Selling clothes online in Russia
Fabric of society
Two Germans have a mission: to clothe the Russian middle classes
ONLINE as well as offline, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Vente-Privee, a firm founded on the strange notion that French women might like fashionable clothes at deep discounts, has been paid this compliment more than most. Companies cut from similar cloth have appeared in one country after another. In 2008 two German men, Damian Doberstein and Oskar Hartmann, spotted that Russian women were missing out. "No one was telling Russian women, ‘You could look good for 70% less'," Mr Hartmann says.
无论在线上或是线下，模仿是最真诚的恭维方式。 Vente-Privee，（法国服装折扣店）一间以法国女人可能喜欢深度打折的潮流服饰，这一奇特的理念而起家的公司，已经被众多公司模仿。许多公司会把已经出现在多个国家的同类衣服下架。2008年，两个德国人Damian-Doberstein （达米安.多倍斯坦因）和Oskar Hartmann（奥斯卡.哈曼特），发现俄罗斯女性被这些服装网购公司所忽略了。哈特曼说，"没有人告诉过俄罗斯女人，少花70%的钱也能穿得光鲜亮丽。"
They expect that their company, KupiVIP, will have sales of around $200m this year. Mr Hartmann says it breaks even. Given the fast growth of Russia's internet population and of a middle class eager for nice clothes but mostly a long way from nice shops, the two men think they could turn over $1 billion within five years.
The pair want to fill more than just the smarter end of the female wardrobe. Besides their original business, which is still the biggest part of the group, they have an online full-price shop, ShopTime, aimed at both sexes and all shapes and sizes. They also run online shops on behalf of well-known brands, of which they expect to be servicing 23 by the end of the year.
When he was in an e-commerce business in Germany, Mr Hartmann says, he outsourced "everything". In Russia, "we have to do everything ourselves", from the call centre to the photographing of models. To make sure that fashion-conscious Russians get the clothes they ordered, KupiVIP owns a fleet of 100 vans and leases a lot of others. It uses the post office to send clothes by air to the farthest-flung corners of the vast, icy, sparsely populated country.
Online retailers in Russia have to put up with other local traits. Most customers prefer to pay in cash on delivery, and about a quarter of goods are rejected at the door. That, says Mr Hartmann, who is as talkative as Mr Doberstein is taciturn, is just something companies have to deal with. "Never complain about the customer," says Mr Hartmann. Once a quarter, he makes sure he meets some of them, by making deliveries himself.