Tag Archives: Rue La La

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.

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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.

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Filed under Collaborations, preppy, Sales & Savings

About That Cashmere Sale

Hello-Hello, welcome to the WALD, World-after-Labor-Day, where it is a bracing 50° at the Prepatorium. It is another OTT (One Topic Tuesday), we are out the door shortly for a volunteer commitment.

Today we chat about something we found very intriguing, it relates to one of the flash sales sites many enjoy browsing, Rue La La: on Thursday the site will be offering goods from a major department store. Lord and Taylor will be selling some of its cashmere collection on the members-only (cough-cough) site.

Rue La La

L&T has a reputation for its cashmere line, nowhere near the quality one finds at Loro Piana or our friend Queen of Cashmere, but yours truly can attest to the warmth and durability of the basic pieces, there are actually several in the cedar chest, purchased at least 25 years ago, all in fine shape.  (Sadly, we didn’t expect to think about needing them this soon in the fall season!) Below, several of L&T’s sweaters.

Lord & Taylor

The intriguing part of this sale is that we don’t recall seeing merchandise from a department store’s own label being sold at any of these sites, although it isn’t as if we spend significant amounts of time poring over the daily listings, for we don’t.  There are far too many to keep track of, let alone the varying product offerings at each.  But as best we can remember we haven’t seen any sizable department stores doing this previously.

The other fascinating part of the equation will be pricing. Does Rue La La sell the sweaters below their current sale prices at Lord and Taylor? For example, below we see the Fresh Pastel Cashmere Crewneck cardigan.

Lord and Taylor

The cardigan carried an original Lord & Taylor price of $175, it is now priced at $110.49 (that is before any additional discounts from coupon sales or other promotional efforts).  So will the Rue La La price be lower? The same? We’ve nary a clue, but do plan to take a peek at the sale on Thursday, one never knows what may be discovered, no?

Regardless of anything else, the sale on Rue La La will build brand awareness for Lord & Taylor and its cashmere line, something very valuable for the company. Shoppers at most of the sale sites are not just bargain hunters, but savvy fashion watchers; boosting name recognition with this crowd can pay off handsomely. Many brands have been vocal that the primary reason they sell merchandise at the flash sale sites is that very reason, growing the brand name. Brooks Brothers is in this category, its CEO has stated clearly that is one of the motivators in allowing its clothing and accessories to be sold at the ‘invite-only’ sale sites. (If in need of an ‘invitation to Rue La La, just click here.)

We mentioned the exquisite cashmere offered by Queen of Cashmere, we thought we would leave you with images of two new items. First, the monogramed sweater.

Queen of Cashmere

And the monogramed pillow.

Queen of Cashmere

These pieces (and oodles more) will be available when the Queen’s new website launches. In the interim, you can learn more at the company’s Facebook page, or its ‘Daybook’ blog, see images at Sip with Socialites, or email the Queen directly.

We’ll be back tomorrow, goodbye until then!

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An Award for Lilly & Preppy Sales Abound

Hello-Hello! Might we inject a personal note here and say we are ever-so-happy to be back home at the Prepatorium. New York is always fun, but being home at the Palace brings a smile to TP’s face.

Our trip to the Stationery Show was fun and frenzied, with just enough social activities thrown in to keep us re-applying the lip gloss.  We saw loads of new goodies we think you will love, including some divine designs for the Fall and holiday seasons that we shall be adding to our Lilly Pulitzer Stationery and Gifts Collection.

On the agenda? Fireplace matches (you know, the really long ones the houseman uses), cookie cutters, and…. (insert dramatic music here), 2010 Calendars! There will be both desk-top and wall calenders that you are simply going to adore. Many readers will remember we offered pre-ordering of the Lilly Stationery merchandise prior to this spring’s launch; we will provide that same opportunity with these new treasures.  Just sign up for our Lilly Mailing List at PreppyPrincess.com.

As we are speaking of Lilly Pulitzer, fans will be pleased to learn she received the prestigious Spirit of a Woman Award from the American Apparel and Footwear Association.  The award presentation was last week in New York, and Isaac Mizrahi did the honors, wearing pink loafers in honor of the designer:

PHOTO:

PHOTO: John Aquino/WWD

It is clear Mr. Mizrahi thinks highly of Lilly’s impact on American style:

“I think that Lilly Pulitzer is the most important American designer ever. Her work has influenced American designers and international designers. If you are wearing a Lilly Pulitzer dress, they can tell. Whether it’s in Palm Beach or in Milan, in New York or in Russia, it doesn’t matter where you are wearing that dress. They know, it’s Lilly Pulitzer.”

Unfortunately Lilly was not able to attend; the award was accepted on her behalf by Lilly Grand Pooh-Bah Scott Beaumont, accompanied by another Lilly exec, James Bradbeer Jr.

PHOTO: John Aquino

PHOTO: John Aquino/WWD

BTW, the Lilly Brooke Shields Tunic and Swimsuit were featured on the Today Show yesterday in a segment about beachwear and swimsuits.

Courtesy NBC/Universal

Courtesy NBC/Universal

And in a final note, we have added the Lilly Pulitzer Dry Erase Boards to the store, an outstanding addition to your palace, equally wonderful as a gift!

The Boards are available in Animal Crackers, Cabanarama, Juice Bar and Bees Knees Patch.

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It will come as no surprise that just about every retailer is having a sale or discount promotion of some sort as we approach the holiday weekend. Burberry tops today’s list of just such establishments.

Burberry

Burberry

There is a substantial amount of merchandise available in the ‘Sale’ category online, no surprise in light of the company’s continued underperformance.

Invite-only shopping site Rue La La has Vineyard Vines on sale through tomorrow.

They also have a Kate Spade sale underway.

Both sales end tomorrow (Thursday, 5.21.09) at 11am; if you need an invite to ‘join’ the site, just email the Princess: thePreppyPrincess@mac.com.

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J. Crew is promoting a sale at their Factory Stores, running today through Memorial Day.

We predict Crew will have a “Take an additional 20% off” discount offering within the next week to 10 days.  We’ll share the Silk-Linen Sweater as today’s Pretty in Pink:

The sweater originally retailed at $59.50; it is now selling at $49.50 or $39.99, depending upon the color.

The Nordstrom Designer Sale is underway as part of their storewide Half-Yearly Sale event.

Nordstrom Designer Sale

Nordstrom Designer Sale

And Barney’s Private Sale continues.

private_summer_01

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We want to share a few quick updates to previous posts:

  • The Gossip Girl spinoff on the CW is officially a non-starter. Many thanks to those who let us know it was not happening.
  • Something definitely supposed to happen, Gossip Guy Chace Crawford has been named to star in the remake of “Footloose,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.

We’ll have more on the Stationery Show in our next post. Until then – smiles!

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Filed under Gossip Girl, Lilly Pulitzer Paper & Gifts, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion, preppy lifestyle, preppy stationery, Sales & Savings, Updates