While most luxury brands in Hong Kong have been experiencing a slowdown in sales, the second-hand market is thriving. This year alone, old favourites such as Milan Station have experienced some friendly competition in the form of local websites such as Luxify and Guiltless, which offer previously used designer clothing and accessories. The latest addition is Collector Square, which launched in November.
Collector Square started in Europe in 2013. Its chairman Nicholas Orlowski is also the founder of leading French auction house Artcurial, which gave him an obvious advantage.
“The second-hand market is huge in Asia and Hong Kong already has an established business. On the other hand digital maturity is all in the US not Asia. We want to be one of the pioneers here from a digital perspective so we’ve copied and pasted what was done with Artcurial – the expertise, contacts, connections with the brand – and applied it to this new segment of the market,” explains managing director and co-founder Loic Bocher.
Collector Square stands apart from local competitors for several reasons. For a start it has one of the largest offerings, with 5,000 items available for sale (all items are available on both the European and local site). These are divided into three categories – watches, jewellery and handbags.
While the list of brands available are not dissimilar to other websites and include the likes of Hermès, Dior and Louis Vuitton, each item has been carefully selected by a team of experts who have extensive experience working for international auction houses.
“We share the same experts as Artcurial. Also a big part of our marketing is sourcing. Our purpose is to propose pieces that have a history – they are bought with a style and classicism in mind. These are pieces you cannot find anymore. We also opened a vintage corner featuring pieces that are not branded but that have history,” says Bocher.
Most items listed on Collector Square are 30 to 40 per cent cheaper than retail prices. In the case of items no longer available in the current market, Collector Square has created a pricing system known as the LuxPrice-Index.
“We have access to a database of prices for items that have been sold through auction over the past 12 years or so. This allows us to give a fair price – we gather the data, analyse it, and price accordingly. Because there is no equivalent in retail right now, it’s our own point of reference,” says Bocher.
Another way Collector Square is hoping to stand out is through its added value services. The Asia-based luxury distributor Bluebell Group oversees all logistics such as sales and customer services. Customers have access to Chinese-speaking concierges, many of whom are contactable via Whatsapp. If a product does not meet expectations, Collector Square offers local returns (all items are shipped from the Paris warehouse within 48 hours). It also offers a one-year warranty for all products.
“People are surprised to learn that we only have a 4 per cent return rate. It makes sense because we are selling coveted pieces. Normally before buying, online customers usually do their research, so there are no surprises. Thanks to our zoom system you can examine the piece closer than in real life!” says Bocher.
Although the Hong Kong site has only been live for a few months, Bocher estimates that the Asian business will account for nearly 30 per cent of its sales within three years thanks to the growing demand for unique luxury goods.
“We have two types of customers. Close to 50 per cent of the business is due to repeat customers who love brands but cannot usually afford them, so they come to us because of the more attractive price. The other segment, which is growing fast, are people looking for pieces they cannot find elsewhere. They are collectors,” he says.
Bocher says the company plans to launch this month in Tokyo.
“We want our customers to be proud, to say ‘I bought this at Collector Square’. At the same time, one of our purposes is to be global. We are sure that five years from now there will be three or four main players in the digital market. We want to be one of them,” he says.