In this op-ed, Kellie Hush weighs in on eCommerce player Cettire. Kellie Hush is the former editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR and is currently the Creative Director and Head of Business Strategy for The Volte.  

I have seen a lot change globally in the business of fashion during my 25 year career. The meteoric growth of fast-fashion, the launch of Instagram and its disruption and democratisation of the fashion industry, and luxury e-commerce platforms transforming what was once considered an in-boutique shopping experience only. 

When Natalie Massenet launched in 2000 her biggest hurdle wasn’t getting financial backing, it was convincing luxury brands to sell their products online, as many were skeptical about the potential dilution of their brand’s exclusivity and the ability to deliver a luxury experience online. Massenet showed how it could be done, including launching with chic black boxes delivered to the customer’s door with the purchase tissue-wrapped neatly inside. Competitor launched in 2007, also with another chic box, this time in a marbled green which customers kept as storage boxes (and status symbols).

Which brings me to Cettire. The Australian e-commerce site which launched in 2017. I visited the site, admittedly, a few years after it launched as a colleague had asked if I knew anything about it and if I knew who owned it? I didn’t. I could see it was stocking new and past season stock at discounted prices. I shop at The Outnet, which launched in 2009 and, for me, it’s the benchmark of online luxury discount shopping. I most recently bought a pair of Chloe jeans from the site. I also worked with The Outnet’s former executive vice-president, Andres Sosa, and marketing team when I was editor-in-chief of Harper’s BAZAAR and knew they had strong relationships with leading luxury brands and a buying team purchased stock directly.

Whereas, Cettire operates a drop-shipping model which essentially connects wholesalers and distributors with Cettire consumers.

I didn’t think much about Cettire again until recently due to its fast growth, continuous business media headlines and being alerted constantly by peers to the number of negative customer reviews online. And what I have felt strongly about for some time now is that the customer has been forgotten in this “business” story. 

That is until now, with Cettire customer complaints being reported by The Australian last month. According to The Australian, complaints about Cettire lodged with the US Federal Trade Commission are twice that of two of its major competitors.  

I personally know the founders of Matches Fashion, Tom and Ruth Chapman, as they came to Sydney on business regularly and also hosted dinners in Paris during Paris Fashion Week many times before they sold the business in 2017. I had lunch at Monsieur Bleu in Paris with Farfetch founder, Jose Neves, and I worked on many consumer projects with the Net-A-Porter team. I saw first-hand how these luxury fashion leaders worked from the business and customer side. 

The reported Cettire experience in comparison appears not to be a luxury experience. Among those complaints to the FTC were reports of damaged goods received, allegations raised of counterfeit luxury goods being supplied while other customers claimed they were dispatched empty boxes or had issues obtaining refunds.

Luxury businesses are built on the back of the customer experience. Luxury 101. 

According to The Australian, among the complaints to the FTC, one alleged the $US381 purchase of a Stella McCartney mini shoulder bag from Cettire as a gift “turned out to be fake”, and arrived unwrapped in a white bag. Another complainant claimed two pairs of shoes bought for $US732 arrived with “pen markings all over each shoe”. 

For many customers purchasing from a discount luxury site it will be their first experience of a luxury fashion brand. No doubt Stella McCartney would care about the experience of that new customer, so too the brand whose name is on those marked shoes. Afterall, even with the discount, buying from Cettire isn’t cheap. 

Valentino did care when it was alerted to a Melbourne-based Cettire customer who had purchased Valentino boots which broke soon after purchase and were then replaced with a scuffed pair. What did the Rome-based Valentino do? It sent her a brand new pair, free of charge. 

Cettire says it has about 70 employees, the majority of whom are technology engineers. Just maybe it should use some of that profit to employ experienced luxury retailers and invest in customer service. Retail 101.

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