BEIJING–The bullish and the beautiful were out in force as Chinese luxury e-commerce giant Secoo celebrated a shift in its brand strategy. Marking a decade in business and with 18 million members this year, China’s first IPO-listed high fashion online marketplace is expanding further into lifestyle, travel, art, finance, real state and even agriculture under its new slogan “Devoted to you”.
While much smaller in comparison to the dominant overall ecommerce players Alibaba and JD.com, Secoo is an experienced hand in fashion. It began as a second-hand luxury fashion seller before expanding into in-season clothing. With 1,200 fashion brands on its site, the company says it is the largest luxury fashion ecommerce company in China, citing Frost & Sullivan, while the other two companies have only recently reached upwards into the sector with Alibaba’s luxury pavilion and JD’s Toplife platform in the last year.
Armed with funding from its listing, Secoo now wants a bigger piece of the premium pie. Whether it is a pampering resort stay, antique furniture, or fine Champagne, the company intends on providing all the solutions an affluent consumer could want.
At the Blue Note jazz club by the capital’s Tianamen Square, Secoo’s chief growth officer Ren Guanjun tucked into one of the platform’s star products–particularly sweet and succulent oranges come from the farm of Chu Shijian. The former tobacco mogul was once jailed for embezzlement but bought an orange grove upon his release. With his new fruit business, he embraced online marketing and became one of China’s biggest e-commerce success stories as a septuagenarian.
When asked about the logic behind hosting such a broad range of goods on the platform — from designer handbags and watches to fruit and vegetables — Ren insisted it’s the customer who drives such decisions.
“Every line has logic for us. We want to provide the best quality of products to our consumers, and this is our only logic,” said the CGO, dressed casually in a button-down shirt and a plain watch. “We don’t want to find something and then tell our customers about it. We simply satisfy their demands.”
This bottom-up approach seems to be working, with Secoo having reported total net revenue of $547.9 million year-on-year for 2017, an increase of 44.2 percent. This buoyancy has attracted big fashion names to the platform, such as Versace, Armani, Carat London, and House of Fraser.
The backdrop for online shopping in China is looking bright. In the first quarter, China’s overall online retail sales–excluding virtual goods–rose 34 percent year over year to 1.5 trillion renminbi ($237 billion), according to the brokerage, Jefferies, higher than the 26 percent pace in the year leading up to that.
The past year also saw the company delve into cosmetics for the first time thanks to a tie-up with Malaysian department store Parkson, boosting Secoo’s omnichannel credentials with the hosting of new products across its nine offline “experience centers”. Of these, Ren reports that China’s Chengdu and Shanghai stores are leading the way in revenue and brand awareness respectively, while Hong Kong is the most profitable outside of the mainland.
Another arm of the company’s offline strategy was revealed at Tuesday’s event. Dubbed “24/7 by Secoo”, this range of ready-mixed cocktails has been designed by some of China’s most renowned bartenders. The boozy creations are currently available in small batches to online shoppers, but soon Secoo’s United Space unit plans to set up bottle-only convenience stores and cocktail tap rooms in China’s major cities.
Singapore-Australian Warren Pang, who runs three bars in Beijing and a restaurant in Shanghai, was there to present his Negroni Australiana, a classic Campari gin mix set off with beetroot juice and thyme.
“It’s interesting to see how the cocktail culture has grown in China over the last few years, and now it’s not only in bars, but you can order it to your house. It’s quite surreal the speed at which it’s developing and it’s great to be a part of it,” he said.
Also at the event was a representative from Sri Lanka, who announced a new partnership which will see the country’s signature products and customized travel itineraries offered exclusively to Secoo customers.
“Even though we have a lot of business lines, we’re really only doing one thing,” said Ren. “Providing a service for our clients. We don’t only sell the products, we sell the service.”