HushHush has launched as a new “design-oriented” daily deals site in the UK, promising big discounts on fashion, interiors, gardening, and food and drink, from well-known brands such as the likes of Calvin Klein, Dolce and Gabbana, and French Connection. That may not be so note-worthy in itself — not another daily deals site, I hear you say — if it wasn’t for the site’s founder, serial entrepreneur and investor, Mark Pearson, who as the person behind MyVoucherCodes (and its parent company, Markco Media), has form in the discount shopping space.
In fact, Pearson appears to be leveraging MyVoucherCodes’ existing 5.7m UK user-base. Prior to launch, HushHush was able to garner around 260,000 sign-ups, even though there was little more than a holding page (the tagline “a secret sale everyday” probably helped, too).
That said, my immediate reaction when hearing about HushHush was that the the company was coming very late to the daily deals or “secret sales” game. I was also reminded that during the Groupon-clone gold rush a couple of years ago, Pearson had tried his hand, not so successfully, at a group buying site of his own in the form of the opportunistically-named Groupola.
On the latter point, however, Pearson is keen to point out that HushHush is a very different proposition to the group buying model or “anything we’ve done before”.
“HushHush is a retailer and not a location based voucher product. We cut out the middle man, as we are going straight to suppliers, who we discuss stock and discounting with and then work into our designer collections”, he says.
The site itself has a very visual, dare I say, ‘Pinterest’-feel, with generous use of images and a modern, uncluttered user interface. That makes sense as it’s supposed to appeal to the design conscious, and from a cursory glance, HushHush appears to have the brands to back that up, too.
Meanwhile, on the issue of first-mover advantage (or the lack there of), unsurprisingly, Pearson refutes the accusation that HushHush may be too late.
“We really don’t feel this is late to the game and there are only one or two respectable players in this market, and none that I feel are anywhere close to being mainstream”, he says. “If you ask the public about discount sites, they may suggest Groupon, which is an entirely different model as mentioned, or voucher code sites, but very few would be able to name a designer brand discount site such as HushHush.”
On that note, Pearson says that Fab.com is probably HushHush’s biggest competitor.
But in the end, the daily deals model, whichever vertical it’s applied to, probably comes down to execution as much a originality or first to market. And it’s here that Pearson shouldn’t be underestimated.
“My experience and success in discounting and building a more mainstream company means brands that you may not traditionally associate with sales are more inclined to work with us, something I’d suggest sets us apart from most in online retail in general, not just in this space”, he says.
Furthermore, according to the PR, HushHush is launching with a £1 million budget, funded internally. So it’s a relatively big bet from Pearson’s point of view.
“The thing to remember is that Facebook was not the first social network and Google was not the first search engine. Both entered the market ‘late’ but deliver the goods in a way that users appreciate”, says Pearson.