More than $10 million in dresses has sold through this site.
I have always been appalled by the idea of spending an obscene amount on a wedding dress, only to wear it once, dry-clean it, and put it under the bed or in the attic to be forgotten.
It's such a waste of money and it turns out I'm not the only one who thinks that. Ingrid Szajer is the co-founder of Still White, an online wedding dress marketplace. This year the business hit a milestone, with the value of second-hand dresses sold through the site reaching $10 million. That's a lot of unrealised value had the dresses remained under beds or in wardrobes.
We get a lot of organic growth; brides have bridesmaids, they have a positive experience and the bridesmaids tell their friends.
Ingrid and her husband Bruno were married in 2008 and her own experience was the catalyst for the business. "We paid the wedding bills, and dry-cleaned the dress, which cost the same as my first car. My husband lifted up the bed and I was pushing the dress underneath, and he said: 'What's the point of that?'"
"He had previously started another marketplace for number plates and he jumped online and had a look at what was out there in wedding dresses. There were only a few stores where you would take the dress in and they would take quite a large commission, usually 30 to 40 per cent, and it was very localised. You're only reaching people who are going to go into the store and try the dress on."
Under the Still White model, sellers list their dress and buyers contact the seller directly. Although Ingrid initially assumed sales would be local and buyers would try dresses on at the home of the seller, more than 50 per cent of dresses sold through the site are bought online not face-to-face.
She says there has been a substantial shift in attitudes towards wearing a second-hand wedding dress. "Our generation of women are not as sentimental as our mothers and grandmothers. Girls realise dresses do go out of fashion and if you hold onto it, it's not necessarily something you want your daughter to wear." Second-hand wedding dresses sell for about half their retail value and look fashionable for about two years.
She and her husband have self-funded the business and they now work full-time in it. Bruno is a web developer and built the site. In the beginning listings were free until a critical mass was achieved. They now charge a flat fee of between $30 and $50 for each listing. Sellers can pay for additional features, in a similar way to promoting an item on eBay.
Still White launched in Australia, then quickly became global. It now has websites for Canada, UK, New Zealand, South Africa, the US and, more recently, Hong Kong and Singapore. Now, the business enters the market with a fee-for-listing model, rather than starting with a free service.
Szajer says she's comfortable doing this given there are now more than 13,000 dresses on the site, and the business has credibility in the wedding market. She says the trust came from building a strong community around the site.
"We're really transparent. Every dress that's marked as sold is in a separate section, that says how long the dress was listed, what it sold for and how many views it had. We get a lot of organic growth; brides have bridesmaids, they have a positive experience and the bridesmaids tell their friends."
The price of the dresses listed on the site is anywhere between a few hundred dollars to $15,000, but the average price is between $2000 to $3000.
At the moment, Ingrid is focusing on breaking into the US and UK markets. She says social media is the key to capturing these markets. "Social is huge in the wedding industry, brides are all over Instagram and Pinterest and you need to be as well. Google Adwords and search engine optimisation is also critical."
Indeed, the Szajers are fully focused on expanding the business. They are preparing to launch a wedding dress calculator that will allow brides to type in the value of their dress and receive an estimate of the price at which it might sell. Applying the technology to other marketplaces is also possible down the track.
Says Ingrid: "We're always looking for opportunities."