Hitting The Refresh Button At Noon…
Is anyone else fascinated/staggered/terrified by the proliferation of membership only online sale sites lately? There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the crises faced by the fashion industry in the “new economy” — is this going to end up being one of them? Back when we did our membership only sale site roundup, I had experience with only four fashion-oriented sale sites. Now? Gilt alone has four different sale sites, including one for vacations, and I’m a member of at least seven other sale sites, specializing in items from beauty products to home goods. Even one of our perennial favorite stores, Revolve Clothing, has started its own members-only sale site (Reverse). Several of these sites have launched only within the last few months.
It’s nice in the sense that it makes me feel like I can find virtually any brand I like on one of these sites sooner or later if I just keep an eye on it (and the vacation site is great for being introduced to new places), but at the same time, there’s a point at which it is going to become too much. How could I possibly keep track of what’s going on at a dozen different sales sites on a daily basis. Yeah, I like shopping online but even I don’t want to spend that much time monitoring online sales.
I also have to wonder what this is going to do to physical stores and the industry as a whole in the long run. Are we ever going to go back to paying full price for things on a regular basis again? The fact is that the savvy American consumer is just not used to paying full price for clothing any more, particularly high-end clothing. Even people whose financial state wasn’t affected by the economic fluctuations of the last year have gotten used to the idea that you can get great deals if you just wait a little.
How could we not? Remember the crazy sales last fall when Saks put virtually their entire store on sale at 70% off? Virtually every clothing boutique online put half or more of their inventory on massive sales. The discounts available in stores these days aren’t as incredible as they at the height of our panic about the crashing economy, but they’re still pretty significant, and have been available for a whole year now. Over the last couple of years, I’ve transitioned from picking up some pieces on sale as an afterthought and some during the first blush of the season to being a dedicated stalker of sales that might contain the items I want. Let’s be real — you only have to wait a month or two at most before the first round of price cuts starts being made, and I couldn’t possibly justify a whole wardrobe of Adam at full price.
I’m definitely enjoying this while it lasts, but I’m certainly wondering as I do whether this business model can really be sustainable at this level. Fashion is not by any means the only industry experiencing a shakeup right now (I am going to have a breakdown if physical bookstores disappear because of the troubles in the publishing industry). I have no idea what is going to come out the other end of this process, but I hope whatever it is keeps some of the joy of fashion intact.
And for anyone who’s feeling like they need to be more fully hooked up, try checking out Beyond The Rack, One Kings Lane, The Fairest, Reverse, Rue La La, HauteLook, Ideeli… My favorites remain Gilt, Rue La La, and One Kings Lane (to go along with my current interior decorating obsession), but they all have something to be said for them.