The nature and pace of fashion is so fast and constantly changing, that it's hard to keep up. Fleeting fashion trends last, at most, six months on average, with stores bringing in new designs and styles every two weeks. With so many different options to choose from, there's bound to be a surplus of stocks that gets unsold, even after the seasonal (and pre-seasonal, and post-seasonal) sales. That excess then gets stored in warehouses where they remain stationary and take up valuable inventory space. And that's where OnTheList comes in.
Started in Hong Kong by French entrepreneurs Delphine Lefay and Diego Dultzin Lacoste in 2016, OnTheList holds weekly flash sales that are open only to its members. An OnTheList membership is free and a pre-registration is a must to gain entry to any of its flash sales. To date, the start-up has held over 150 flash sales spanning over 250 brands. These brands include the likes of Armani, Ted Baker, Ferragamo and Kenzo.
OnTheList is kicking off its first ever flash sale outside of Hong Kong in Singapore on 19 – 22 September 2018 at Ngee Ann City. We speak to the two founders on the concept and what Singaporean shopaholics can expect at an OnTheList flash sale.
ESQ: There were probably brands that weren’t keen with the idea of OnTheList because they felt that having such discounts on their merchandise would devalue their brand. Can you talk a bit about that?
ONTHELIST: While some have shared similar sentiments, we have actually been receiving a lot of support for our business. The reason for that is we help brands offload their excess, past-season inventory in sustainable ways—both financially and environmentally. When past-season stocks are no longer of value to a brand, they would usually opt to either keep them at warehouses (which would incur additional costs), or burn them (which is not environmentally friendly). So to prevent these wasteful practices from happening, we provide them with the opportunity to turn old inventory into new opportunities and reach out to a new pool of potential customers, all the while saving money and doing good for the environment. To top it all off, we are a members-only platform and we always ensure that we follow all brand guidelines to a T, so it doesn’t devalue the brand.
ESQ: What are some of the challenges that you faced while getting OnTheList off the ground?
ONTHELIST: When we first launched in Hong Kong, we used to only reveal the featured brand(s) days before each flash sale, because we wanted to build anticipation and excitement amongst our members. However, we knew that by keeping that information under wraps, we ran the risk of turning people away from registering and attending the sales, because there may not be any affinity with the featured brand. Thankfully, we have since amassed a strong following of over 160,000 members in Hong Kong alone, that come regularly for our sales no matter the brand. They just trust that we provide only the best offerings and best deals in town.
ESQ: OnTheList holds weekly sales in Hong Kong. How often do you plan on holding sales in Singapore?
ONTHELIST: We are looking to start with one sale a month, so that we can continue to refine our concept for the market. Eventually, we will be increasing the frequency of our sales, but that will come in time.
ESQ: Can you share with us the brands that we can expect to be part of the sales in Singapore?
ONTHELIST: We can’t divulge what we have in the pipeline just yet, but we’ve always worked directly with over 250 renowned brands (including the likes of Ted Baker, Diane Von Furstenberg, Salvatore Ferragamo and Stella McCartney in Hong Kong), so you know we’re serious about bringing only the best of the best to our members.
ESQ: The merchandise that go into OnTheList’s flash sales are from previous seasons. How does having the sales done through OnTheList differ from the brands holding their own warehouse sales?
ONTHELIST: When we work with brands, OnTheList basically manages all aspects of the sale for them—from providing/securing the venue, to managing the logistics and manpower for the sale, bringing in the database, price and stock strategy. We are a members-only platform, which means we do have a database for brands to reach out to a new pool of potential customers when we host a sale for them.
We are also all about bringing the ultimate sale experience for customers—down to ensuring that lines for payment are no longer than 15 mins. Having done flash sales on a weekly basis over the past year, we are equipped with the experience to help brands host successful sales to meet their goal of clearing excess inventory.
Our flash sales run for a limited time only (between three to five days) and varies from mono-label to multi-label sales across fashion, lifestyle products and homeware. Stock is replenished daily and sale mechanics change across the days—all of which are also managed by us, which means the brands will not have to worry about what would get more people in towards the end of a sale, etc. While our flash sales are short, they are frequent. In Hong Kong, flash sales happen on a weekly basis.
We also offer extensive opening hours (starting from 8am in the morning), and the best deals in town—averaging 75% off retail price at each flash sale. This is in comparison to other sale platforms that usually offer up to a certain percentage off. Additionally, what sets us apart from other third-party sale platforms is that we work directly with brands and distributors to ensure that we only stock brand new authentic premium/luxury goods that are not considered defected stocks.
ESQ: Is there any form of curation of merchandise that OnTheList does for each sale? Or does OnTheList sell whatever is handed over by the brand?
ONTHELIST: We do curate the merchandise that goes on sale. The process usually begins with us reviewing the brand’s existing stock list, advising them on price and stock strategy, and then counter-proposing with a refined list, that caters to the needs of our members and fully maximises each sales opportunity.
ESQ: Having done this for two years now, what are some of the consumer behaviours that you’ve noticed during the flash sales?
ONTHELIST: One of the most interesting things we’ve noticed is that over the years, we have built a very core group of loyal members who will visit our showroom every Wednesday morning at 8am, no matter the brand or the product types, because they’ve come to trust us as a reliable platform that offers only the best and most tasteful deals in town. We have also realised that women form a very big part of that group—even when we have a menswear sale—because they’re always on the lookout for gifts for their families and loved ones.
ESQ: What are some of the things that people should look out for during the first flash sale in Singapore?
ONTHELIST: They should sign up as members to get exclusive updates! Be amongst the first to find out which premium brand we’re featuring, updates on discounts we will have from day to day, and the merchandise that’ll be put on sale.
ESQ: There’s more talk about sustainability in fashion now than ever before. OnTheList is a better option for companies as opposed to them discarding unsold merchandise. However, people tend to impulsively spend money on sales because the items are cheaper but not necessarily because of needs and wants; which in the end could lead to waste. Would you say that this is sustainable in the long run?
ONTHELIST: OnTheList’s primary aim is to reduce waste and prevent environmental harm that is derived from the irresponsible disposal of fashion surplus, so we achieve this by prolonging the shelf life of products in the retail industry. We also do our best to encourage brands to donate their leftover items to charity, for example, Crossroad and Mother’s Care. This way we can also reach out to and help people in need.
ESQ: The reason that OnTheList is venturing into Singapore is because you see similarities between the consumer habits in Hong Kong and Singapore. How are they similar and what are the differences if any?
ONTHELIST: Some core similarities include the fact that both Singaporeans and Hong Kongers are trend-setters, who also love their discounts, deals and promotions—even if that means having to queue for them! A difference would be that the lifestyle in Singapore tends to be a little sportier and more casual as compared to that in Hong Kong. There’s also the geographical difference, where Singapore primarily experiences either sunny or rainy weather, whereas Hong Kong has all four seasons so demand for specific types of clothing will vary accordingly.
ESQ: What’s next for OnTheList?
ONTHELIST: In Singapore, we’ll be looking at ramping up the regularity of our sales, and potentially including online offerings to support our offline sales. In Hong Kong, we’re looking to expand our brick and mortar locations, from Hong Kong island to Kowloon, and we’re also working on increasing our online offerings to deliver across Asia Pacific.