Meet the Woman Taking the ‘Blood Sport’ out of Buying a Coveted Hermès Birkin Bag - Kanebridge News
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Meet the Woman Taking the ‘Blood Sport’ out of Buying a Coveted Hermès Birkin Bag

By SHIVANI VORA
Fri, Feb 16, 2024 9:32amGrey Clock 4 min

The impetus for Judy Taylor to start her luxury handbag and jewellery resale company Madison Avenue Couture dates back to her career in investment banking more than two decades ago. At the time, she was an avid shopper for high-end clothing and had built a sizeable collection of corporate wear from designer labels.

Taylor eventually took an extended break from banking to travel the world and decided to sell the clothing on eBay.

“I was surprised at the money I netted by selling these used items and realized the potential of the online resale market,” Taylor says. “Not being someone to let an opportunity pass, I began to buy and sell new and almost new luxury clothing, shoes and handbags and saw how much they were in demand.”

Hermès Birkin 25 Himalaya Niloticus Crocodile Diamond Encrusted Hardware, priced at $US500,000.
Courtesy of Madison Avenue Couture

Her homespun venture quickly grew into a full-fledged profitable business, and in 2010, she established Madison Avenue Couture. Today, the brand bills itself to be the largest online independent reseller of new and never-worn Hermès holy grail bags, primarily Birkins and Kellys that are nearly impossible to find. It also sells a selection of pre-owned collectible and vintage Hermès, Chanel, Goyard, and Louis Vuitton bags, Hermès and Chanel jewellery, and accessories and sought-after fine jewellery.

Taylor says that her company enables any consumer with the means to buy highly in-demand goods.

“You can’t just go into Hermès and buy a Birkin because there usually aren’t any available, and if they are, customers are limited to buying two bags a year,” she says. “Chanel has also limited purchases since Covid, and other brands have imposed restrictions.”

According to Taylor, these tactics have increased market demand and have enabled luxury labels to increase their prices. However, since supply cannot meet demand, consumers are increasingly reaching out to the resale market, including her company, for these items.

“Our business continues to grow, and we have an extensive network to source handbags and jewellery,” Taylor says. “Unlike much of the traditional resale market, our items are primarily new and never used and carry a premium over [the] retail price.”

Taylor, 59, speaks with Penta about her company and the luxury resale market overall.

Can you talk about how the luxury resale market for handbags and jewelry has evolved in recent years, especially since the pandemic?

About three weeks into the pandemic, we started getting orders. They were slow at first but then accelerated.

With retail stores closed and travel restricted, people turned online to shop. The only place to purchase new Hermès and Chanel handbags was online and from dealers on the secondary market. They became comfortable with buying these brands online. Sales increased by 60% in 2020 and doubled in 2021, compared to the prior years. Even after the brand boutiques opened and travel resumed, online sales continued their momentum. Our sales quadrupled from 2019 to 2023.23.

Who are your customers, and have they changed over the years?

Our clients are primarily those who have disposable income and love to spend it on beautiful things. Partners of hedge funds, investment bankers and law firms, self-made entrepreneurs, physicians and dentists, celebrities and socialites represent the bulk.  But we always have the aspiring—those for whom buying a Birkin or Kelly is a bit of a financial stretch.

What are the advantages of buying a resale bag or piece of jewellery?

Hermès and Chanel do not offer their handbags online. While Hermès.com may offer one or a few small bags on occasion, they are sold out in seconds. The same goes for branded jewellery, notably Van Cleef & Arpels. Try purchasing a popular VC&A Alhambra piece online or in one of their stores to take home immediately—it is almost impossible.

Hermès Sac Faubourg Birkin 20 White Matte Alligator Palladium Hardware, priced at $US225,000
Madison Avenue Couture

The second is ease of purchase. Hermès has made getting a holy grail bag almost a “blood sport.” The machinations that someone goes through to get a Birkin or Kelly are anxiety-producing for most. First, you need to find a friendly sales associate. Then, a profile must be built, which involves spending on Hermès goods that are not leather handbags. The more the spend, the greater the chance of getting a handbag. Expensive furniture, fine jewelry, and watches have the greatest sway. Scarves or a pair of shoes won’t bat an eyelash. The amount needed to be spent is unknown, but we’ve heard it could be significantly more than the price of the bag. Plus, there is no guarantee that it will result in getting the bag of your dreams.

In the secondary market, you can pick the bag of your dreams without the hassle and stress of building a profile.

How do you source your items, and how are you able to guarantee their authenticity?

We purchase from individuals and other handbag dealers primarily. We usually get the original store receipt or a copy of it for most bags we purchase, which establishes provenance. Regardless of having the receipt or not, every bag goes through in-house and third-party authentication. We chose who we believe to be the best independent authenticators of Hermès and Chanel, which is where we find the most counterfeits.

What are some of the most in-demand brands and items for buyers who can afford them?

Hermès and Chanel handbags are generally in demand by professional and affluent women and men who give them as gifts. Goyard is popular because it evokes quiet luxury. In jewelry, we see the greatest demand is for Van Cleef & Arpels pieces, particularly the Alhambra series.

What advice do you have for people who want to find a specific piece from a source outside of the brand itself?

We recommend that people purchase only from dealers who guarantee authenticity and have a history of selling only authentic bags.

Furthermore, rely on a reseller that has its inventory on hand like us.  We have already checked the condition, verified authenticity, and confirmed availability. Marketplaces, which aggregate different vendors, cannot know for certain if an item is available, in the stated condition or authentic. (Some authenticate after the item is sold, which delays getting the item.) Resellers that do not have an item in stock will source it, which can take weeks and may not be in the condition described.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 



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BLACKSTONE’S PRIVATE-EQUITY RETURNS TRAIL THE S&P 500
By Andrew Bary 19/07/2024
By Andrew Bary
Fri, Jul 19, 2024 3 min

The S&P 500 index has been crushing private-equity returns in the past year, and Blackstone ’s second-quarter results illustrate that trend.

As part of its earnings release early Thursday Blackstone said its corporate private-equity returns in the year ending in June were 11.3%. That compares with a 24.5% total return for the S&P 500.

In the prior year ending in June 2023, the S&P 500 topped Blackstone with a 19.4% return against 9.7% for the firm’s corporate private-equity business, which has $145 billion of assets and remains one of its most important areas along with real estate.

Blackstone is the leading alternatives firm with over $1 trillion in assets under management and has the largest market value of any public investment firm at more than $160 billion.

Driven by Nvidia , Microsoft , Apple , Amazon and other big technology stocks, the S&P 500 has handily topped most asset classes in the past several years.

Another sign of more difficult times for private equity came earlier this week from Calpers, the $503 billion California pension fund, when it reported it s preliminary returns for its fiscal year ending in June . Calpers is one of the first major endowments or pension funds to report results for the June fiscal year. undefined The pension fund, a major player in private equity, said its private-equity investments gained 10.9% net of fees—although that figure is lagged one quarter. Calpers’ public-equity investments were up 17.5% in the year ended June—its strongest asset class. Private equity remains a favorite of many pension funds and leading university endowments like those of Harvard and Yale. Their view is that private equity can beat public-market returns over the long term.

But the private-equity business has gotten tougher in recent years due to keen competition for deals, higher interest rates and a less receptive IPO market, which has made exits tougher.

And private-equity portfolios of firms like Blackstone look nothing like the S&P 500, given their investments in small to midsize companies.

Blackstone, for instance, bought a majority stake in Emerson’s climate technologies business last year and more recently purchased Tropical Smoothie, a franchiser of fast-casual cafes. It also holds a stake in Bumble, the publicly traded online dating site, and it’s an investor in actress Reese Witherspoon’s media company, Hello Sunshine. Blackstone’s corporate private-equity business runs $145 billion and has 82 investments, according to the firm’s website.

Blackstone’s private-equity business has strong long-term returns including a gain of over 50% in the year ended in June 2021 when it handily topped the S&P 500 index.

But the S&P 500 index has become difficult to beat more recently and it’s dominated by some of the best companies in the world. It carries less risk than private equity, given the cash-rich balance sheets of its leading companies like Apple , Microsoft and Alphabet .

Private-equity firms, by contrast, often use considerable leverage to boost returns. Investors can get exposure to the S&P 500 through index funds that charge 0.1% or less in annual fees and with immediate liquidity.

A key risk with the S&P 500 is its vulnerability to a selloff in the leading tech firms that now make up over 40% of the index. The recent rotation into smaller companies illustrates that.

Blackstone shares gained 1.1% to $136.31 Thursday in the wake of its earnings news as investors focused on rising investment deployments and positive management comments on the firm’s outlook.

The firm’s nearly $40 billion of inflows and $34 billion of capital deployment during the second quarter marked “the highest level of investment activity in two years,” Chief Executive Officer Stephen Schwarzman said in a statement.

Citi analyst Christopher Allen wrote in a note to clients on Thursday that while Blackstone’s overall performance was mixed, the outlook appears to be improving given fund-raising and deployment trends.

Investors also were heartened by Blackstone President Jon Gray’s comments about a bottoming in commercial real estate and strong capital deployment in that area.

But ultimately, the game for Blackstone and its alternatives peers is about performance—particularly beating low-fee public investments like the S&P 500. That seems to be getting more difficult.