Novelship is one of the largest platforms in Asia where sneakerheads can buy and trade authentic, highly sought-after and limited edition sneakers.
With a team of over 60 members, Novelship operates in six markets, namely Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and Taiwan, with monthly revenue of over RM9.3 million.
Its founder, Richard Xia, has been leading Novelship since its launch in 2018, together with his long-time friend of 16 years, Chris Yue. But before Novelship even came to existence, Richard faced many challenges, including two failed business ventures in his mid-20s.
Additionally, Richard faced difficulties in convincing investors to fund the startup due to the niche sneaker reselling market, which led him and Chris to let go of some of their most memorable, loved and rare sneaker collections to amass almost S$10,000 (RM30,777). With that money and the remaining funds from their previous venture, the duo kickstarted their business on Carousell.
Richard and Chris handled all aspects of the business, from customer service and deliveries to invoicing and pitching to investors. Eventually, they managed to build a strong and loyal community of sneaker enthusiasts.
WORLD OF BUZZ has since been given the opportunity to interview Richard to get further insights about his journey as the founder of Novelship and what is being done to enhance customers’ e-shopping experience.
Richard shared with WORLD OF BUZZ that he noticed a gap between the demand and supply in the sneaker reselling market, with many sneakerheads turning to the black market after failing to get direct retail access to products, which, he adds is extremely hard unless a personal channel is involved.
“Due to this many of them turned to the black market, Carousell, Facebook groups, WhatsApp groups, and other fragmented sneaker communities online. These unregulated and unmonitored platforms pose a different set of risks that exposed sneaker lovers to online scam cases,” he said.
“Currently, up to 85% of orders on Novelship still come from Asia. What we are trying to bridge is the gap between demand and supply. And, of course, when we talk about supply, we are also talking about a safe supply chain to guarantee the interests of our customers through secure dealings.”
Business amidst the Covid-19 pandemic
Despite the pandemic, Richard said that Novelship has surpassed RM71 million in gross merchandise value (GMV) to date, due to its abundant growth in Malaysia.
He added that there is a growing demand for the items that are being sold on Novelship, not just for luxury sneakers, but sneakers from famous brands like Air Jordan, Adidas Yeezy and Fear of God among many others.
“The global market for sneakers is growing rapidly as a whole, and our own growth in Malaysia definitely reflects this. Since entering the Malaysian market in mid-2019, we have seen a 2,400% increase in the number of users,” Richard said.
“We have over 20,000 active users on the platform to date, and with the launch of the app, we plan to achieve 40,000 more users by the end of the year.”
Enhancing customers’ e-shopping experience
Novelship has just released its app for Android devices in hopes of enhancing accessibility and user-friendliness. Richard said they will soon be releasing other features such as localisation of language and currency according to regions, which is currently only available on their website.
He added that from next year onwards, Novelship is aiming to become more than a platform for trading goods.
“We want to build a community that is really passionate about the product, and that sees the culture behind the product. To cultivate this, we want to stimulate engagement among the members of the community by sharing their sneakers, experience and trends on the platform, and hence connecting with the other members through photos, posts and reactions,” he said.
Authentication process and dealing with scams
With luxury items being sold on Novelship, it is hard to determine whether a product is authentic or fake due to various advanced methods used by modern counterfeit manufacturers. Richard explains how Novelship ensures that the products they sell are the real thing and not just a knock-off.
He said that their tech-based authentication service allows sneakerheads to verify product accuracy by inspecting size, colour, material as well as product conditions like stitches, logo, and laces.
“We were very clear from the get-go that Novelship will first prioritise and commit to providing a safe trading ecosystem for all of our users. For a safe ecosystem to be established, we have to start with the people — this means that all of our buyers and sellers are required to follow the set rules for every part of the transaction to make our ecosystem a safe one,” he said.
“For instance, a buyer or seller must put down a verified payment method, verified PIN numbers (OTP) and all other measures that prevent any potential scams. By ensuring every step is adhered to, our buyers are able to shop with peace of mind.”
Meanwhile, sellers are also expected to follow the shopping time religiously and ensure that the product arrives on time in pristine condition.
“Every single product that is listed on Novelship has to be vetted and verified by our trained authenticators who will assess the products for authenticity and quality. This process applies to every single item without discrimination,” Richard added.
Tips and tricks for sneakerheads
Scams nowadays are prevalent in online communities, which is why buyers have to be extra careful when dealing with strangers online. Richard has a few tips on how to avoid being scammed when purchasing things on the internet.
“Scammers are adept in using every trick in their bag to gain your trust before scamming you out of your hard-earned money. But if you really have to deal with strangers online, go through the reviews and comments from the community regarding the sellers,” he said.
“But even then, this method isn’t foolproof as someone who has accumulated a good reputation is still privy to being a scammer. Sometimes, a scammer can take advantage of their good stature to catch victims off-guard, which I have personally experienced before.”
He recalls that Novelship used to source products online and he had to deal with a seller who seemingly had a reliable reputation within the community.
“He was selling an array of shows that were limited in editions, which would usually be suspicious. But I didn’t give much thought to it due to his reputation. In the end, he disappeared without any product in view after we had paid,” Richard adds.
“If this is an option, get the seller to ship the product before paying. Though, this would be tough to do as sellers are also susceptible to scammers as well.”
If you’re a sneakerhead and would want to get your hands on some limited edition luxury sneakers, head on over to Novelship’s website at https://novelship.com or you can visit their Instagram page or Facebook page.
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