Remember the time when you could only find cool western tops and accessories at the used section in Sunday Bazaar? Well, the idea of one woman’s trash is another’s treasure still applies but now, for the first time in Pakistan, we have the modern girl’s version of thrifting. Way more hygienic and far more convenient thanks to Nazish Hussain the founder of Secret Stash, you can now turn to this new online marketplace that buys and sells used designer items at discounted rates.
Hussain didn’t really have a background in tech until she landed a job at Unilever’s media department. Very soon she was leading the company’s digital media efforts and truly became passionate about technology and the opportunities it offered. A few years later, she quit her job and launched the first e-commerce website in Pakistan which sells fun, discounted finds for the fashion savvy woman on a budget.
WO: What was the inspiration behind Secret Stash?
NH: I was traveling abroad and came upon a lot of high-end vintage stores in San Francisco and was amazed at the kind of stuff they had. I remember wishfully thinking why we didn’t have something like this back home – who doesn’t want to get original designer stuff for a bargain and we all also have stuff in our closets that we’re not using that we wouldn’t mind selling and making some extra money.
The idea stuck with me and I kept thinking about it over a few months and started doing some research. I looked at international models and talking to some close confidants about the idea and then one day just decided to go for it!
WO: Your website workflow has remained very simple (in the face of numerous ecommerce giants) – what is the reason behind your success?
NH: Secret Stash is a curated online marketplace that allows individuals to buy and sell designer items at a discount anonymously. When we say curated this means each item for sale is sent in where it’s checked for authenticity and condition and if it meets our criteria then it is uploaded on the website.
Secret Stash’s focus is on resale which is a very different concept – my audience is also far more niche versus all the other players in the market whose focus is mass.
I think one of the key things that have worked is the effort to curate each item on the website trying to give our customers the best possible online shopping experience – the website is easy to navigate, it’s clear cut and the best part is everything’s always on sale!
WO: Secret Stash it a pioneer in terms of fashion and tech platforms in Pakistan. How does it make life easier?
NH: We all have items in our closets that we’re not using for whatever reason – you’ve worn it enough times and are bored, have buyer’s remorse or it’s the wrong size. You don’t know what to do with these items because you’ve spent a decent amount of money and don’t want to just give it away plus they’re taking up precious closet space that’s where Secret Stash comes in. You can get in touch with us and we do the rest! And if your stuff sells you’ll get a good amount of money back versus having these things just waste away in your closet.
Since we launched in December 2014 a lot of peer to peer platforms have come up allowing people to directly sell, however Secret Stash remains the only website in our market that curates items before posting them online. Therefore ensuring the items are original and in good condition.
We want our customers to have a great shopping experience on our website so what you see is what you get. If a bag or shoe is ‘gently used’ as we like to say it and is slightly scuffed or has some marks we will say so. We also want to make sure our buyers are getting a good deal as the whole point of the website is you’re getting original designer stuff – new or used at a discount so we do our research to ensure no item is priced above it’s original sale price.
WO: Let’s talk numbers: how many people visit the site? How many transactions on a daily basis?
NH: Secret Stash has an average of 10,000 page-views per month and 3,000 visitors. On a monthly basis there’s an average of 15 – 20 transactions based on the stock available – some days we have multiple sales and on other occasions it’s a few a week as we have such wide variety and price range available.
WO: How are more and more people finding out about it?
NH: A lot of people have found out about Secret Stash through their friends so word of mouth has really help but I think one of the main things has been Facebook and now to a little extent Instagram – they’ve really helped to spread the word. I really believe the internet is an equalizer of sorts giving all kinds of businesses an opportunity for exposure.
WO: How do you keep things fresh in order to catch people’s eyes?
NH: Experimenting with different forms of marketing. I started exploring styling a little bit more, as that seems an essential part of selling effectively online.
WO: Give us examples of some cool things you have sold on your site?
NH: I’ve sold a couple of Umar Sayeed shaadi outfits and a Sana Safinaz bridal which was very exciting and this is an area I’m definitely looking to explore further.
I sold a LV bag to a lady in Sargodha – she straight up paid cash on delivery – I was amazed and definitely changed some misconceptions on my part.
WO: Where do you draw the line? Would you sell used lawn joras if someone wanted to sell it?
NH: Nothing on the website is on sale for less than Rs. 2,500 so no Forever 21 stuff and lawn joras. Well, I admit I sold a brand new 3 piece Elan outfit once but I would definitely not sell a worn lawn outfit I think that’s really pushing it!
WO: Was it difficult for pre-loved products to gain acceptance in Pakistan’s upper crust?
NH: It’s become better versus a year and a half ago when I first started but I think this is still a major issue for a lot of people in our society. It’s not at all like being abroad where people excitedly share their vintage finds. Hence the whole anonymous bit has been a key factor for Secret Stash where we’re the only ones who know if someone is selling something or buying something on the website – unless people disclose it themselves we try to be as discreet as possible on both fronts.
It’s fascinating as I’ve had people comment to me about how they love the website and how they keep seeing great stuff so they’re definitely a lot of people keeping a close eye but are still hesitant to buy stuff due to this whole taboo of “what will people say if they find out it’s used or that I’m selling my stuff…”
I definitely still think we have a long way to go in terms of acceptability and people to be completely open about buying pre-loved items but I get it and don’t have an issue with their need for secrecy – it’s in our name after all!