5 Great Online Sample Sales & Why I love Them

by jennine on August 3, 2010

private sales

This is a guest post by my lovely friend, Christina from Sale Bite

Ever since online sample sales hit the scene a while back, I was a bit skeptical. If you aren’t familiar, online sample sale sites (also known as private sale sites, invite-only shopping, flash sale sites) are member only-some invite-only-sites that offer designer clothing, shoes and accessories for up to 80% off retail. These sales only last for a window of time: anywhere from 24 - 72 hours. While I was hesitant to join in the beginning when Gilt and Rue La La kept emailing me to post their links in exchange for store credit, I now cherish my Gilt credits and fantasize about what I’m going to spend them on. Having recently started a sale Website I’ve since learned a lot more about online sample sales, and have developed quite the sample sale shopping addiction. That, and in the past few months I helped the lovely team at Splendora launch an iPhone app that aggregates online sample sales. This whole sale genre has turned into a multi-million dollar a year industry, it’s overwhelming and nearly impossible to keep track of what’s on sale, when, and where. To help, I’ve assembled an online sample sale tutorial:

My Top Five Favorites Sites, and most importantly, why I love them:

( in no particular order, it’s hard to pick a favorite):

Site 1: Gilt

Gilt: I’m hesitant to list them because they’re SO huge. A little birdie told me they plan on an even bigger expansion, and eventually getting into the brick-and-mortar sector. I’ve always cheered for the underdog, the indie boutiques, so I’m naturally inclined to ignore the big guys. BUT, you can’t beat Gilt for their:

Pros: Volume of sales (between 10 - 20 designers a day), great designers, on average at least 40% off, $25 referral credit (the highest I’ve seen to date), late night shopping (sales that start at 6PM), menswear and kids departments, functional site design, emerging designers feature, sales last 48 hours.

Cons: Sometimes items on sale don’t ship until a month later, I can’t stand the black and gold, the calendar only shows sales a few days ahead of time, credits expire, for having so much capital, their iPhone app is a little homely.

Upcoming sales this week: Eryn Brinie and Hyden Yoo (8/2) Society for Rational Dress (8/4).

Site 2: Rue La La

Rue La La: Rue La La has improved a lot since their launch. With the best styled editorials and functional site design, Rue La La is an overall beauty.

Pros: Sale editorials are shot in house and beautifully styled, sales are listed well in advance and calendar is always up-to-date, sales last 48 hours, they feature a great mix of categories like menswear, home goods and travel, great discounts usually start at 50% off, they host fun editorials like ’summer sandals’ or ‘foodie favorites’, AMAZING iPhone app — If I was to be reincarnated as an iPhone app, I’d be the Rue La La app-, there are sales every day of the week, I love their Sunday Styleathon event, they have a cute blog.

Cons: They only offer a $10 referral credit, standard shipping price is a little high (nearly $10).

Upcoming sales: Yoana Baraschi (8/2) St. John (8/3) Lily Pulitzer (8/4) Derk Lam (8/5).

Site 3: Swirl

Swirl: Launched about a year ago by Daily Candy, and still in ‘beta’ phase, Swirl has made some serious improvements since their first day out. The vibe is an overall younger one than most, but prices are great, and the designers are always fresh and sales are well styled.

Pros: they offer a $25 referral credit, great new, under-the-radar designers, fun photos, new behind-the-scenes features like videos and interviews, designer exclusives, super low prices, coupon codes, most sites don’t offer coupon codes but Swirl is always sending out incentives, sales last sometimes 4 - 5 days, the savings are huge and sometimes up to 80% off.

Cons: Since it’s so new, there are still some kinks to work out, sales are subject to change at a moments notice, there are a lot of ads on site for Visa and other things, not good advance notice of sales.

Upcoming sales: Edun (8/2) Nuj Novakhett, Charlie my Love (8/3) Twinkle (8/5).

Site 4: One Kings Lane

One Kings Lane: This one isn’t fashion, but it’s my favorite home décor site.

Pros: Great site design, easy to use, a whole week’s advance notice of sales, always at least 50% off and sometimes up to 80% off, beautiful home goods, sales last three days and calendar is always set in stone, they have sales on Saturday.

Cons: A sad $10 referral credit, they sometimes throw in random sales that I’m not a fan of.

Upcoming sales: Casafina Stoneware (8/2), Phaidon (8/3) Coyuchi and Avant Art Groupe (8/6).

Site 5: Billion Dollar Babes

Billion Dollar Babes: BDB has been around the block, and then some. I used to go to their physical sample sales in SF years ago, and was very happy they jumped on the online sample sale train. With a recent buyout by Delivery Agent, the site is currently undergoing some big changes, and I’m excited to see what’s in store for the brand.

Pros: Amazing vintage sales like Chanel, Hermes and Gucci. They also host physical sample sales which is fun, sales last 48 hours and sale calendar is published in advance.

Cons: Since they were recently acquired, the site has undergone some changes and at times there are technical difficulties, not sure what the future holds brand-wise, but I hope they keep up the vintage sales because they rule. Site design could be a little more user friendly. They’re in a weird transitional phase, so the overall concept is a little unclear.

Upcoming sales: Estate Jewelry (8/2), Vintage Cartier and Tiffany (8/4).

While they didn’t make the top five some other sites to note are: Ideeli, HauteLook, Beyond the Rack, Beauty Story (beauty), Beauty Ticket (beauty), Market for Drama (beauty), Urban Bloke (men), Jack Threads (men), The Mini Social (kids), Winery Insider (wine), Vacationist (travel), Editors’ Closet, Envite (new and VERY noteworthy, they had Christian Louboutin last week), Zulily (kids), Totsy (kids), Row Nine.

General Tips and Tricks:

1. Like any site, sample sale sites have sales. If something doesn’t sell the first time around, sooner or later they’ll need to get rid of it and mark it down. So, If you really love a good deal, wait ’till these sites have blowout sales. HauteLook is having a bunch now.

2. Don’t rush. When it comes to sample sales, i crack under pressure, and it took me a while to learn not to get all hot and bothered when a designer i love goes on sale. So stay calm, just when an item is ‘in someones cart’, that doesn’t mean they’ll buy it. Actually, because anyone can hold something, you have a fair chance they won’t buy it.

3. Watch your store credits, they expire. Also, some sales are final sale, so make sure to read the sale policies before buying.

4. Keep an eye out for the ship date. Many times items don’t ship until a month later. So if you buy a dress to wear to a wedding, or that hot date, make sure you’ll get it on time.

5. Like I said in #2, you can hold items in your cart. So when in doubt, add add add, you have around 10 minutes to hold items.

That’s it! Do you guys shop online sample sales? If so, what are your favorite sites?

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Linkspiration: 8.4.2010
August 3, 2010 at 7:34 pm
Guest Post on The Coveted | Sale Bite
August 4, 2010 at 11:07 am

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 sutton August 3, 2010 at 5:37 am

dangerous little tips you give!!! x


2 Lisa August 3, 2010 at 9:06 am

i had a very disappointing experience with swirl.

bought a dress that upon arrival, didn’t fit. i promptly followed their directions for returning and sent it back. turns out their policy on returns is that no refunds are given three weeks after it reaches their warehouse. it took me SIX weeks to get my refund, and that was after several inquiring emails were sent, with little help from their customer service dept. i def won’t shop there again.

thanks for the tips….will check out some of the other sites you mentioned :)
Lisa ´s last blog ..Vintage Carriage Court XL Pleated Blue Skirt My ComLuv Profile


3 the clothing menu August 3, 2010 at 10:38 am

great article - thanks for sharing! there are so many sale sites that it’s hard to choose from and easy to get sucked into all of them (which gets a little dangerous for the wallet!). i’m on shop-it-to-me and i’ve taken advantage of the blow out sales on hautelook. i’ve been thinking about joining swirl because i like hearing about new indie designers.


4 amandalee August 3, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Great post! I love getting deals on nice stuff, and four of your top five were sites I’d never heard of. Nice work.
amandalee´s last blog ..Inspiration- 812010 My ComLuv Profile


5 maggie August 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I LOVE Gilt. I’ve bought many items from them and the shipping is super prompt (except for a few items). I don’t care for Hautelook as their shipping is SO SLOW! I think the sales are the best on Gilt too. I find that if you know a designer you love is going to be on sale, make sure you check the site AS SOON as the sale starts and keep refreshing to the items you want! ;)


6 Kathrine August 3, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Thanks for the tips! Would have loved to be able to share this with my Facebook friends as well - be great if you add the FB share option for each post in addition to the twitter share option.


7 charles August 3, 2010 at 9:20 pm

cool! good to know :) xx
charles´s last blog ..dizzy up the girl My ComLuv Profile


8 Sandra at DebutanteClothing August 3, 2010 at 11:52 pm

I agree with you on Billion Dollar Babes for great vintage, and regularly too! Their vintage buyer has a good eye. I love Rue La La - they have the best customer service and shipping is fast.


9 Liane August 4, 2010 at 10:26 am

Check out SampleSaleSites DOT com for more sample sale websites you probably haven’t heard of!
Liane´s last blog ..Weds 8-4 Online Sample Sales- Tart Dresses- Dior Sunglasses- Tiffany & Cartier Vintage Accessories My ComLuv Profile


10 SwanDiamondRose August 4, 2010 at 11:21 am

oh yummy. and what a danger zone! i think i have to stay away for a little bit. i am weakening more and more though re buying new shoes online. it’s killing me.
SwanDiamondRose´s last blog ..The newly new SWANclothing Floral Lasso tote Photos and lots of words 6 My ComLuv Profile


11 Alyssa @ Femita August 4, 2010 at 11:53 am

I have had very good experiences with Gilt. Items arrive fast and in perfect condition. Real bang for your buck.
Alyssa @ Femita´s last blog ..Health Knowledge Quiz – What Do You Really Know About Health Issues My ComLuv Profile


12 Michelle Landery August 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

I love ALL of the online sample sale sites. I generally have had great experiences too. You just have to be patient b/c it takes a while to ship. And the size 12s go FAST!
Michelle Landery´s last blog ..Girl Crush Wednesday- Grace Kelly My ComLuv Profile


13 John Simon August 4, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Great review on some of my fave sites
John Simon´s last blog ..Movie Review A “Lil Poison” and a lot drama… My ComLuv Profile


14 MizzJ August 4, 2010 at 9:06 pm

Great article filled with useful info! I’m only on Hautelook myself, but I have yet to buy anything. Does anyone use Outnet.com? They have some very huge deals as well pretty often.
MizzJ´s last blog ..Weekly Shopping & Goodies My ComLuv Profile


15 Christina August 5, 2010 at 7:31 am

I visit Gilt pretty often-they do have good sales. Some of their evening sales are even later than 6pm-T by Alexander Wang started at 9pm last night. I didn’t know they shipped items a month later so often. I wonder why? I know some online retailers do that for a couple of items, but they are new items that most people wouldn’t wear until the seasons change anyway.

I have perused Rue la la-it’s okay. I do like the design also.

I just recently heard about Swirl by Daily Candy-they have good sales too.

I also like Outnet.com and Ideeli.
Christina´s last blog ..YFS Magazine- How to Start Your Own Business My ComLuv Profile


16 daisybabie August 5, 2010 at 11:07 am

i’ve a serious addiction to these sites as well. and by serious, i mean SERIOUS serious. the sales come on around 10am and 11am Chicago time, and i’m usually at work. the guys know not to bug me during this timeframe window on any given weekday as i am hustling between sites and refreshing like a mad woman when a coveted item is in another cart (irksome!). so many goodies, so little time! and the delay in receiving purchased items…it’s sort of nice. weeks and weeks after i’ve bought something, i’ll receive a brown cardboard box unexpectedly. tis like christmas, but all year ’round! great post! :o )


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