Secret Sale specialist Sportpursuit, which was launched in 2011, aims to create rather than respond to online consumer demand.
The etailer, which sells gear for sports including hiking and skiing through to cycling and running, operates a membership system designed to make shoppers feel part of a club rather than simply conducting a transaction.
Sportpursuit was launched by former OC&C adviser Adam Pikett and three co-founders who believed they had spotted a gap in the market. “The biggest gap was in ski,” Pikett recalls.” If I asked you who was the biggest online in cycling you’d probably know, but not in skiing.”
In the three years since launch the etailer has recruited 1.2m members and in 2012 investor DFJ Esprit – also a backer of food specialist Graze and private buying club Achica – invested in it.
Describing Sportpursuit’s model Pikett says: “It’s very different from conventional retail, when the retailer is often taking an order.”
“We’re trying to turn that around and create demand for a product the customer didn’t wake up knowing they needed.”
“From the consumer point of view there’s high demand especially from affluent men who like to shop online.”
Sports enthusiasts are engaged and catered for by daily emails flagging product in their areas of interest and the when-it’s-gone-it’s gone appeal of the lines on offer. “For our members it’s escapism, it’s kit porn,” says Pikett.
Brands have bought into the idea because it allows them to sell product – perhaps overstock – with the protection that a closed Sale process brings. The Sales are only visible to members, rather than to casual visitors to the site.
“That allows brands to work with us in confidence and not cannibalise demand that might exist. It’s a complementary channel for them,” says Pikett.
“We take the product and make it look as good as it should look. That makes it appeal to an affluent audience - they’re not coming to us for cheap,” Pikett maintains.
The model also allows the collection of customer data, which “allows us to increase the quality of communication and make it more relevant and engaging for them”.
He declines to disclose sales but says Sportpursuit is “on plan and delivering very high double digit” growth.
“Kit porn” seems to be creating consumer desire.