Ebay is launching its Fashion Vault service today, officially, after running the system as a trial for several months. The store, as its name suggests, sells clothing at cheap prices, but not just any clothes, as FV offers real designer labels.
According to eBay’s site, the vendors are “trusted sellers and designers you know and love,” and they have items on sale for a limited window–somewhere between 48 to 72 hours. Initially this included names like Hugo Boss, DKNY, Cole Haan, Max Mara, and Marina Rinaldi, but the Wall Street Journal is reporting that at least one of these labels won’t be joining the official FashionVault events.
As a shopper at FashionVault you can expect to benefit from eBay’s expertise in making the shopping experience a simple one and discounts on big-name clothes that start at 50% off. The fashion houses concerned get some cheap and dirty PR exposure (for example, the launch event, a big French Connection affair, has the label with a huge banner ad at the top of the FV site.) Ebay itself benefits by getting a toehold in an exciting new market that’s still in its infancy, following on the heels of sites like Gilt Groupe—and it also legitimizes eBay’s status as a clothing vendor too: The company’s already claimed it shifts more fashion than any other Web site. According to eBay’s president of marketplace operations, Lorrie Norrington, it also helps to “position eBay as a premiere fashion shopping destination for customers looking for incredible selection at great value.”
Big fashion is also big business, and if eBay succeeds, it could quickly snatch up lots of the online fashion sale market. Fashion is also an industry with its own high-class cachet, and that may also be attractive to eBay, as a way to slightly shift its image as a cheap goods vendor. This is possibly why eBay seems to be taking such an active role in negotiating the product details with its FV partners. Another reason for this could also be the generally dim view that the fashion industry has about sites like eBay, as vehicles for vendors to sell cheap counterfeit goods. You’ve only got to glance at the legal battle with Google over trademark keywords in its adWords placement system to see evidence of this. If eBay pays serious attention to its fashion partners, then it’ll be presenting a caring, sharing, anti-counterfeiting impression to them, which is probably good for long term business.