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Online shopping club launches in GCC, Lebanon

MarkaVIP.com has almost 500,000 members since opening in November 2010

Online shopping club launches in GCC, Lebanon
Online shopping club MarkaVIP.com has launched in the GCC and Lebanon.

MarkaVIP.com online private shopping club has launched in the GCC and Lebanon. The company offers site members top designer brands from the US, Europe, Turkey and the Middle East at up to 70% discount, according to MarkaVIP founder and CEO Ahmed Alkhatib.

"We offer sales that are time limited on categories such as apparel, accessories, home décor, children's wear and electronics and these sales are on every day for three days only," he said.

The company launched in Jordan and Saudi Arabia in November 2010 and in eight months has gathered approximately 500,000 members, and while membership of the club is limited, it is adding 2,000 to 4,000 new members per day, Alkhatib said.

"It is exclusive in the sense that our sales are not broadcast to everyone, you cannot access them by just going to a website, you have to be a member. The reason why we do this is because we have partnerships with a lot of existing and upcoming brands and it offers them brand protection. We close the platform. To become a member you would have to be invited by us, invited by a friend, or you would apply through our website to gain membership and access," he said.

Most of the time users who sign up on the website are granted access, but applications are scanned manually for suitability for inclusion on the website.

MarkaVIP.com is aimed at anybody with an internet connection between the ages of 18 to 34 living in the Middle East.

The company works with distributors and authorised agents of brands and it works as an additional distribution and marketing channel for these companies. MarkaVIP.com sells company's excess inventory, rare stock or overproduction stock and works with leading and upcoming brands that are not yet in the Middle East.

"We work with a brand by taking samples from their excess stock, we do not buy the inventories up front, we feature the samples and then send a blast to all our members about the sale.  We then realise the sales and place the final order. We ask for the quantity and then block that quantity for three days so we are not asking the brand to reserve the products for us for a long time, sometimes it is 100 items, sometimes it is 10,000, it depends what the brand has and what they would like to feature," said Alkhatib.

Sukar.com, another online shopping club based in the Middle East is in direct competition with MarkaVIP.com, but Alkhatib said that the competition is good for the market to give customers choice for online shopping.

"We differentiate ourselves [from Sukar.com] by offering convenience to our customers, so we are local in our major markets, we have distribution warehouses in our major markets and we offer great quality products at great value and this is where we really set ourselves apart. We don't engage the customer in issues like clearing their products at customs or paying taxes on it. By us being local in the market we are able to deliver directly to their home at exactly the price they bought it on our website. There are no hidden fees, and also our shipping is much, much cheaper," he said.

MarkaVIP.com has sourcing offices in the US, Europe and Turkey and has established direct relationships with these distributors and brands, they also have local distribution warehouses in Jordan, Lebanon or Dubai, enabling them to ship bulk quantities and sell at cheaper prices according to the company.

The company has recently received $3 million in funding from a range of sources including Hummingbird Ventures, a fund out of Belgium and investors from Turkey, the UAE and the US.

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