Trading Luxuries: New Trends in Retail

Written by Vince Thompson, Contributing Editor

Suddenly feeling a little ostentatious with your Gucci bag? Or looking to refresh your closet and capitalize on the great deals at hand?  Portero.com may be your answer. Bob Schwartz, the interim CEO at the fast growing luxury retailer Portero.com,  joined me to talk about the luxury market, as well as trends in luxury retail and e-commerce.

First, a little of Bob's background. Bob Schwartz is an accomplished Internet and technology exec who established Nordstrom’s as an e-commerce success story before moving from Seattle to Los Angeles to become President at the powerful data company US Search. As an Entrepreneur in Residence at Clearstone Venture Partners, Bob provided insight and assistance to dozens of Internet ventures before accepting his current role with Portero.com

What does Portero Do?

Portero is the largest authenticated luxury market, offering exciting ways to buy and sell the worlds best luxury brands including pre-owned, vintage and new items. Portero addresses and solves a few large consumer frustrations around luxury goods. Consumers are worried about the authenticity of Luxury goods as they are a prime target for counterfeits and fakes being sold as real. Portero verifies and guarantees every item to be 100% authentic. The other issue Portero solves for is around “ease”. Currently a consumer would have to hunt through hundreds of high-end consignment shops or dealers to find the assortment offered by shopping on Portero. Currently you will find over 5,000 luxury items (and growing). And finally, Portero is a respected and easy place for consumers, dealers and brands to sell luxury items.

How has luxury changed in this economic environment?

In the last decade the rising economy and easy credit allowed Luxury items to be accessible to many consumer groups. With the economic downturn many aspirational consumers no longer have the discretionary funds to purchase new luxury items. We also see more consumers & brands looking to sell items they have collected to free up cash or to turn around and use the proceeds to buy something else. Interestingly both these trends are very positive for Portero, the luxury market, offering a place sell and to buy luxury at a value price be it pre-owned, vintage or excess inventory. Recently we have seen a trend toward people looking at the luxury good they have collected and selling them with us and donating the proceeds to their charities.

Where are luxury sellers finding success?

The brands that managed their growth, exclusivity and debt load in
the past decade are the ones who are performing the best. This includes famous brands like Hermes. Most luxury brands are struggling with distribution as many of their best retail points of presence are having a very difficult time in this economy. Because of this many brands are aggressively developing or expanding their Internet ecommerce presence as they are in control of driving the transaction, the proceeds (cash flow) and have higher overall margins.

What’s the trend in e-commerce?

Ecommerce needs to find its “ecommerce 2.0” position and approach. Too date most ecommerce sites are still one-dimensional on-line catalogs and have yet to develop an approach beyond that. As a recent Entrepreneur In Residence at Clearstone Venture Partners I spent quite a bit of time looking at solving ecommerce 2.0. My original approach was to look at how community, content and commerce can together create a more compelling experience for the consumer and brands. Though I continue to see value in that I now firmly believe that delivering multiple fun and engaging ways to shop is the next power wave we will see from on-line sellers. As Interim CEO at Portero we have built and launched multiple experiences for our consumer to have fun while buying and selling the best luxury brands, these include PorteroPrivate.com, our invitation only sales event site that has the excitement of 48 hr, limited inventory sample sales. We are also near completion (should be live at publish time) of our new core Portero.com site that will offer consumers a rich and well merchandised ecommerce experience plus an exciting new auction event platform allowing preview of items and 2-7 day auction events, all clustered around the our core value proposition of being the trusted and largest authentic market for worlds best luxury brands.

How can small players find success?

In ecommerce as in many businesses, monetary success can be found at either end of the barbell, the small and the big. The small player has advantages in more detailed marketing, more personal service and varied product offerings as the large player tends to be forced to focus on large scale volume.

How do you stay smart about the Ecommerce world?

You stay smart by having to compete everyday. Watching, listening and as my Dad always says, “you gain your wisdom on the time payment plan.”

What’s your best business move this year?

For Portero it was hunkering down costs during the past 8 months during the economic chill while focusing our effort on building longer term value by introducing multiple exciting ways for our customers to have fun shopping authentic luxury. This is the future of ecommerce.

What’s your worst business move this year?

Timing. We closed almost $7M in venture funding in Dec ’08, which was a few months later than expected. This delayed the launch of PorteroPrivate and created a narrow timing gap between that and the launch of the new Portero.com stretching our resources painfully thin.

Where do you think the next fortunes are to be made? Why?

Success will include those focused on Empowerment of the Individual on the Internet; to buy, sell, communicate, learn and connect. My personal bet is on a new wave of ecommerce that is entertaining & exciting.

To visit Portero.com, Click Here

For SmartPlanet readers Special Access to PorteroPrivate.com, Portero’s invite only luxury sale site.

Click on this link: http://bit.ly/r9Wbx
And add the invitation code: VINCE

To follow Bob on Twitter, Click Here
For more on Bob and his Blog, Click Here

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Editorial standards