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Went to Retrospective at LFW last night with Janice (whose Janice in Wonderland collection of vintage accessories is available in store) and while we were travelling and chatting on our way there, Janice mentioned that Mary Portas had done a review of Asos Marketplace in The Guardian. She knew I would be I terested as I am a real fan of Mary Portas’- she clearly knows her stuff and works hard to champion things which are important to her. I was also accepted for an Asos Boutique a year or so ago but, on balance, decided against it. So I was curious to read Mary’s thoughts which would be from a different perspective.

So first thing this morning I logged on and read said article? Disappointed doesn’t quite cover it. Her main gripe is the lack of free quibble free returns in the way they are offered by Asos. But this isn’t Asos in so many ways. The sellers are individuals and small businesses for whom returns would be costly and time consuming- and we all know that the “free returns” is just part of the overhead which helps to determine price on the Asos main site anyway. 

When we accept an online return the garment is off the shop floor and off the website for around two weeks all told. That can mean missing a potential sale. But what Mary also overlooks is that the items sold on Asos Marketplace are almost all secondhand. This makes returnsamuck more difficult. We all know someone (probably more than one person) who has kept a label in something they have worn and then returned it for a refund. Well how on earth can you address that problem with vintage and other preloved items? We have a tag which we place in a conspicuous place but I bet someone unscrupulous would just tape it up anyway. 

In fact the problems caused by returns are such that I spend a lot of time with the BSCs trying to ensure that we provide full and detailed descriptions and measurements. We don’t want returns but we do want happy customers (see earlier post entitled Thanks @twitter)! 

So Mary I think you kind of missed the point there. Although I agree there is no substitute for seeing, feeling and trying on which is why I opened Now and Then – designer dress agency and vintage boutique in the middle of a recession!!

And now I’m on the subject you may as well hear my thoughts on Asos Marketplace. As I said above I was accepted for a boutique last year. I’d read the rules and it sounded fantastic – though pricey. They insist everything is photographed on a person outside in daylight. OK no more gettingbthe mannequin out and photographing one or two pieces as they come in. Well let’ give it a go.

Step one was to find a model. Ah yes the lovely Priya, grand-daughter of my child minder. Then select the first items to go onto the boutique bearing in mind they had to be Priya-sized. That meant none of the really small stuff and nothing over a size 12. And of course she had to be clothed in full. Which leads to the problem described by Mary Portas of the viewer not being clear at first which item is being sold!

Luckily the day we chose was dry. But also sunny. If the sun wasn’t in Priya’s eyes then it was in mine. And either way it was throwing shadows! It also made homing in on detail difficult. I sell a lot of designer vintage. People want to see verification details and labels. They also want pictures of wear or faults so they can decide whether that matters to them. Yes I could have taken those shots later – but how time consuming and then they have to be located in a different picture file when uploaded. And for what??

That is the real question. Why??? It’s not what they do on the main Asos site or on any other online site I have come across. Artificial lighting allows you to get much better pictures of detail, to lighten dark colours to show texture, seams etc and to get a clear picture of the item on its own. So, having paid Priya (and had fun doing it) I decided against using the Asos Marketplace boutique and opened our own online shop instead.And, in case you are wondering, I have used the pictures of Priya – have a look http://www.nowandthencollection.co.uk

I still love Ms Portas, I just wanted to respond, which then reminded me of my own brush with Asos Marketplace. Oh and now I’ve remembered that that shoot also cost me my lovely coat rack. I had various accessories, coats, furs etc on it to add as necessary and it blew over in a gust of wind and broke in half!