The media has already determined that the merchandise on flash sale sites like Gilt Groupe and Haute Look isn't as awesome as it once was, since luxury fashion labels don't have as much inventory to unload as they did in the worst of the recession. The Times did some searching and determined that they don't always have the best deals anymore, either. Writer Stephanie Rosenbloom found a number of items — Celine and Kate Spade bags, Born ballet flats — in situations like this:
Consider an Enzo Angiolini Sten boot that was $85 last week on HauteLook. The same boot on Piperlime, a Web site owned by Gap, was a few dollars more: $89. At first glance, HauteLook is the better deal. But Piperlime offers free shipping and returns. HauteLook charged $7.95 for shipping, so the boots ended up costing $92.95. That’s $3.95 more than on Piperlime — and if the boots didn’t fit, you would pay extra for a refund.
What follows in the Times piece is a modern girl's guide to getting the best deal on your apparel, with advice ranging from the helpful, like this tidbit from Madison Avenue Spy blogger Hayley Corwick:
“I always feel that there’s nothing as good as an old-fashioned boutique or department store end-of-season sale,” she said, explaining that returns are easy and that a good salesperson will call a customer when a coveted item is discounted.
To the perfectly obvious:
Flash-sale customers can save by Googling a potential purchase to find out if it’s being sold elsewhere for less.
Ah yes, that newfangled technology. But the story does raise a more interesting question about what will happen to all these sites as more and more consumers realize that, in their current incarnation, they're not the best places to buy clothes these days. Can they diversify and evolve enough to sustain themselves?