Tag Archives: Gilt

About Those Flash Sale Sites

Today’s post is a bit of a departure from our normal fare. For months we have chatted with friends about those ubiquitous flash sale sites, a phenomenon almost unheard of until the last several years. Usually we talk about upcoming sales, new or different sites, and how good the bargains are; lately the conversation has focused more on that last theme. I finally decided to explore the topic, hoping it will provide a modicum of entertainment, perhaps you can even share input and insight from your own experiences.

Just a few years ago those in search of discounted merchandise visited factory outlets, or off-price retailers like TJ Maxx and Ross Dress for Less.  Upscale department stores also offered their unsold inventory at outlet shops like Saks Fifth Avenue’s Off Fifth and Neiman’s Last Call. (In fact, the “luxury off-price” business model proved so successful many of the high-end outlets now have merchandise made exclusively for sale at their discount stores and they continue to open even more off-price stores.)

But then These Troubling Times arrived. When the Great Recession hit, stores were faced with enormous amounts of unsold merchandise that was discounted, then discounted again, and perhaps several more times. In many cases it still didn’t sell. This was particularly true for luxury retailers, they had racks overflowing with merchandise no one wanted, or could afford to buy.

More in this story from Reuters:

“The original flash sales model for the U.S. exploded during a time when there was this huge abundance of excess inventory,” said Steven Dennis, founder of SageBerry Consulting and a former executive at retailer Neiman Marcus.

Gilt is credited with launching the first flash sale site in the US, but others soon followed. And they continue to follow, as explained in this story from The Business of Fashion.

“Gilt’s success also spurred hundreds of other competitors to enter the flash sales market, from start-ups like Ideeli and Rue La La to strategic players like Amazon’s MyHabit and Nordstrom’s Hautelook.”

For those unfamiliar with the flash sale sites we share a brief primer. They are referred to as “members only sites,” a term generally excoriated occasionally questioned in this space, as most anyone with an email address can “join”.  Once signed up, daily emails are sent with a list of that day’s offerings, as well as a preview of upcoming sales.

Below, the Haute Look landing page.

HauteLook.com

Most sites require that you sign in before showing whatever sales they are offering, although not every site requires a log-in immediately. Here is another home page example from Zulily, a site specializing in merchandise for “Moms, Babies and Kids”.

Zulily.com

Once past the sign-in page you see the specific sales in progress. A glance at Beyond The Rack’s sale events underway last Friday shows Burberry, Coach, and “limited edition pre-owned Chanel” among the offerings.

Beyond The Rack June 1, 2012

There are even “prep-centric” flash sale sites, like Five Mile.

FiveMile.com June 1, 2012

Brands offered by Five Mile are familiar to many a prep: Knot Belt Company, Southern Proper, Castaway, Salmon Cove, to name only a few.

FiveMile.com

Once you are signed in you can start doing your product perusal, always intriguing and generally a lot of fun. Should you want to purchase an item, things operate like any other e-commerce site. It is in order fulfillment that the process may be different: what you purchased may ship from any number of places. It could come directly from the original manufacturer, it may be shipped from the flash sale site’s warehouse, or from a third party. Sites are usually very good about posting estimated shipping dates, below we show examples gathered on Friday:

  • Editor’s Closet item description on a Chloe dress: “Ships same business day if ordered before 2pm EST”
  • Joss & Main French Laundry Pillow: “Expected Arrival Date: Between 07/18/2012 and 07/23/2012″
  • RueLaLa Vineyard Vines Men’s Polo: “Ships in 5-7 days”
  • Ideeli David Yurman Silver Ice Necklace: “Expected to ship between Jun 19 and Jun 25, 2012”

The broad range of delivery dates serves as a reminder shoppers need to pay attention to the fine print, especially if making a time-sensitive purchase like a gift, or something for a special occasion. One more caveat: popular brands, such as Lilly Pulitzer, sell out very (*very*) quickly. It is not unusual to see items marked as “sold out” less than a minute after an event has started.

The explosion in sites has been enormous, the marketplace is now crowded. Some of the larger companies like Gilt have expanded into new terrain with specialty shops like Gilt Taste.

Gilt Taste

There are offerings for almost any niche or interest or activity, from travel and tourism deals to artwork, daily deals and local bargains. An example of what one site is doing via CNN:

Home furnishings flash sale site One Kings Lane recently announced the addition of Vintage & Market Finds, where a selection of marked-down furniture, accessories and art are available for five days at a time as opposed to its usual 72-hour time frame and new items are added daily.

Another dilemma created by a crowded field? Consumers becoming overwhelmed by email offers landing in their electronic in-box around. A CNBC story from last week:

Email fatigue is one of the biggest challenges flash-sale sites face. Emails are the primary way of disseminating deals, but after a while web shoppers can tune out and unsubscribe. This was even more true as more flash-sale sites came on the scene and as active shoppers subscribed to more than one flash-sale site.

“It has gotten to be an incredibly crowded marketplace, and there is the risk that all these offers can overload consumers,” said Stephen Wyss, a partner in the retail and consumer practice at BDO.

With stores becoming far more savvy in what (and how much) merchandise they order, there has been a steep decline in the availability of all that bargain inventory, especially luxury brands. One outcome is the growth of themed sales, no longer grouping items just by brand or designer, but by theme. Merchandise may be grouped by season, like “Flirty Tops for Summer” or “Backyard BBQ Essentials”.

There are even manufactured sales, such as an event Gilt held the second week of May, a sale titled “Revenge: Emily’s Beach House,” playing off the popularity of the TV show.

Gilt. com 5/17/2012

Here is a portion of the sale description:

The Hamptons was Emily Thorne’s old neighborhood, until something happened that destroyed her family and their reputation. Years later, she has returned to right those wrongs.

While it’s a lot smaller than Grayson Estate next door, Emily’s beach house is no shack. It’s the epitome of laid-back yet luxurious East End style. This sale includes authentic props from the set of Revenge; the most well-known is the porch swing, originally built by Emily’s father. You’ll also find the pedestal table found on the patio, and a candlestick from the living room. We’ve complemented these props with accents, from artful dishware to sconce lights.

Another tactic, making deals to launch certain collections via one of the sites. As mentioned in Thursday’s post, the Trina Turk for Banana Republic collection was offered online at Gilt.com more than a full week before consumers can buy it at Banana Republic. (But the merchandise was not a bargains, pieces were sold at full price, the appeal being the chance to get items before anyone else.)

Gilt.com

Retailers have fought back by jumping into the arena, doing their own flash sales. Below, a screen grab of an email I received from Neiman Marcus.

Neiman Marcus

Another example, Brooks Brothers did a limited time sale this weekend offering up to 75% off its Black Fleece line, the following image is from a Brooks Brothers email promoting the sale.

Brooks Brothers

It isn’t just upscale retailers taking part.

Kohl’s

And some have moved their outlet stores online as well, J. Crew “opens” its online factory store during the weekend.

J. Crew

Another rapidly growing area is Facebook, many start-ups are offering flash sale sites on their fan pages, especially jewelry vendors. A photo of an item is shown, and the first shoppers who enter a comment saying they want the item are able to purchase it. Again, the sense of limited merchandise and a short time span prompts buying from those who don’t want to “let it get away,” or be “left out,” with actual financial transactions generally handled off-site.

We have been fortunate with many of the sites and made some *marvelous* purchases over the years, particularly back in the early days of the genre. Good products, great prices and solid service.  Later this week we’ll have Parts 2 & 3, looking at some of the more preppish brands sold on the sites, as well as an examination of just how good the deals really are these days… or not.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

ADDENDUM: If interested in signing up for any of the sites, here are links to some where I have shopped *and* enjoyed a positive experience. Another interesting facet of the flash sale business model are the varying rewards offered for those referring customers, most offer merchandise credits of anywhere from $10 to $25 if someone uses your invitation link and also purchases something.

2 Comments

Filed under Collaborations, preppy, Sales & Savings

“Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn?” & Bestselling Author Pamela Keogh

Hello-Hello, and Happy Friday. This seemed like a long week, was it that way for anyone else?

We have a special treat today, a visit with bestselling author Pamela Keogh, most recently noted for writing this outstanding book.

Gotham Books

Are You A Jackie or A Marilyn? Timeless Lessons On Love, Power and Style is simply wonderful, far deeper than one may initially think.  Some Princess readers are already familiar with Ms. Keogh for many of her previous works, including Audrey Style and Jackie Style.

Audrey Style @ amazonJackie Style at Amazon

The author was kind enough to fit us into her busy schedule for an interview, so we move back to her latest work with a snippet from the publisher’s description of the new book:

“Any woman who has aspired to Marilyn’s sultry allure or Jackie’s unstoppable elegance (or who wants to balance sexy and serious) will love these entertaining lessons on channeling your inner Jackie or Marilyn in any situation, from throwing a dinner party to penning a love note.”

The volume begins with a quiz (more on this shortly) and then moves into more detailed looks at everything from how the two cultural icons approached fashion and personal style, to interpersonal relationships.  The book isn’t limited to comparing and contrasting the two women, there are also surprising tidbits, e.g., we had nary a clue that Jackie Kennedy Onassis donated money to help fund the Ms. magazine launch in the early 1970s, or that Marilyn Monroe was a big fan of the hand-written note.

Ms. Keogh is more than well-suited for the task, as she is herself attended Vassar like the former First Lady.  In addition to chatting about the book, we asked the author how she felt the two women would handle today’s electronic and technological intrusions into every facet of one’s life.

“Jackie would have loved Facebook for the JFK Library, and would have used it to keep in touch while also keeping everyone at bay. And she would have shopped, absolutely, at sites like Net-a-Porter, Gilt, Chanel. But her email address would be like the nuclear code, probably three people would have had her email address.

“They both had somewhat addictive personalities, Marilyn would lose a lot of stuff, probably leave her phone in the back of a cab. She would use Facebook to stay in touch with her fans, she had an obsessive need for publicity, Facebook would have been perfect for that.”

The two women are transcendent in stature and continue to influence today’s culture; we asked Ms. Keogh how she thought they would fit into a society obsessed with celebrities. (The talented author’s response even referenced one of our original Anti-Preps!)

“Their attractiveness came from their accomplishments.  They were both very dignified women, they would *not* have done reality shows. Neither one of them would have done endorsements of things, unless maybe Marilyn Monroe was asking people to donate to something like the ASPCA.

They both also had mystique and you don’t have mystique when you’re followed around by TV cameras. [Marilyn] wasn’t like Kim Kardashian.”

One of the nicest things about the book has to be the exquisite illustrations by Meg Hess.

If the style looks familiar, it may be because Ms. Hess has also done covers for all of Candace Bushnell’s books, among other commissions.

We also spoke of designers the women might favor should they still be with us today. Ms. Keogh believes Jackie Kennedy Onassis would still be sporting Oscar de la Renta, perhaps Ralph Rucci, others creating classic, good-looking fashions.  She thinks Marilyn Monroe would be wearing Alexander McQueen were she twenty years old today, but in reality, probably more dignified labels like Valentino.  As with other assertions made during our conversation, her observations in this arena were spot-on.

The conversation on fashion delved into the issue of sizing and how we perceive ourselves relevant to that topic:

“American women get so obsessed with a number on a scale. A number is a number, it doesn’t give you beauty, or humor, or grace.”

Ms. Keogh again spoke of a vital element woven throughout the lives of both women, something sadly missing from the resumes of many or today’s most idolized individuals:

“What holds us to them is what they did, their grace and style, the way they kept going in spite of what was going on in their lives, their indomitable spirit.”

We can only offer an amen to that sentiment. Perhaps the most amazing thing we learned in our conversation with the author is that prior to her death Jackie Kennedy Onassis spent hour after hour in front of her fireplace, burning correspondence, piles of it. That is one way to ensure that private matters remain just that.

Back to the quiz mentioned above, Vanity Fair carried a copy of the questions – here is a small sample.

1. DURING TIMES OF STRESS, YOU …

a) go for a walk on the beach.

b) meditate.

c) pour gin in your tea.

9. IN YOUR OPINION, MONEY IS …

a) everything.

b) no, we mean it—everything.

c) not that important—as long as you have a roof over your head and Veuve Clicquot in the fridge, you’re cool.

Click here for the quiz and you can start exploring which woman you most closely resemble.

Gotham Books

We are excited to offer one of our treasured readers an autographed copy of Pamela Keogh’s book, via a special giveaway. For one entry leave a comment saying which woman you think you are most similar to. For a second and/or third chance to win, become a fan of the Preppy Princess FB page (if already a fan just let us know that) and/or the Jackie or Marilyn FB page, and for more entries follow us on Twitter, or follow Pamela on Twitter.

We want to extend an enormous “Thank You” to Pamela, for she is not only talented and gracious, but also delightful, much more fun than one might expect from such an esteemed writer.

With that we say g’bye until next time, and hope everyone enjoys a splendid weekend!

18 Comments

Filed under Friday Fun, preppy, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, The AntiPrep

Is It a “Faux Clearance” at Those Outlet Stores?

Hello, happy beginning of a new week, hopefully everyone was able to garner a little bit of rest and rejuvenation over the weekend.

We begin with a closer look at what is actually being sold at factory outlet stores, a timely topic in light of These Challenging Times. This story from Bloomberg points out the majority of what is being sold at the discount stores no longer comes directly from the retailers.  Some may recall that 30 years ago when such stores were becoming part of the retail landscape that almost all of the wares came right from the regular-priced version of the company.

As savvy shoppers are aware, this is no longer the case.

“Increasingly, merchandise is made specifically for the outlets and sold nowhere else at full price (even though it may be made by a top brand like Calvin Klein), says retail consultant Steven Dennis, who dubs the phenomenon “faux clearance.”

The story notes there is now a shortage of luxury goods available at many outlet stores, in part because retailers are manufacturing less, but also because of the abundance of online ‘flash sales’ sites like RueLaLa and Gilt Groupe.  The quality of the goods offered is also a topic of discussion:

“”You don’t have nearly the quality you had in the recent past and you don’t have the degree of discounts,” says Dennis, founder of Sageberry Consulting and a former Neiman Marcus senior vice-president. “It’s hard to believe all of these players can operate 50 to 100 outlets successfully. There’s going to be a shakeout.”

In some cases only 10-20% of the merchandise being sold at the off-price store actually comes from the full-price retailer:

“At Saks’ Off 5th stores, 10 percent to 20 percent of the merchandise is clearance from Saks’ full-priced stores, about 20 percent is Off 5th store-label goods, and most of the rest is made for the chain by vendors, says spokeswoman Julia Bentley.”

J. Crew recently opened its Online Factory store; the retailer makes it clear to shoppers that everything is “…designed exclusively for Factory at J. Crew.com”.

The company is attempting a sense of urgency, a “buy now, time is running out!” mentality, with messages like this weekend’s:

“Pssst… this is a limited assortment, so hurry – you only have three days to shop”

Crew also reinforces the ‘limited time and merchandise’ message by keeping the site active only on weekends.  From the Journal’s story announcing the outlet plans:

“The New York-based clothing retailer is gambling that it can expand sales without cannibalizing demand for more expensive merchandise at its mainline stores. J. Crew is among the first to risk selling outlet gear over the Internet.

Anne Kadet at the Journal recently wrote about her expedition to a factory outlet mall in a piece titled “High Price for a Bargain,” here are her thoughts on J. Crew’s offerings:

“But it all felt a little confusing. When I asked a J. Crew clerk how to tell the factory lines from the discounted overstock, she cheerfully replied, “You don’t!” And to my eye, the construction on some merchandise didn’t look so hot. These stores might make sense for folks seeking the mall look for less. But if it’s not as well made, it’ll wear out faster, and that means another trip to the store. No thanks!”

The trend is confirmed by this column from Australia’s Inside Retailing:

“These stores serve not just to clear merchandise from their full price stores, but also to access a more thrifty but aspirational consumer with branded merchandise made specifically for the outlet itself.”

As noted in this post two weeks back, Neiman Marcus has opened a dedicated Last Call site.  And the company has opened a store near Dallas featuring only goods made specifically for its Last Call stores.  Neiman’s Last Call wares are described this way on a mall owner’s site:

“Last Call from Neiman Marcus offers a consolidation of marked down merchandise from the upscale retailer’s 32 stores nationwide, as well as Bergdorf Goodman. Last Call offers quality merchandise that shoppers expect from Neiman Marcus at significant savings. Prices at Last Call are typically 40%-80% off the original selling price.”

Back to Anne Kadet’s tale of her trip to an outlet mall:

“… I started with the more affordable retailers I’d typically shop in the city, like Gap, Coach and Ann Taylor. These mid-price shops, it turns out, mainly stock “factory” merchandise specially made for the outlet stores. Spokespeople for Coach and Ann Taylor later told me there’s no difference in quality, and that the factory lines include classic designs that originally sold at the retail stores.”

The company is wise to exploit the online channel, expenses are much lower when compared to a physical stores, the issue remains cannibalizing its existing stores, begging the question: will the off-price business move to a model more driven by online sales as opposed to brick and mortar stores?

If shopping at off-price venues do you care if the merchandise comes from a full-price store, or if it is something made only for sale at the outlet store?  Have you noticed a degradation in quality at off-price shops?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

With last night’s finale of Mad Men we say goodbye to Don and Betty for another season. Sadly, there really wasn’t much of Betty this year, and when we did see the former Mrs. Draper, she was less of a stunning, stylish mid-century mom and more of a neurotic shrew, certainly not anyone you would want on your Junior League committee, to be sure.

Betty was ‘replaced’ by a number of women, below we see Don with Megan.

A number of friends have asked if we enjoyed the finale.  Yes, we liked the show, but we were also a wee bit disappointed, hoping for more of the dramatic tension we saw in last year’s final episode.  Below we see Don making The Call, he really is the poster boy for “What is a Cad?”.

Meredith Blake’s piece on Show Tracker is outstanding, this may well be our favorite portion:

“It’s a scenario that I think will be familiar to many women: You do the hard work of making someone into a good boyfriend, then your new-and-improved boyfriend moves on to someone else. It’s like you found this great fixer-upper, you gutted the whole place, pulled out all the ugly vinyl siding to reveal the original moldings underneath. Then all of a sudden someone else is moving her furniture into your exquisitely remodeled home. So not fair!”

The Journal’s Speakeasy blog offers this:

“It will obviously have a profound effect on future seasons of the show. But in the eyes of this longtime fan, that’s not exactly a good thing. The engagement is an enormous misfire—a baffling plot twist that’s surprising but not at all logical.”

The episode does have us thinking we may have misread CreepyGlen, perhaps his name should be JustPlainGlen; his goodbye to LittleSallyDraper was actually rather sweet.  As was the wistful tone in Betty’s voice in one of the final scenes.

 

Jordin Althaus/AMC-TV

 

In reality, that wistful tone may be emanating here in the corner condo at Princess InterGalactic HQ, we liked those characters together, more of a DonandBetty. But that is forever gone, and it is time to move on. Sniff.

With that we say g’bye until next time!

11 Comments

Filed under preppy