While a packed social calendar and a wardrobe stuffed to the brim with designer wares may not seem like the kind of dire straights that spur an out-of-necessity breakthrough, that’s exactly the spot in which Jaclyn Shanfeld found herself before starting Shop-Hers. The new e-commerce platform marries the convenience and assurance of a consignment store with Net-A-Porter‘s elegant design, plus eBay‘s discount wares and thrill-of-the-find selection. Intrigued? So were we, so we spoke with Shanfeld on the phone about how she made the unlikely jump into tech entrepreneurship with the help of ShoeDazzle CTO Thanh Khuu and Nordstrom web designer Jenna Stahl. We also got all the dirt on what makes Shop-Hers stand out from the e-commerce pack, and who has already joined the site to share a steady stream of Chanel jackets, Alaïa boots, and Louis Vuitton bags. Our only regret? Not discovering it before Fashion Week.
One of the main components of the site that is unique amongst user-driven online shops is the “Style Soulmates” feature, which allows you to input your measurements and bypass the old vanity sizing tricks that so many designers pull. So instead of just seeing a numerical size, you’ll be matched up with other women who share, say, your waist measurement, inseam, or cup size. Now where was this feature when we bought that DVF skirt on eBay, we wonder?
It also makes it easy to sell your unwanted wares with two separate options: the standard service, which allows you to photograph, upload, and list your own item for an 18 percent transaction fee, or the VIP treatment, which means Shop-Hers will take care of all that for you in exchange for 35 percent. If you’ve ever consigned at a brick-and-mortar store (guilty!), you’ll recognize that that’s a good deal. Another way-beyond-eBay feature is the authentification process, which means that, as a buyer, before the cash is even taken out of your bank account, Shop-Hers will inspect the item to make sure it matches the description online, pack it up all nice and pretty, and send it off to be delivered on your doorstep.
Read on to learn more about the founder and prepare to change the way you shop:
Shanfeld on what motivated her to start Shop-Hers:
“I’m somewhat unorthodox compared to other tech company founders. I had no intention of ever being in this business — I think my whole relationship with technology was checking my Facebook page once or twice a day, probably more — but I was working in fashion and I found myself constantly shopping for something new to wear to a wedding or a meeting or a dinner party just to keep up with the different events that I was going to. And everything that I wore — and I think most girls share the same sentiment — I got pretty sick of very quickly. My closet was becoming much larger than my bank account and I couldn’t sustain the influx of trendy items that I wanted to purchase when I wasn’t wearing the ones that I already had. It’s a pretty common problem. It was getting to a place where I started to date somebody new and I found myself going to more and more events with a whole other social circle and I couldn’t find anything online that could really help.”
On why Rent The Runway and eBay didn’t quite solve the problem:
“I tried Rent the Runway and thought ‘This is perfect’ and upon visiting the site I realized that the five dresses that were aspirational that I wanted were booked out for about six months, and I don’t know about you but I don’t plan my life that far in advance. And regardless, it was going to be about $500 just to rent the dress, the bag, the jewelry, and it was only going to be in my possession for 24 hours or so and then I would have to send it back off, so that didn’t work for me. Beyond that, I thought ‘Well, there’s gotta be something to eBay. Everybody does it. It has millions and millions of users. This has got to be the right place for me to reboot and refresh my wardrobe.’ And I realized very quickly that in order to really operate on eBay you have to sit at a computer and click refresh again and again on an auction. It’s that time sensitive….as a buyer, I felt like I’d find something I’d love, but then I couldn’t even go to lunch. And that didn’t work for me, either.”
On where the concept of “Style Soulmates” came from:
“[Shop-Hers creative Director Jenna Stahl] brought with her the knowledge that, the truth is, people are returning items more often than they’re buying at Nordstrom and it’s because of the fit. The issue is that women think ‘Well, I’m a six in this dress so therefore I’ll be a six in Theory and a six in Helmut Lang and a six in Donna Karan’. But that’s not true. So I said if we’re going to try to create a social network of women that can buy and sell from one another, we’d have to incorporate real facts, which is ‘I’m a 34B; you’re a 34B. I’m a 26″ waist; you’re a 26″ waist. My hips are a 32, your hips are a 32.” And then we could really create something that was interesting and give women that dynamic of buying and selling from one another.”
On how Shop-Hers compares to your average consignment store:
“They generally take about 50 percent, so it’s pretty much an even split. And ultimately they have a small group of women that frequent their stores as customers, so they’re brick-and-mortar and don’t have an online presence for the most part so they’re really only dealing with a small amount of women that have access. So that obviously narrows down the audience and it narrows down the purchase price. And they’re only going to take the seasonal items, so if they’re in Miami right now they’re going to take summer clothes, as opposed to our website which is throughout the country. You might be selling an Elizabeth and James coat that you bought for winter in LA where now its getting warm, to a woman in New York who still has three months of cold ahead of her.”
On the biggest lesson she’s learned since launching the site:
“The interesting thing that we’ve learned from our initial assumptions when we launched the site. We thought we’d have such a difficult time sourcing merchandise. Like we told the team, the site can be beautiful but unless there’s a Birkin bag, unless there’s a beautiful Chanel quilted bag, unless there’s a Chloe bag or an Alaïa dress — the kind of things that excite me — I’m not willing to put this site out there, because we have to practice what we preach. I am overwhelmed by the merchandise that we see on a moment-to-moment basis. Not only our VIPs sending in merchandise that I sometimes am practically teary about, like an Alaïa dress from Vogue that I thought I’d never put my hands on or these Chanel thigh-high boots that are a dream come true to even be in the presence of, but women on the site are posting all day long the most incredible merchandise at incredible value…I knew there would be buyers. It’s good prices and luxury goods, which women love, so I knew that would happen. But I just didn’t know how many women would sell.”
On what’s to come for the future:
“So much is on the horizon and so much faster than we ever planned for it to be. As far as a mobile application, an iPad app, there are so many women who are shopping on the iPad right now and it works, but it’s just not optimized. We are constantly adding new features — we’re going to be adding a “Name Your Price” feature where women can prompt a price to the seller and basically say ‘I’ll give you $120 for that.’ So instead of having to have the whole negotiation dialogue, it’s basically an ‘accept/reject.’ We see women constantly going back and forth and negotiating prices and most of the time the seller is actually happy to negotiate and lower the price so this will just make it an easier process.
In the next two weeks we will be giving every woman who signs up for Shop-Hers a $50 shopping card to go spend. We’re doing a large amount of money because we really want women to have their first purchase experience and get their feet wet because every woman who has made a transaction on Shop-Hers, I’m happy to report, has come back to make another, some to the tune of 50 to 60 a month. We’ve got a lot of charitable opportunities coming up…where the proceeds of a purchase will go to the charity of your choice. And the ultimate premise for this site is to create a sustainable way for women to shop forever, so there are a lot of twists and turns that will be coming up very soon just to make it easier to do that. Every day we’re working to eliminate the friction.”
That’s all for now, we’ve got shopping (and selling) to do!