LONDON — Gladd, Japan’s biggest online flash sales platform, is thinking big: On Monday, it revealed the purchase of competitor Gilt Japan from Hudson’s Bay Co. as it gears up for a 2020 initial public offering on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
Gladd and Gilt both launched in 2009 in Japan and grew alongside each other, but with different offers — and audiences: While Gilt, a division of Gilt Groupe, pursued an international fashion and luxury track, Gladd focused on Japanese brands and put an emphasis on lifestyle, children, home and food, as well as casual fashion.
The terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gladd said the acquisition means it will control 80 percent of the fashion and lifestyle online flash sales market in Japan. The company said Gladd and Gilt Japan would continue to operate under their respective names and market segments. Back office operations, such as vendor negotiations and customer service operations, will be consolidated.
Together, the two companies will boast more than five million members, 1.5 million active clients and more than 100,000 products for sale each month. The sites’ combined GMV, or gross merchandise volume, is $200 million, according to Gladd.
“With the acquisition of Gilt Japan, we’re extremely excited about scaling up our presence in the upper-middle and high-end fashion and lifestyle segments in Japan,” said Gladd cofounder Alain Soulas, a serial entrepreneur who has lived and worked for more than two decades in Japan.
Soulas, who founded Gladd with Olivier Chouvet, will supervise the merger. He called it a “synergistic match that will improve price, delivery speed, and all-around customer services, while delivering long-term growth.”
He said the goal is for Gladd to become “the number-one inventory solution for brands” in Japan.
The new sister platforms, he added, will not only offer customers “an incredible array of discounted items,” they will also become the top inventory solution for brands, select shops and department stores in Japan.
In an interview, Soulas said the acquisition made sense for a variety of reasons: “We both launched in 2009 and evolved in parallel as competitors, with Gilt concentrating on high fashion and brands and Gladd attracting our own type of members and working with Japanese brands on a lifestyle offer.”
Although he would not disclose sales figures, Soulas said Gladd is the larger group, with Gilt the number-two flash sales site in Japan. He said the audiences are different, with less than 20 percent overlap between customer bases.
At the end of 2017, Gladd’s customer base grew to 2.6 million members, with 5,000 brand partners inside and outside Japan. At present, Gladd sells labels including Marni, APC, Agatha, Parker, Replay and Triumph. It also works closely with the Japanese retailer Beams.
The platform offers, on average, a 60 percent discount across some 800,000 products per year. It has two million unique visitors a month.
Gilt Japan launched as a stand-alone division of Gilt Groupe Inc., which was purchased by HBC in 2016. It offers lifestyle and luxury goods and experiences through daily and weekly discount luxury apparel sales, curated events and premium services. The site has more than 2.4 million members who spend, on average, $127 per purchase.
Asked about his strategies going forward, Soulas said Gladd will always be committed to inventory solutions for brands, but added that the flash-sales model was evolving rapidly.
“Today we are a pure flash-sales player but we have been exploring other ways of doing inventory solutions. We don’t know what the business model of inventory solutions is for the future because the technology is moving so quickly. What we do know is that companies always need to clear their inventory,” he said.
With regard to the IPO, he said that while the process has not officially started, Gladd has been working with the Tokyo Stock Exchange on compliance and accounting regulations.
He said the acquisition of Gilt — and the resulting higher sales volumes — will undoubtedly make Gladd’s IPO proposition “more interesting.” Gladd has been privately funded until now.
Soulas and Chouvet are no strangers to the flash sales business. In 2010 they launched Mei.com, a Chinese flash sales site which they sold to Alibaba five years later.