French-founded Hong Kong flash sales platform OnTheList expands in Asia
With OnTheList, Delphine Lefay and Diego Dultzin Lacoste are living their entrepreneurial dream. In 2016, the French couple started a flash-sales business with a premium positioning, staged in physical venues and based in Hong Kong.This year, their company will top the €12 million revenue mark. Lefay and Dultzin Lacoste are fashion experts (the latter worked at Chanel and The Kooples before moving to Asia for Maison Ullens, the former was at Givenchy before joining Faguo and later moving to Hong Kong for Eram), and they saw the potential the concept had in the region.
“Both of us had business experience in Asia, and this was the right time for us. We talked at length with the people from Arlettie in Paris, who established this kind of business in France a long time ago. They gave us a lot of advice,” said Dultzin Lacoste, adding that “we were also able to rely on a network called French Founders, consisting of managers and businessmen operating in Hong Kong who were willing to help us.”
The couple managed to get in touch with the Asian representatives of premium brands, whose headquarters are frequently located in Hong Kong, offering to stage flash sales in physical venues for their staff or for a select clientèle. “We provide the operational organisation. We take care of sales, of setting up secure check-out counters, and we have the technology required. We present ourselves as a safe solution for labels that have to deal with high inventory costs and with the elimination of unsold stock,” said Dultzin Lacoste. “We verify that there is no further resale after internal sales. In all of this, our ideal ally is often the client company’s CFO, who knows the inventory costs,” he added.
In Hong Kong, OnTheList soon opened a showroom and started catering to a local clientèle. “They are not tourists, there is no cannibalisation,” said Dultzin Lacoste, adding that “our customers are what are known in Hong Kong as ‘office ladies’, professionals who are keen on fashion, both ready-to-wear and luxury labels. We feature collections from previous seasons and try to offer them at the best possible price, sometimes with discounts up to 75%.”
OnTheList currently claims to have 189,000 members, and says it is able to attract over 4,000 people to its flash sales. It also sells online, where it generates 15% of its revenue. OnTheList has expanded its business beyond the world of fashion, notably developing the cosmetics and lifestyle categories.
In Hong Kong, it organises several flash sales each week at various sites, and it is now deploying into other markets: after Singapore, it is testing out Taiwan. OnTheList recently hired Nancy Chen, formerly in charge of South-East Asia for Dickson Concepts International, notably a partner of Tod's. A sign that the company is keen to expand elsewhere, and it is of course eyeing the huge Chinese market with interest.
“Shanghai’s potential is at least three times greater than that of Hong Kong,” said Dultzin Lacoste. “But there are established operators on the market already. We would like to be regarded as the Asian partner of premium brands,” he added. Customs duties in China are such that Western brands are indeed looking for solutions to optimise the way they manage their unsold stock. OnTheList sees this as a new growth opportunity.
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