It's like an eBay for the Gucci and Hermes crowd offers used luxury items - with a guarantee

August 22, 2005|By Valerie Finholm | Valerie Finholm,HARTFORD COURANT

You've just bid $255 on a black Chanel suit and $168 on a vintage Cartier ladies wristwatch, when you see it: a Judith Leiber purple rhinestone clutch "circa 2000s." The current bidding price for the tiny evening bag by the famous designer is $670, with 10 hours to go. You must have it. But can you afford it?

If you have to ask, maybe you shouldn't be shopping on, a Web site that dubs itself "eBay for the affluent."

"There has been an explosion in the online market, but luxury has not grown as quickly," says Michael Sheldon, founder and CEO of the company, which has offices in Manhattan, Scarsdale, N.Y., and Greenwich, Conn. "Our approach has changed that."

Portero guarantees the provenance of the articles it sells. "The experience of buying used luxury items online used to be kind of scary," he says. "The odds were that the Tiffany bowl you purchased could be fake, or broken, or you didn't have any recourse if you didn't like it. If you're paying $50 or $100 it doesn't really matter. But if you're paying $500 or $1,000 that changes everything."

Although Portero items appear on eBay - which it uses as a platform to reach customers - the Portero Web site's introduction makes a clear distinction between the two. "Unlike eBay, Portero is focused exclusively on luxury and high-end, brand-name goods," the statement says.

Sheldon says many of his clients sell luxury items to accumulate more. "Maybe you have one bag, but you want it in three different colors," he says.

Newer-model handbags with brand names such as Hermes, Chanel and Gucci are among the best-selling items, says Kristen Storer, director of sales for Portero's in Greenwich. The handbags tend to sell within a week of being listed on the site at prices that range from $500 to thousands of dollars. (A Hermes calf leather and canvas handbag listed on the site recently sold for more than $2,000.)

Portero associates will travel to the homes of people with numerous luxury items to sell.

"We don't want old roller blades or bikes. We want high-end goods," Storer says, noting brand names such as Bulova, Wedgewood, Limoges, Manolo Blahnik, Armani, Jimmy Choo, Tiffany & Co.

"I'm looking for a resale value of at least $300," she says, noting that most of her clients have 50 to 100 items they want to sell on the Web site. "Last week our average sale price per item was $600." (Portero charges a $20 listing fee and a 30 percent commission on the first $1,000 in sales and 15 percent on sales exceeding $1,000, she said. )

The Web site sells art, housewares, fashion, electronics, jewelry and watches, and cars and boats. "We've sold a Rolls Royce and a Porsche 911," Storer says.

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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