D.C. secondhand luxury startup SnobSwap recently rebranded as LePrix, which means “The Prize” in French.
The new name, which went live in March, is designed to reflect the five-year-old startup’s current business model: A B2B platform connecting secondhand designer stores with consumers eager to hunt for deals.
“When we first started with SnobSwap we literally had people swapping their items with each other, but it was not why we started the business,” said cofounder and CEO Elise Whang.
“We loved shopping at secondhand designer stores and we thought it was a cheeky way to talk about the company,” said Whang. “But then again people who shop secondhand designers can’t be too snobby—because they would never buy luxury goods secondhand.”
The company ran a qualitative survey with current and potential customers and more than 80 percent did not like the name SnobSwap, Whang said. So, the startup reached out to Worn, a creative agency based in New York City that does strategy and design for women-led companies.
LePrix works with 500 pre-vetted brick and mortar store partners as part of their Certified Store Network. This network is backed by real-time inventory updates using an omnichannel sales approach integrated throughout the platform.
Updating the brand was just the first step. LePrix also took this as their cue to expand the tech side of the business.
As LePrix obtains data from more than 500 boutique stores, the company is adding machine learning on the backend of its platform to help make data more uniform.
For instance, if 10 stores use the color “mustard” for an item colored yellow, the website would need to ingest that data, and retag the item so that the customer can see that the product also pulls up under the “yellow” tag. This helps shoppers readily identify items when they are looking for something specific, like the mustard yellow Stella McCartney dress Amal Clooney wore to the recent Royal Wedding, for instance.
The company is also able to use image recognition features to pull attributes from images of an item that may have hundreds of attributes. “If you have a picture of a shoe, the picture could tell if it is a flat, a two-inch or a five-inch heel,” said Whang.
LePrix is using a system called Entrupy, which allows merchants to scan a luxury item on their phone that then submits images to a database. Using algorithms, the system analyzes images giving a readout on whether or not the item in question is authentic or not. This helps create trust in the online marketplace.
LePrix’s customers come from mostly North America right now, but it’s expanding internationally and seeing partners come from cities like London, Dubai, Tokyo, and Singapore—known outposts for luxury brands.
The most popular consignment brands on the platform are Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermès, Chloé, Célene, Gucci, and Tori Burch.
While those brands may conjure up images of affluence in consumer minds due to their high perceived value, savvy and smart shoppers, including aspirational shoppers, see that they are getting a deal when they buy pre-owned merchandise, Whang said.
The company also sees the secondhand luxury market increasingly appealing to eco-conscious millennial consumers. As they gain more disposable income, they’re beginning to see the value in the sustainability of buying pre-owned goods.
As these consumers become educated about the quality and craftmanship of luxury brands, this also opens the door for them to consider buying new, Whang said.
“Secondhand luxury is the gateway to retail luxury,” said Whang.
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