Maybe you've never heard of Vente-Privee, but if you've ever visited Gilt Groupe, HauteLook, Rue La La, etc., you know what they do. The French company launched a designer flash sales site back in 2001 (that's six years before Gilt Groupe and HauteLook) and inspired the launch of Gilt. The firm is a huge player in Europe--they currently boast 13 million users and about $1 billion in yearly sales--but they've steered clear of the US. Until now.
This morning, American Express announced a joint partnership with Vente-Privee to launch an American site later on this year. (Each company owns 50% of the venture. And this is VP's first foray into a non-European market.)
What does this deal amount to for other big players in the flash sales space? It depends, but it could mean quite a bit. While Gilt Groupe has incredibly good relationships with their vendors, Vente-Privee is more established, and may be able to offer high-end designers a bigger cut of the sales. Plus, with the backing of American Express, there's definitely going to be a battle to work with American designers like Tory Burch, Phillip Lim, and DvF, who partner with the credit card company on a regular basis.
On the other hand, Gilt Groupe is moving so far beyond the flash sales model into full-priced clothing and lifestyle products--and is much more concerned right now with gaining reach, not remaining exclusive--that maybe this news is barely on the team's radar. (Not likely. But maybe.)
We're attending the official launch of the Amex/Vente-Privee partnership at noon, so we'll keep you updated.