Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Advantage of Vintage?

We all have clothes languishing in our wardrobes which we haven't shown much love to of late. Not because there's anything wrong with them, but because we're simply tired of wearing the same old thing over and over again. That's why fashion keeps changing: because our taste does. But what may look old and past its sell-by-date to one, may be given a new lease of life in the hands of someone new.

Enter ASOS - leading online clothing retailer which reported a 38% annual rise in sales for the year ended in March 2010 and which has a 5 year plan to become a £1 billion business - and its plan to launch an online marketplace allowing customers to recycle their wardrobes, and businesses the opportunity to shift unsold stock.

Hot on the heels of eBay which recently launched its dedicated "fashion only" site, ASOS' new marketplace is being hailed as an environmentally friendly way for customers to get rid of old clothing - and to make some money in the process. Details are limited, but an article in The FT yesterday suggested that prices will be fixed rather than determined by auction and that no luxury brand goods can be sold.

ASOS' level of involvement at this stage is unclear. Will it simply provide the platform and then sit back as customers buy and sell between themselves? or will ASOS take a far more "hands on" approach, helping customers to determine (or even dictating) the price at which goods will be sold? News reports suggest that ASOS' involvement will be more than minimal as ASOS has already indicated that it will also carry out security checks and will screen potential businesses wanting to sell their goods through ASOS' new platform.

The prohibition on sales of second hand luxury branded goods is a sensible one to reduce the risk of sales of counterfeit goods and parallel imports. It should also reduce the level of monitoring which ASOS will need to carry out of what is being sold on its site to make sure that ASOS is not at risk of being sued for faciliating the sale of counterfeits and parallels. Whether or not the policy will work in practice - and how ASOS plan to police it - remains to be seen.

The idea of an online marketplace for consumers (and not just businesses) to sell clothing is a good one and may be one of the reasons for which ASOS' Chief Executive Nick Robertson is one of seven people shortlisted for the New Media Age award for the "Greatest Individual Contribution to New Media" in the 2010 NMA Effectiveness Awards.

Whilst Fashionista is a fan of green initiatives, she can't help but wonder whether charity shops are going to miss out on much needed donations as a result.