It’s exhilarating to purchase a fresh new pair of sneakers, but to cop that particular OOS, limited edition piece that you thought you’d never have a chance to lay your hands on is a whole new ballgame.
One haven that can spark the kind of joy you’d get from the latter is Novelship, a passion turned business venture that focuses on reselling sneakers and streetwear garbs to aficionados from all around Southeast Asia. Founded by Singaporeans Richard Xia (who’s the CEO) and Chris Xue (COO) in Oct 2018, Novelship has gone from being a bootstrapped startup to an e-retail paradise that amassed over 40,000 fanatics who are responsible for more than 10,000 of its sales in just two years. More recently, the business has achieved its first US$1 million (approx. S$1.3 million) monthly revenue milestone despite the recent pandemic.
“Covid-19 has actually been a boost for e-commerce as a whole. Initially, we were quite worried as to how it would negatively affect our business,” says Richard. “Instead, our revenue has consistently grown since circuit breaker was implemented in Singapore. Sometimes, [our revenue goes] over 100 per cent month-over-month.”
With a sea of resale e-platforms, like Carousell and GOAT, from both regional and international shores, how does Novelship set itself apart? Richard suggests that authentication is their trump card for local competition, while limiting its reach to Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific market allows it to stand out from global retailers.
“For local competitors, we focus on authentication as our key value-add since other platforms do not have the expertise or experience to spot fakes, and oftentimes buying from them can be quite risky,” explains Richard. “In terms of global competitors, we’ve adopted a hyper-local approach towards market expansion. Since a lot of Southeast Asia and APAC markets have been neglected by international companies, we’ve adopted localisation to ensure that our customers have a great buying and selling experience on Novelship.”
To fully understand why Novelship was founded, how it actually works and how the team authenticates all of its incoming products, we speak to Richard to find out more.
What inspired the birth of Novelship?
Chris and I have been friends for around 17 years now. We went to the same university, reconnected and created our own startup together during our second year. We had doubts from our peers as we have failed to successfully start two independent ventures prior.
We sat down together and had a long discussion about creating something that we can both be passionate about and make into a career. Chris’ decade-long obsession with sneakers and NBA (National Basketball Association), coupled with my love for streetwear, gave us the idea to start Novelship.
Why is it called Novelship?
Novelship was born out of a late night brainstorming discussion when Chris and I were suggesting possible names. The intent was to combine two words to form a meaning. “Novel” means original or unique and “ship”, well, that’s self-explanatory. When you put the two together, it means promising customers that we’ll be shipping them unique, original items.
Congratulations on reaching your US$1 million monthly revenue milestone. How do you feel with your business being so successful in just two years?
It’s been a wild ride since we started in Oct 2018. Most of our growth came from post-funding in Aug 2019. For the past year, we have seen our headcount grow to over 40 team members, with monthly revenue exceeding US$1 million from months ago. Sometimes, we’re even seeing 100 per cent monthly growth. Needless to say, we’re extremely proud of what our team has been able to accomplish in such a short time frame, and we feel lucky to be a part of this journey.
How does it exactly work for buyers, sellers and users who simply want to store their sneakers?
For buying and selling, the seller will ship your item to us for our team to authenticate and check its quality. Then, we’ll securely store it in our facilities until you’re ready to receive it.
Storing your sneakers on Novelship is simple. Upon checkout, instead of choosing “to deliver to your registered address”, simply select “storage” as your delivery option.
How does Novelship authenticate its sneakers?
The process of authentication is robust. We ensure that every staff from the operations team is properly trained to professionally authenticate every piece. We can’t go further in details as it is a proprietary trade secret. To date, we have never shipped out a single item that’s inauthentic.
On average, how many pairs of sneakers do Novelship resell on a daily basis?
Currently, we transact about a hundred pairs of sneakers per day. We predict that the number will triple or even quadruple during the upcoming holiday season, as we’re expecting buyer-heavy markets, including Australia and New Zealand, to come online.
What is the most popular style that resells like hotcakes on Novelship to date?
Air Jordan 1 has been hot for years as new models are released every few weeks. It seems like people’s appetite has not diminished at all.
A great comeback story is the Nike SB Dunk Low, which has seen a massive increase in popularity over the past two years, thanks to desirable collaborations with brands like Strangelove Skateboards and Civilist Berlin.
Are there any plans to expand Novelship beyond SEA?
Yes. In fact, we already have. Our most recent markets include Australia and New Zealand, and we have seen an immediate increase in revenue [for our business] from these markets. Traditionally, global competition has neglected them. On our platform, we prioritise their needs. This includes more responsive customer service, reasonable shipping fees and ultra-competitive prices.
Any business tips for future entrepreneurs?
Find a problem that you are passionate about and build a solution that makes sense. For Novelship, we realised the immense potential of adding authenticity to the local market. Naturally, the pursuit of solving this problem for ourselves has enabled us to grow our company into what it is today. When you solve problems that people actually care about, you’ll inevitably find your path towards growth.
This article was originally published in Harper’s Bazaar Singapore.