Wondering why Asos has invested in Covetique

Asos this week reported that it had invested a significant minority investment in Covetique. For those people who are wondering what exactly this business is all about, here is an interview with its co-founder and CEO that ran on Retailinsider.com back in March.

Nicola McClafferty of Covetique

The Person: Nicola McClafferty
The Company: Covetique
The Job Title: Co-founder and CEO

Investment banker to online fashionista – now that’s a career journey: It certainly is. But McClafferty has always specialised in the internet/digital sector even when first working in investment banking after university. However, like many others before, working with entrepreneurs made her want to ‘get closer to the action’ which she did by moving into venture capital. Balderton Capital was her home for three years where her absolute speciality was e-commerce investment.

Anyone we know? Betfair and Lovefilm to name two. But from 2007-09 it was online fashion that really caught the imagination and the idea of an online consignment store for pre-owned fashion came to life.

Do you mean second-hand? Wash your mouth out. I mean pre-owned. But if you are having difficulty grasping the concept then McClafferty has a neat one liner for you: ‘Net-a-porter meets Ebay’.

Got it. But what’s wrong with selling clothes on eBay? Nothing at all. But McClafferty is very interested in secondary market places emerging in verticals. According to her, Ebay has not grown into the best site for some products and luxury fashion is one of them.

And why not? In a word, because people selling Miu Miu sequin flats for £165 are highly unlikely to stand around in Post Office queues waiting to ship them off in brown cardboard boxes. Nor are they fond of taking digital photos of said shoes in their living rooms and concocting a description. And as for engaging in bidding…. No, no, no. Covetique collects your items for free, authenticates them, photographs them, writes the sales patter and ships them on for you once sold.

And they make? 37.5% is their commission, which she says is lower than the offline stores. Hot tickets right now are Mulberry and Burberry.

And sales? Not happy to talk publicly about numbers but month-on-month it’s going very well and they are beginning to ship globally aswell.

So is anyone else doing this? Not really according to McClafferty. There are a handful of smaller players and Ebay will always do a big trade in fashion but mainly it’s a few offline stores around London. She enthuses about the UK’s more sophisticated market place which houses such companies as ASOS – whom she admires for stretching across such a wide demographic and translating so well internationally – and Net-a-Porter. We also have a good attitude to second-ha… sorry pre-owned goods.

OK. Brass tacks. Who does she want to be using her site? Now it gets interesting. At the moment McClafferty feels there are two distinct groups buying and selling. Sellers are so far only UK based and the vast majority of them have never sold anything before. But once they start its all systems go. They have a right old clear out. She wants to get to the stage which she has seen in New York where women consider this revenue stream as part of their monthly income. Buyers on the other hand are ‘aspirational’, fashion savvy but not in a financial position to buy new. However, McClafferty reckons that some crossover will start to appear soon.

Dare I ask about men? Not really. She has yet to be convinced there is a market for selling-on men’s designer fashion. Women just think differently about retail and probably clothes. Women are more about brand trust – as long as the retail experience is good and they trust the name of Covetique they will use the site. In fact, McClafferty has taken all this a stage further. The site allows you to create your own personal ‘selling wardrobe’ which buyers can then access – on the grounds that if they trust/ like one thing you sell they might well like all the others. McCLafferty says this is popular with US women ‘dipping’ into UK women’s wardrobes.

OK, this is a very young business. Who’s funded it? The two founders (Bobby Devins is McClafferty’s business partner).

To the tune of? ‘Enough’ according to McClafferty.

So are they in it to sell it or make it a high end Ebay? In a word she wants it to be the global destination for online consignment. She is very optimistic about its chances both in the UK and globally and ideally she would like to get to the point where a woman walking into Harrods buys a dress with one eye on how much she can re-sell it on Covetique. The message is: Women of the world, arise! And make your wardrobe work for you!

That’s quite a step-change in thinking: Admittedly but McClafferty sees digital technology as being instrumental in that. Leveraging social platforms is the way forward and she expects platforms to be much more tightly integrated for sharing tastes and discoveries. In essence making it easier to find what you already know you will like. For Covetique social shopping will change how women engage with fashion .

Shangri-la? Depends on whether you like shopping. But certainly the era of ‘smart fashion’ is about to dawn and Nicola McClafferty is right there to help you monetise it.

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