By  on December 3, 2010

HONG KONG — Adrienne Ma, the former head of Joyce Boutique Holdings and the daughter of retail legend Joyce Ma, has broadened her attention to the world of e-commerce.

In October, the executive launched shouke.com, a private site that sells designer apparel and luxury goods at discount prices. For now, the website’s deliveries are limited to Hong Kong but the plan is to roll out shipping to more than 150 cities in China by the first quarter of next year.

“We are providing an alternative channel for high end brands to retail their off-season merchandise in Hong Kong,” said Ma, chairman and co-founder of shouke.com, noting the city lacks e-commerce ventures based around the flash sale model. The site takes its name from the Mandarin word for a loyal customer.

“We have attracted much interest since our launch with average cart sizes in the few thousand Hong Kong dollar range. [At current exchange rates, 1,000 Hong Kong dollars is about $129.] This is not a bad effort given the novelty of the model,” said Ma, who also heads Amma Retail Limited, the exclusive brand retail partner of Moncler, Y's Mandarina and Mandarina Duck in Hong Kong.

The private member-based shopping club has a business model resembling vente-privee.com in France, gilt.com in the U.S and glamour-sales.com in Japan. It offers members three-day online sale events of off-season merchandise with discounts of up to 70 percent. Prospective consumers can sign up on the website and invite others to join. The site currently has 2,700 registered members.

Ma declined to name which brands are participating but said they include both American and European labels. She also declined to give a sales forecast for the site.

Since its launch, the site has featured around ten luxury designer brands, averaging one sale event each week. Ma said the site plans to up the frequency of the sales so they become daily events.

Luxury players are turning their attention to the untapped potential of online sales in China. Just last week, Giorgio Armani and Yoox announced they were launching an Emporio Armani online store in China.

Online sales of apparel in Mainland China are still relatively small compared to that of other goods like consumer electronics and appliances but data shows they are growing fast.

Internet retail sales of clothing and footwear, excluding sales tax, in Mainland China will total 1.72 billion renminbi this year, according to Euromonitor. That’s more than 12 times the size of the market in 2005. Euromonitor expects the market to hit 2.3 billion renminbi, or $350 million, next year.

Ma said she is leveraging her 20-year career at Joyce to differentiate shouke.com from other e-commerce sites. Ma and her mother left Joyce Boutique Holdings in 2007 and the business is now part of the Lane Crawford Joyce Group.

“It boils down to trust in the sense that the brands have agreed to work with us, and know we will protect them properly from how we style their merchandise to building the website itself,” Ma said.

The company works directly with the brands themselves or their local franchisees, only selling and accepting returned products with tamper proof devices, being discreet about its sale events, and low key about its brand partners, she explained.

Ma claims the site offers items that are not available at discount outlets or through other online channels.

The executive said she approaches each online sale in the same way she would manage a retail store. She ensures brands featured at each sale event do not directly compete with each other, that there is a comprehensive range of products.

“You don’t have to look very far to see that online e-commerce has already begun to co-habit alongside bricks and mortar businesses. We may be a little early in terms of coming in with a truly luxury site, but we really believe in the enormous potential of the market,” she said.

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