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December 6, 2012
Nyopoly Lets Consumers Negotiate Fashion Prices

When
Shawn Harris owned ECC Life & Style, a custom clothing company that
created suits for clients including Celtics coach Doc Rivers, he noticed a
problem with pricing. “One price doesn’t suit them all,” he says. “In my mind,
I started to think through a way to price our products that was unbiased and
noncompetitive. Nyopoly
was born out of these ideals. How can we build a method for the consumer and
retailer not to miss a purchase because of price?”

Nyopoly,
which stands for name your own price (plus the “oly”), is an online retailer
where consumers negotiate the price of each product on a one-to-one basis using
patent-pending technology. “Nyopoly
is like walking in to a store, grabbing an item off the shelf, and determining your purchase price
with the cashier,” says cofounder Joe Shartzer. “It's not an auction, and
you're not competing against anyone. It's
personal.”

With
Shartzer as director of marketing and communication, Harris as CEO, and
Upromise alum Tak-Sang Chan as CTO, the North Attleboro-based site originally
launched in April. They relaunched the site in November after pivoting the
business model. “Our
initial model, we thought we could build a marketplace where we would allow
other retailers to leverage Nyopoly’s approach,” says Harris. “We [were] targeting
brick and mortar retailers to engage with their customer base where it’s not
about flat discounting. The consumer would go into the store to actually pick
up. Buy online, pick up in store.”

However,
as Nyopoly’s five-person team worked through that approach, they realized the
return just wasn’t there, so they morphed into a direct seller instead, working
with product partners including Versace,
BCBG, and Prada. “We
also changed the dynamic of how we were actually engaging with consumers,” adds
Harris. “The user experience that somebody would have on Nyopoly’s side is that
genuine negotiation you would experience in front of somebody. Make an offer,
either we accept it or counteroffer.”

Consumer’s
low-ball offers are not accepted but reasonable offers receive a counter-offer.
Consumers receive Nyopoly Money (the site’s virtual currency,
which is redeemable for Nyopoly purchases) when their offer is accepted on the
first or second attempt.

The “name
your price” concept may seem a bit like Priceline for clothing but Harris and
Shartzer are quick to point out a few key differences. First, there’s the
one-to-one negotiation. “Our negotiation is between the shopper and Nyopoly as
opposed to a Priceline where it’s between the buyer and a number of hotels,”
explains Harris.

Transparency
is another differentiator. “With Nyopoly, you can see the product and you know
exactly what you’re making an offer on,” adds Shartzer.

As for
the accepted prices, Harris says “they are in line with what we thought they
would be, so very reasonable offers, fair discounts, and people really getting
a great deal while Nyopoly still being a business that is financially sound.” He
adds that the approach appeals to brands because they aren’t locked into a flat
discount across the board as they would be with a flash sale site that
advertises a percentage off. “From
a brand perspective that can hurt brand equity,” says Harris.

Going
forward, Harris hopes to increase the number of products carried on Nyopoly and
continue growing it customer base. Adds Shartzer, “our focus is making sure we
have the best, latest, trendiest items in fashion for our customer base, really
making sure that we have these great designer names and these beautiful
on-trend items.”

Susan Johnston is a journalist and contributor to VentureFizz.  You can follow Susan on Twitter (@UrbanMuseWriter) by clicking here.