The French company has run out of the steam it had years ago for the evolution of its model. The company grew through sales and, now, it wants to become stronger to go to the market.
End of the Vente Privee era. The French company of electronic commerce that marked a before and an after in online business, loses influence and, thus, its mode blurs. Vente Privee is no longer the leader that everybody wanted to imitate. Vente Privee is not, or will cease to be in the upcoming months, a brand anymore.
The French group has been one of the most relevant players in the electronic commerce of fashion in the last decade. The company, founded by Jacques-Antoine Granjon together with other partners, introduced a model into the market that was replicated over and over again: at a time of abundance of stocks in the stores of its brands, Vente Privee took to the online market the sale of articles that remained from collections with discount, finding a model with margin and little risk.
And all this at a time in which e-commerce was starting to take off in most European countries, including Spain. The combination of brands and bargain prices made that potential buyers, still cautious with online purchases, lost their fear of using the Internet as a shopping channel, especially in fashion.
Vente Privee has been one of the most relevant companies in the electronic commerce of fashion in the last decade
Starting in France, Vente Privee consolidated its reign in the sector, first in an organic manner, and after through purchases. At an early stage, Granjon openly criticized the imitators of his model that arose in each country and his business kept getting bigger, at the same time that its assessments did.
Later, he had no option but to turn to them. Once it got over the first stage of the economic crisis, the brands were able to plan better their purchases, so that the stock started to be scarce in the market. Besides, in many markets the imitator had become larger than the original one. And so the race began for the acquisitions of Vente Privee.
Between the end of 2015 and the end of 2016, Vente Privee carried out five acquisitions that made it reach 50 partners. The movement began with the purchase of Vente Exclusive, its counterpart in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxemburg. The company, founded in 2006, had a revenue then of approximately ninety million euros and already had four million partners.
The model of stock sales lost strength due to the change in the market and the management of brand stocks
Seven months after the acquisition of Vente Exclusive, the French group increase its bet and performed its biggest corporate operation to date: the company gained control of the Spanish Privalia for around 500 million euros, confirming that as one of the most announced transactions in the electronic commerce sector.
Coinciding with the acquisition of Privalia, Vente Privee also acquired the Swiss Eboutich, founded in 2007 in Lausanne and leader in the sale of stocks in Switzerland.
Shortly afterwards, a new purchase was made, and therefore Vente Privee conquered a market in which it still did not operate: Denmark. The group acquired Designers&Friends, which become dependent on the structure of the Belgian Vente Exclusive.
In October 2016, the group's last corporate operation came. Vente Privee bought Złotewyprzedaże, its counterpart in the Polish market, which had started operating in 2010.
The company did not impose neither its brand nor its culture on the acquisitions, especially in the case of Privalia
Purchases without brand
In most growing processes through purchases, the acquiring company usually imposes its brand and its culture, something that did not happen in the case of Vente Privee. Each of the acquired platforms continued operating independently, and in some cases even the management team of the purchased imposed on the purchaser.
This was the case of, for example, Spain. The structure of Privalia has predominated and prevailed over that of Vente Privee in both the Spanish and Italian markets, so that all traces of the former Vente Privee have disappeared. In fact, between April 2016 and 2018, Vente Privee’s business in Spain and Italy was led by Lucas Carné and José Manuel Villanueva, founders of Privalia. Last November, both executives left the group.
This fact has been interpreted in the sector as a weakness of Vente Privee and its founder, which was not successful in imposing his brand on all the acquired companies. So much so that the last step that the company has taken is the announcement of the worldwide elimination of the brand Vente Privee, which will be replaced by Veepee. The company explained that this movement pursues a more global brand that works in all countries where the platform operates.
With the stock market as a distant goal, Vente Privee considers a sale with a weakened ebitda
From stock market to sales
Behind the accelerated growth through purchases like the acquisition of Privalia hid, according to sources from the industry, the need to gain size to take a leap into the stock market with a relative urgency, as analysts and experts warned of the exhaustion of the online model of stock sales.
With the threat of another crisis in sight, the stock market seems again distant from the plans of Vente Privee, which now raises the option of a sale, according to sources from the industry, that add the launch of the Veepee brand is nothing more than another attempt to gain size and power before a possible corporate operation.
However, the evolution of the business in recent years could be an obstacle to this operation, at least for sellers. The years in which Vente Privee reigned have been left behind and its gross operating profit (EBIDTA) does not grow as before.
Sources close to the company say that the EBIDTA could be between 140 million and 150 million euros, which would mean a price of up to 1,500 million with a multiple of ten. This figure is far from the approximately 2,000 million euros that were offered for the company in the years of economic boom.
In addition, Vente Privee is no longer alone in its sector. A reference of e-commerce like the German group Zalando was introduced years ago in stock sales, a business that has just introduced in the Spanish market.
What can Vente Privee do now? New purchases seem to be already discarded, mainly because the interesting operators are already in its possession. Another option is the diversification, something that Vente Privee could, according to industry executives, be planning to do with the launch of a full-price marketplace. However, will Vente Privee be strong enough to compete with Amazon or Zalando?