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Members Only- The Online Sample Sale

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Source: www.businessweek.com

Are you already on the list?  Sample sales are not new; it wasn’t too long ago that people lined up at private, invitation only New York warehouses.  They were crowded and shoppers came ready for battle.  I mean, where else were you going to get designer wares at 75% off?  But now consumers can enjoy the same satisfaction from the privacy of their home.  The adrenaline is still there, as items this deeply discounted move quickly.  It’s a rush for the shopping enthusiast and a pretty good deal for the sites as well.  Gilt Groupe, which launched in 2007, is projecting $400 million in sales for 2010.  Each site seems to have its own niche and since I’m never one to discriminate, I am a member of them all.  Here’s a rundown of the most popular sites:

Gilt Groupe: Perhaps the most exclusive of the sites, Gilt is invitation only.  It carries high end brands for men, women and children.  The online overstock market can make luxury brands wary about their image.  It is precisely why Gilt Groupe prevents itself from popping up in search engine results for the brands they carry.  The luxury brand protects its image and Gilt Groupe can still provide to the masses.

Ideeli:  This site mixes in a few lesser known brands with name brands and focuses mainly on accessories like sunglasses and handbags.  It is the only site where for a $7.99 fee you can become a member of the inner circle of exclusivity; 1st Row Members can shop the merchandise a full hour ahead of the lowly non-paying members.

Rue La La: This site offers the most variety of goods, with kitchen gadgets and luggage appearing alongside the usual apparel items.  Like most other sites, Rue La La offers a credit when someone you refer makes a purchase.

Regent’s Secret: The items offered here tend to be well known and offer a wide variety of designer denim brands.  Regent’s Secret’s referral program is a bit different than the others: instead of a one time credit, you continue to earn 5% on your referral’s purchases each time they shop.  Talk about feeding the addiction.

Haute Look: This site runs sales during a tight window, often 12 to 48 hours long for a sale.  They carry a good variety of contemporary designers, both indie and well known brands.

These sites can alleviate some of the guilt shoppers might feel for spending money on luxury items.  Consumers feel a sense of urgency with these short term sales and as a result, tend to be more impulsive.  However it begs the question, why would anyone pay retail these days?

-Jordyn Haas