By  on September 28, 2005

NEW YORK — Portero is trying to take the guesswork out of bidding online for upscale products — in other words, trying to figure out whether you're buying a real Dior Flight.

The company, which wants to line up experts to authenticate various product categories, has formed an agreement with Tourneau, which will authenticate every watch it sells. A disclaimer that appears with watches on the Web site says, "This pre-owned watch is offered by Portero, the world's leading online luxury marketplace, and certified by Tourneau, the world's largest watch store ... as part of an exclusive partnership between Portero and Tourneau designed to create a safe and trusted venue to buy and sell authentic luxury watches."

Portero's items appear on eBay, which is used as a platform to reach customers. For example, someone searching for Balenciaga would see products from Portero along with other sources selling Balenciaga.

"An online platform never existed where the quality of the environment is consistent with the brand," said Dan Nissanoff, vice chairman and president. "We guarantee the representation of the product."

And Portero wants to put consumers at ease in every category. "We'll be doing the same thing in accessories, apparel, cars, etc ... " he said.

Fashion accounts for about 30 percent of Portero's business. Other top categories include vintage cars, furniture and art. While the average sale is $400, the company has had success with higher prices; an Hermès Birken bag sold for $20,000 and a piece of estate jewelry fetched $50,000. A chateau in the South of France sold for $1.8 million.

Portero processes about 1,000 products a week, which puts it in line to do about $20 million in the next year.

Nissanoff said luxury brands, which have generally avoided online auction houses, are warming up to Portero because the company takes pains to present their goods in the best light. Three professional photographers staff the company's photo studio.

"The market sees that online isn't going away," Nissanoff said. Manufacturers are using Portero to tease consumers and create demand for new items. "They're dropping a few hot releases through Portero," he explained. "It's almost like guerrilla marketing. We'll get thousands of views."To ensure that the company has a steady supply of designer handbags, Nissanoff is talking with manufacturers about putting a card inside the handbag that reads, "When you're tired of this bag why don't you go to Portero."

Lisa Jacobs, director, fashion category, has strong ideas about what is Portero-worthy — and what isn't. "I try to take the high end of the bunch," Jacobs said. "I work with closet organizers, stylists and personal shoppers."

She added, "We need to control the client experience. The brands need to be presented in the right company. If we start diminishing that experience we become a rummage sale."

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