It may just be a coincidence that the French offices of Vente Privée, in Plaine Saint-Denis, just outside Paris, are situated on avenue du Président Wilson, a street dedicated to Thomas Woodrow Wilson, the twenty-eighth president of theUnited States, but it certainly is no coincidence nor was it a rash decision by the French company, after 10 years on the European markets, to enter the US, where the market is already mature for discounts and e-commerce, with a partner of the calibre of American Express. And so Vente Privée, already present in 7 European countries, with 13 million members and a turnover in 2010 of 969 million Euros, has decided on a marriage with the credit card giant, quoted on the NYSE with around 40 million customers and a net profit of 1.2 billion dollars in the first quarter. In this joint-venture, with head quarters in New York, a city where the partners have been looking at different premises, each will put in 20 million dollars (40 in total), all their years of purchasing know-how and each will be appointing half the employees. All in all, a true marriage of convenience, except, as the Chairman and founder of the company Jacques-Antoine Granjon explained to FashionUnited on the phone from the Paris office, “we also share the same values as American Express and this is fundamental”. “Quality of service and products, vision and long term objectives, ability and reciprocal trust”, underlines Granjon, adding that this agreement hinges upon these elements, the experience and "the position of leadership that the two partners have reached in the business to business and the business to consumer markets". The treasure chest to draw from and which Amex has offered on a plate is their 40 million rich customer database.
The launch strategy for their new site, planned for the end of this year, and whose name is still a work in progress “will be decided in the next few weeks and will be made up of both company names” says Granjon, adding that it won’t be Amex Privé as it has already been registered, the password will be the most effective publicity in order for them to carve out a place for themselves amongst the million dollar turnover competitors such as Amazon, TJ Maxx and Gilt. So, “le bouche à oreille” “patented” in France in 2001, will now be exported to New York and will therefore become “word of mouth”. Besides the name of the company the avatar of the American customer service will also be christened. In Italy sales are announced in an e-mail from Sofia Dell’Ambra and in France from Cécile de Rostand, in the USA you can bet that the nickname of the person responsible will be something like Jennifer Smith or Olivia Walker.
The business model
“For the moment we have no new entries to announce but what’s certain is that the relationship with the brands, 1200 to date, will continue to be direct and the largest slice of the business will be in clothing with discounts of between 50 and 70%”, explains Granjon. Those brands wishing to become partners can already put their name forward by visiting the site http://usa.vente-privee.com/default.aspx, where individuals can also apply for positions at the new company. Proportionally, today the French company has 1320 staff members, of which 1172 are employed in France, so human resources should also be a key element in the United States.
At the company, with sites in France, Spain (second in terms of turnover after France), Germany (third with a share of 70.9 million Euros), Italy (21 million), United Kingdom (7.5 million), Austria and Belgium, “we don’t have short and medium term objectives for the market share, but obviously the idea is to win over the American customer with our know-how, with our great logistical, destocking and distribution skills, all of which the Americans are very good at” said the Chairman. In view of the large number and the strength of the competitors in this multi-million dollar market, realistically speaking the company turnover could be in the region of millions of dollars.
From our correspondent
Photo: Dan Schulman and Jacques-Antoine Granjon