Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

The ECA Interview: Chris Griffin, CEO of Secret Sales

In the latest in ECA’s interview series with founder and CEOs of innovative ecommerce brands, we speak to Chris Griffin, CEO of Secret Sales

Can you briefly describe Secret Sales?

Secret Sales is a premium off-price ecommerce marketplace that is shaking up the non-full-price sector. Our platform allows brands and retailers to manage excess inventory in a sustainable and profitable way, maintaining brand equity and driving new customers.

Tell us about the shift from flash sales to a marketplace model?

The idea for Secret Sales was actually conceived when working with brands to review their full price marketplace strategies. Having successfully helped global brands to optimise their sales of full-price inventory, I was often asked about what could be done to improve the off-price sector – namely, how could they sell excess stock without damaging their brand image?

Discounting can be a powerful tool for creating new customers, but the options open to brands and retailers at the time were complex, brand-corrosive and often unprofitable. It was evident that the sector needed an overhaul.

My business partner Matt Purt and I initially took a controlling interest in Secret Sales through our company Lifestyle Retail Group, when it was operating as a flash sales provider. The aim was to provide an elegant 360-degree solution for selling discounted products.

However, once we got inside the business, we realised the existing flash sales model was slow and outdated, and was not going to provide this solution. Secret Sales was already a respected outlet name, but we pivoted the business in March 2020 to a more compelling marketplace model to align with industry needs and prepare for the future of ecommerce.

What is unique about your marketplace?

Our technology and marketing-led proposition is the first to put brands and retailers in control of their discount strategy working in partnership with a third party, allowing them to achieve better margins plus identify new customers for their full-price channels.

By owning product selection, pricing, images and copy, fashion houses can digitally connect supply chain and inventory systems to our plug-and-play platform and trade more efficiently, without the need to physically move stock to a third-party seller.

Products are displayed in a clean and stylish environment with complementary product and brand adjacencies, away from cluttered listings and shelves associated with traditional marketplaces and discount outlets.

How has it gone since relaunch?

Our first year was exceptional and we are fast becoming the dominant platform that puts ‘brand’ first in the discount space. We grew by 4,000% in 12 months and currently have over 700 brands live on our site, with many appointing Secret Sales as their sole or primary off-price channel in the UK.

How attractive is Secret Sales proving to the brands?

Managing overstock is a major challenge. Typically, a third of all manufactured goods are marked down and millions of tons of excess products end up in landfill every year. The Secret Sales model is proving very popular with brands and retailers that have long been looking for a sustainable and profitable long-term solution to selling surplus inventory.

Our marketplace acts as an extension to a brand’s main ecommerce site. Brands can sell end-of-season stock as prime inventory, without compromising sales in full-price channels or eroding brand equity by selling to third-party retailers that are not concerned about brand positioning.

Which brands are you working with and are some resistant?

Dolce & Gabbana, Versace 19v69, G-Star Raw, Superdry, Ted Baker and Jigsaw are among brands selling on the platform alongside premium retailers including YNAP, Harvey Nichols, JD Sports Group, and high street jewellery business F Hinds.

Once brands fully understand why we are different to current channels we never see any resistance to our business model, in fact even their marketing teams see this as a really exciting way to acquire new customers. We are currently in the process of working with a further 200 brands and retailers who will go live on Secret Sales in the coming months, taking us close to a thousand brands on site, so I think that speaks for itself.

Could you explain how you share data with the brands?

New customers are the lifeblood of brands, and we are uniquely positioned to help identify them through a data share programme, which allows customer data to be used in a fully GDPR compliant way by both us and the brand. Brands can promote full price channels to customers who purchase their non-full-price products on Secret Sales and opt-in to hear more about full-price merchandise directly from the brands themselves.

How do you see the business developing?

Secret Sales is growing at a tremendous pace and we are now ready to scale domestic and international operations. We have recently secured €10 million in Series A funding from heavyweight retail investors, including fast-growing company investor Perwyn Growth Capital and Belerion Capital, the ecommerce investment specialist and early stage investor in ASOS, The Hut Group and Boohoo.

The investment will allow us to advance technological development, scaling our ecommerce platform to compete as a huge global player in the discount retail space. We will launch in six further countries over the next year. The money will also enable us to improve data mining capabilities to optimise user experience, which in turn will increase sales and customer engagement for our brand and retail partners.

What’s the big opportunity for Secret Sales?

Our aim is to become the largest non-full-price online marketplace for fashion and beauty worldwide. Experienced investors have validated the significant opportunity for Secret Sales’ business model, and we’ll be able to meet increasing demand from brands and retailers looking for an upmarket, profitable and sustainable way to sell excess inventory.

We are spearheading a new era for the discount sector, helping the industry reset to put ‘brand’ first and move away from thinking about discounting solely in terms of cash recovery. Our platform can enable this for thousands of brands globally.