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How the new SecretSales will shake up the off-price market

Lauretta Roberts
21 October 2019

"I think there's a real problem that needs solving," says Chris Griffin, the new owner of what is currently the private online sales platform SecretSales, but which is soon to be transformed into a new global solution for brands to deal with excess inventory or dead-stock.

After Griffin sold his previous venture – fashion technology business Anatwine – to e-commerce giant Zalando, he took a year off and thought about his next move. It became clear to him that the off-price market with its many and various channels (be that brands discounting on their own channels, sending stock to discounters, collaborating with private sales sites, setting up outlet stores, and, heaven forfend, destroying old stock) was too complex, often unprofitable and brand damaging, and therefore in need of an overhaul.

"I went on a fashion pilgrimage. I went to see brands, retailers and discounters and I had lots of conversations. I wanted to get a rounded view of where the global off-price market was heading," he says of his year out of the industry.

One major issue became clear: how do you sell excess stock at a discount and not erode your brand equity?

It became clear to Griffin, who is also a former e-commerce director at Superdry, and his business partner Matt Purt that they could come up with a 360-degree elegant solution to the problem. But first they needed a platform to work from.

The pair met with a number of off-price retailers across Europe and eventually landed on SecretSales, the flash sales site established by brothers Sach and Nish Kukadia. Through their Lifestyle Retail Group entity, the pair acquired it.

Griffin admits he's "not a huge fan of the flash-sale only businesses" but they felt SecretSales worked at the higher end of the market, had a great list of existing brands and "had a good brand positioning from a customer point of view and a product point of view". "And I love the name," Griffin jokes.

The Kukadias remain involved in the business but Griffin and Purt have taken over the day to day running of it and are in the process of building a team and the technology to transform it (and Griffin knows a thing or two about technology since Anatwine was all about connecting online retailers with their suppliers).


Chris Griffin

The SecretSales office in Aldgate East will remain with more staff being added, while a further office has been added in Cheltenham along with a customer service centre (Griffin is from Cheltenham and, given his past role, is also good friends with the Regency town's other famous fashion retail resident, Julian Dunkerton of Superdry, whom Griffin describes as "a good lad".)

SecretSales will operate a five-pillar strategy covering: the Secret Sales marketplace; digital storefronts; consignment; wholesale; and physical pop-up shops in locations throughout the EU. Brands can buy into the whole solution or just the parts that suit them.

"I'm an e-commerce guy at heart, but I am a retailer. We need to trade with our partners in the same way that they run their businesses. It's not just about consignment or buying wholesale or putting [off-price stock] into brands' stores, it's about working with the brands to drive sales across all of their channels," explains Griffin. "The one thing I truly believe is that they all tie into each other," he says.

He claims he has been "bowled over" by the response the proposition has received. "We're not saying to customers, 'can you sell us your excess inventory?' We're saying 'we can clear your excess inventory in a way you feel comfortable with and which gives you new customers at various touch points'," he says.

It's true of course that a customer that gets to know a brand when it's discounted is far more likely to go and buy it at full price as and when they can afford to. Or, customers might shop a brand across a range of channels at both full- and off-price, so it makes sense to unify and control the experience. In addition, with a unified solution, the brand can access the data of that customer activity and accurately monitor customer behaviour.

An example of this is the idea of the SecretSales pop-up stores. These, explains Griffin, will operate under the SecretSales fascia but will house a rotating selection of brands during their residencies, which will be in prime retail locations.

The front of the stores will be dedicated to full-price current season collections and once inside customers will find a "theatrical entrance" to a "VIP space" that enables them to shop off-price, but only if they sign-up for membership first, which they can do in-store. "We wanted to keep that DNA of SecretSales," explains Griffin. It also positions buying off-price as a premium and desirable experience, as opposed to what can be a slightly "low rent" one.

But in the current doom and gloom, why factor in physical stores at all? "Retail is going nowhere," says Griffin. "It's just changing. I know it's tough. Change is tough. But I believe we are in a world that is becoming more exciting, not less exciting."

"Change is just going to accelerate and I'm excited and proud to be a part of that," he concludes. "Retail is here to stay." And he's here to make sure of it.

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