Is Anyone Out There Still Shopping On Flash Sale Sites?

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embedPhoto: Via Gilt.
Remember when you set your alarm according to flash-sale sites? While rumors swirl that Gilt Groupe may be gearing up for its initial public offering, WWD reports that insiders are questioning whether the flash-sale model is viable over the long term.

First introduced in Europe, and popularized in the U.S. by Gilt, Ideeli, HauteLook, and Rue La La, flash-sale sites are members-only and offer limited-time discounts on designer goods. They struck at the perfect time: following the 2008 economic downturn, when retailers needed to move excess stock, and shoppers sought bargains like never before. The business model was such a success, major department stores got into the game, too, with Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue hosting their own flash sales.

But, these days, we've noticed the pickings on sale sites are a little...slim. The reason for that is threefold. First, the economy is on an uptick, especially in the higher tax brackets. This means that luxury shoppers are more likely to buy current-season offerings at full price, rather than waiting for a bargain. Brands have also learned to better manage their stock, so there isn't as much excess inventory to go around. And, finally: simple market saturation. With so many sale sites crowding the e-comm landscape, chances are they're not all going to have the most covetable goods. Which explains why the last few times we opened our subscription e-mails, we saw a lot more "meh" than "must have."

On the other hand, some analysts say that sale sites have gotten shoppers addicted to both higher-end shopping and bargains — so they won't be going away any time soon. This writer seconds that emotion. I haven't flash-shopped for a while, but that's because (unlike when I first subscribed), I live in a major city and can get my fix via sample sales and end-of-season department store clearances. I certainly haven't grown immune to a deep discount.

What say you, readers? Do you still stalk Stella boots on flash sites, and look forward to your daily deal e-mails? Or has the sheen worn off? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. And, if you have any next-level sale sites to share with us, we're definitely listening. Even if they're no longer the darling of the e-comm world, we can't say no to a good bargain. (WWD)

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