Amazon French Rival Vente-Privee Buys Theater in Arts Push

Vente-Privee.com, the Web retailer that gets more daily visits than Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) in France, bought a 122-year-old theater in Paris as part of a plan to fill empty seats by selling tickets at discounted prices.

The push into theaters is founder Jacques-Antoine Granjon’s latest move, after branching out into wine exports and travel. The entrepreneur, who plans to co-produce music and sell albums, is betting markdowns on tickets for concerts and plays will lure consumers even as they cut spending amid austerity measures.

“We already have the traffic, we want to invent a new way of selling the arts,” Granjon said on stage at the Theatre de Paris, acquired for about 7 million euros ($9.43 million), according to the entrepreneur. “Artists are also brands.”

Vente-Privee, which sells branded goods at discounted prices in eight European countries and in the U.S., gets 1.3 million daily visits in France, according to the latest estimate by e-commerce association Fevad. Amazon has 1.2 million.

Sales at Granjon’s company rose to 1.3 billion euros last year from 1.1 billion euros in 2011, as consumers bought more products ranging from Huggies diapers to Armani handbags. France generated 80 percent of revenue at the La Plaine Saint Denis, France-based company, giving it about 3 percent of the market. The aim is for Europe excluding France to account for about half of sales in three years, Granjon said.

U.S. Sales

Sales in the U.S., which Vente-Privee entered in November 2011 through a joint venture with credit card company American Express Co. (AXP), reached $25 million last year. The unit, based in Manhattan, has a target to be profitable by 2015, while Vente- Privee has been profitable since 2004, Granjon said.

“There’s great potential, but it will take time,” Granjon said of the U.S.

Vente-Privee, whose competitors include Gilt Groupe Inc. and Rue La La, has 600,000 members in the U.S., compared with about 18 million in Europe.

Vente-Privee doesn’t plan to sell shares in an initial public offering as it has 200 million euros of cash to finance investment, Granjon said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Andrew Roberts in Paris at aroberts36@bloomberg.net; Marie Mawad in Paris at mmawad1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kenneth Wong at kwong11@bloomberg.net; Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.