Inside Privé Porter’s $18 million Birkin reselling business
Every so often, a piece of news about an ultra-expensive, rare handbag appears in the mainstream press. Two weeks ago it was a Birkin that sold to an unidentified buyer for the record amount of $298,000.
Behind that sale, and many like it, is Privé Porter, a Florida-based handbag reseller that stands out for its savvy use of Instagram.
Founded in 2008 as a way to help track down designer and luxe products for people who wanted them, the brand now says it does $1.5 million monthly in revenue and $18 million a year — with 90 percent of that business coming from Instagram, and all of it in Birkin bags. The company, founded by Jeff and Michelle Berk, started off as a competitor to Gilt Groupe, with flash sales, hosted mostly on eBay for jewelry and later, watches.
By 2012, it was clear the highest margins were in handbags, so the Berks pivoted — and did most of their selling on eBay. Gradually, the couple had realized that most of the reselling business was happening offline; places like New York-based Madison Avenue Couture, for example, weren’t using Instagram at all. But the customers for these bags are often celebrity-famous, so with the right combination of hashtags (and convincing the right celebs to Instagram photos of their bags), Privé Porter took off.
A lot of its success is based on relationships: Over the summer, Kris Jenner came into a pop-up store Privé ran in Aspen, Colorado, and bought a couple bags for $18,000 each. She posted a photo and tagged it Privé. It racked up 200,000 likes. Berk said he got 8,000 new followers in the next couple days, and sold another 20 of the same bag to women. He made $350,000. Since then the company has resold pre-owned Birkins owned by Jenner as well.
Today, Privé Porter has 78,000 followers and sells only Birkins — since they’re the most expensive and hardest to get for consumers. Waitlists are at months — and Hermés is careful not to sell too many to the same people. And if you’re on a waitlist, you get the bag that’s coming out next, whether or not it’s the specific model you want.
Berk sources them from Europe or from second-hand suppliers all over the world. Salespeople at stores like Saks or Nordstrom — who often operate on commission — will often just sell directly to Privé.
But despite the Instagram angle, the process thereafter is pretty “mom and pop,” said Berk. People see the bag on Instagram and then call, often via WhatsApp (Berk said many customers are in the Middle East). The first person to agree on a price wires the money and the bag is shipped through.
The luxury resale market is booming: Online, marketplaces like Vestiare sells consumer-to-consumer, while The RealReal sells everything, including denim like J Brand or Frame. But Birkins are hard to find and require a level of trust that Privé says it has built over the years, and Berk admits that he has had first mover advantage because it got on Instagram so many years ago.
But competitors are cropping up: Poshmark or LuxeDH have snazzier sites and bigger presences and even offer payment plans. The other threat to small places like Privé are the brands themselves. Hermés may enjoy the mystique around the Birkin, but brands would prefer people bought the bags from their stores, not from resellers. But because of the scarcity (you can only get a Birkin every six months at best), consumers turn to resellers. “The whole industry frowns on reselling,” said Berk. “But I’ve been in luxury goods my whole adult life. And people trust me. I mean, why else would you wire someone $50,000 pretty much sight-unseen?”
By Shareen Pathak, Glossy
May 5, 2016