, Ideal Online Shopping?

Last year, Ideeli established itself as a model among the invitation-only online shopping sites that sell drastically discounted designer goods. With traditional retail sales plunging, we wanted to learn just how foolproof the discounted e-commerce machine is in a dicey economy. Paul Hurley, Ideeli’s CEO, enlightened us on the consumer mindset for discount shopping, the sales results during this past-holiday season and his designs on social networking. If this illuminating interview sparks your interest, check out Ideeli’s upcoming sales on Marc by Marc Jacobs watches (Tue Jan 13), Ungaro shoes (Wed Jan 14) and Chloé sunglasses (Thur Jan 15) using an invite code especially for you, our readers.

JC Report: How did you fare this holiday season?

Paul Hurley: We did very well. We’ve doubled our business in the last 90 days. We haven’t seen any changes in purchasing patterns and our members continue to buy. Despite consumers being cautious about spending this season, we served up great values that got our members excited about holiday shopping.

JCR: With all the discounts this season due to the economy, will consumers expect discounts all the time?

PH: Not necessarily. It’s true that in this post-holiday season, consumers are spending less with traditional retailers. They have witnessed deep discounts on massive volumes of merchandise, often on products and brands they cherish. The perceived value of many products and sometimes brands (for the smaller ones) has been tremendously shaken during the Fall and Holiday season. However, we do think customers will continue to spend at full price. They will spend in products and experiences that meet their newly redefined needs and priorities. Retailers must recognize this and understand how their customer priorities have changed.

JCR: Will Ideeli coast in this new deep discount economy?

PH: We think we have a powerful model to create strong value for our members and our brand partners. Quality, service and price do not suffice to create loyalty today. We’re focused on creating a true community with our members to drive trust, authenticity and engagement. We go beyond the sample sale paradigm, and we think it serves our core business while driving revenue to the core channels of our brand partners.

JCR: How does this bode for Ideeli’s sales efforts this year?

PH: Ideeli has seen tremendous growth this past year and shows no signs of stopping. We have hundreds of thousands of members now and expect to pass the million member mark in 2009. This continued membership growth will bode well for Ideeli sales this year.

JCR: Which brands/products sell the best on Ideeli?

PH: We’ve seen a range of products, brands and price points perform well, which is a testament to the merchandise Ideeli offers. Handbags, shoes, sunglasses, clutches and costume jewelry have all been standouts. We’ve seen amazing velocity of sales on brands such as Celine, D&G and Christian Lacroix.

JCR: What distinguishes Ideeli from other players in the space?

PH: We go beyond fashion and touch many lifestyle categories. Not only do women find the best of fashion and accessories on Ideeli, but also fragrances, skincare and experiences such as pre-sale concert tickets, fashion show tickets and travel deals. Ideeli also offers fabulous giveaways—members can win amazing products and experiences. Ideeli is a community first, a community where our affluent and aspirational members can socialize with other privileged shoppers. This allows us to create a forum to evangelize brands. Ideeli was the first invitation-only shopping website to launch in the US and has the most experience in its arena: our first event ran on the 1st of June, 2007—a Dolce & Gabbana giveaway.

JCR: How does the company plan to grow in 2009?

PH: Growth will continue to be fueled through multiple avenues. The invite-only nature has prompted friends to invite friends, making Ideeli incredibly viral. This will continue and expand with the introduction of new social networking and community features as well as new product categories and brands. Ideeli is situated at the intersection of shopping and social networking, all leading to great partnership opportunities.

This interview was conducted by Jason Campbell.

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