THE INC. LIFE

Reebonz: Banking on Accessible Luxury

How this e-commerce company is bringing the world of luxury to Asia’s emerging middle class

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 02 Oct 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy Company

Daniel Lim knows what’s it like to aspire to luxury—and be intimidated by it. Growing up in Singapore, born to parents that were hardly wealthy, he had a keen interest in fashion and high-end products like expensive loafers or shirts. Yet such products felt alien, both in terms of their price and the way they were traditionally bought in stores.

Enter Reebonz. The 8-year-old Singapore-based luxury e-commerce platform Lim, his brother Samuel, and co-founder Benjamin Han created is built around the idea of “accessible luxury,” whereby hundreds of millions of middle-class shoppers from all over Asia can purchase products they otherwise may feel is beyond their reach through discounting and a second-hand product marketplace.

“Bringing luxury to the middle class in Asia can impact millions of customers and we were excited about satisfying this demand,” says Samuel, 38, CEO of Reebonz.

Founded in 2009, Reebonz began during the global financial crisis when many luxury brands and distributors were looking to liquidate their inventories. At the time, e-commerce was just starting to take off in Asia, and seeing the potential for growth, the founders decided to enter the e-luxury sphere.

“Ben and myself were good friends from our army days and we were always interested in the idea of starting a business together. So we roped in my brother, Samuel, who had experience in managing businesses,” Daniel says.

Samuel admits the idea of Reebonz was not born from in-depth research. It came from observing consumers’ shopping behavior. “I have seen people around me aspiring to own a piece of luxury, but they feel intimidated walking into a boutique or shop for luxury,” the 33-year-old Han says.

It seemed clear that the solution was to bring the luxury shopping experience online, where people can browse to their heart’s content and contemplate a purchase without a sales assistant waiting impatiently for their decision. At the same time, they saw increasing demand for more unique and vintage pre-owned luxury pieces.

Reebonz has so far raised $64 million in three rounds of funding, according to data from Crunchbase. And in 2015 the company was valued at $300 million based on media reports, though the founders declined to comment on this or their current valuation.

Kee Lock Chua, group president and CEO of Vertex Holdings, one of the firm’s investors, says, “Sam and his core founding team are pioneers not only in e-commerce but also in the luxury e-commerce sphere. Having first mover advantage, they managed to capture market share quickly.”

A team with practically no experience in the online luxury market, Reebonz started out as a flash sales site, which offered limited time-based sales events. A year later, in 2010, the mobile app was launched to complement its mobile growth strategy to take advantage of increased smart phone adoption. At present, Han says more than 50% of revenue comes from transactions on mobile.

In 2016, the company posted over S$350 million ($257 million) in gross sales, according to Han, with the average order value ranging from $800-$1,000, though it varies across countries. Reebonz now offers over 150,000 products online ranging from bags, leather goods, apparel, jewelry, and timepieces from over 550 designer brands for its 5 million members around the world.

As for Daniel, he has come a long way from being the young boy who learned to be thrifty at home. His passion to make luxury accessible to middle class consumers such as himself remains the driving force behind Reebonz today.