Why Flash Sale Site vente-privee Is Not a Flash in the Pan

When I first heard that flash sale site vente-privee was entering the US market in 2012, four years after the market had been glutted with post-recess
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When I first heard that flash sale site vente-privee was entering the US market in 2012, four years after the market had been glutted with post-recess
Hard at work at vente-privee

Hard at work at vente-privee

When I first heard that flash sale site vente-privee was entering the US market in 2012, four years after the market had been glutted with post-recession flash sale sites--many of them offering the same deals on the same brands--I have to admit I was a little wary. After the recession, lots of brands had excess inventory and flash sale sites were the perfect way to offload the excess. Since then, most retailers have been more careful about production so as not to be saddled with extra merch. So even though vente-prive was founded in 2001 and is indisputably the first and biggest ecommerce site of its kind, I had to wonder: Why bring it to the states now?

Earlier this month I had the chance to tour the vente-privee headquarters outside Paris, and I got my answer: Because vente-privee does flash sale ecommerce more creatively, more chic-ly, more exclusively, and just plain better than anyone else. That's why they have 16 million members in Europe. Let me say that again, because when I first heard that stat my jaw dropped a little: vente-privee has 16 million members in Europe. And I have a hunch, after seeing what goes into producing just one sale on vente-privee, that the site will soon have a few more million members from the US.

Everything Under One Roof

When you log onto vente-privee to check out a sale absolutely everything that you see--the styling, the images of the products, the casting of the models, the video trailer that promotes the sale, the animation, even the musical score--has been created by the massive vente-privee team. Whereas many sites outsource facets of production (or skimp on quality when it comes to product shoots and styling models in the sale items) vente-privee goes above and beyond to come up with a concept that fits with the brand's DNA. That's why names like Longchamp, Versace Jewelry, and Maje sell on vente-privee and nowhere else.

vente-privee's music studio

vente-privee's music studio

Upon entering vente-privee's massive headquarters outside Paris, I got to see every aspect of production from start to finish. It takes about four weeks to produce each sale for the site, and that includes shooting all the product, retouching the images, creating a trailer to promote the sale and creating an original score to accompany the trailer. I think that was the part I was most floored by--that there are actually four full-time musicians and a sound editor who churn out original compositions to fit the mood of each brand that sells on vente-privee. Say, for example, a brand requests a Dave Brubeck "Take Five" kind of vibe to go with its trailer. That four-person team creates a Brubeck-esque score... in under a week. Want to hear a model walking along a gravel path amplified to the max? They also have their own sound editing booth chock full of the weird kind of props you'd expect to see on an old-timey radio show used to create sound effects--including a box full of gravel.

But just so you can grasp the scope of production and the attention to detail at vente-privee, I broke it down for you, by the numbers:

15 photos studios 39 modeling agencies are used, 25 women's and men's agencies, 14 kids' agencies 80 people come together to coordinate one shoot from start to finish 15,000 photos are retouched per day It takes 4 weeks to produce each sale 620 trailers were produced last year alone to promo new sales 4 full time musicians on staff, plus one sound designer

Yowza, right? It's beyond impressive.

Artwork at vente-privee HQ

Artwork at vente-privee HQ

They've Got Style (and a sense of humor)

French people are stylish. They just are. Walk around Paris and you can't help but marvel: How does that girl know how to tie that scarf just-so? Wear her tee-shirt so it slouches in just the right way?

vente-privee is French, duh. And the creative folks who make up the team at vente-privee translate their innate sense of style into everything they do. Founder and CEO Jacques-Antoine Granjon (JAG for short) is an avid art collector (he's also the board chairman of one of Paris's centers for contemporary and modern art, the Palais de Tokyo) and he keeps vente-privee's headquarters chock-full of provocative art. It's clear that the atmosphere at vente-privee infuses the work that's done there with energy and creativity.

Lastly, the folks at vente-privee have got a sense of humor--which is important to the success of any big business--especially in fashion, where people tend to take themselves a little too seriously. vente-privee has a mascot called Loukoulouc--he's fluffy and pink with a long beak/snout and he.is.everywhere: In giant sticker form on glass doors and as a stuffed animal on the desk of every employee of vente-privee. And any company that can churn out beautiful product and laugh at itself too is one that we're on board with. Turn that member counter to 16,000,001.

Click through to see where the magic happens.