Aug 272015
 

We are back with a few news tidbits about Kate-favorite French Sole and a look at Zara’s fall line.

First, the French Sole capsule collection with iconic British brand Liberty of London.

French Sole/Liberty of London

French Sole/Liberty of London

The collection launched in July.

Jane Winkworth Blog

Jane Winkworth Blog

Continue reading »

Aug 142015
 

As promised, here is Part 2 of our special report on flash sale shopping, with the emphasis on buying brands Kate wears, or specific items she has been seen wearing.

In Tuesday’s post we spoke about the increasing competition flash sale sites are encountering, including retailers doing their own ‘flash’ specials. Below you see a graphic from Kate favorite GOAT Fashion, announcing their own flash sale just this Monday.

GOAT Fashion

GOAT Fashion Facebook

One of our favorite sponsors, Beulah London, has also offered flash sales.

Beulah London Facebook

Beulah London Facebook

We see more and more retailers using this technique to move merchandise. It’s a savvy tactic, allowing stores to go directly to the consumer without any middleman like Rue La La or Ideeli. The term has become overused in some cases; technically, a flash sale requires two elements: lower prices or a discount offered only for the event, as well as a specific, limited time frame for the sale.

After reading Tuesday’s post it might appear I think so poorly of flash sales there simply aren’t any bargains to be found at them; that’s not the case. Tuesday’s information serves as a cautionary note, reminding us all to think carefully before saying goodbye to our hard-earned $$$ or £££ or €€€. There have been, and will continue to be, savings opportunities at the sites. Some brands Kate favors are frequently (if not constantly) available on the flash sites, while others appear less often and some are never seen.

Labels I’ve not seen, and wouldn’t expect to find available at the flash sites include GOAT Fashion, Katherine Hooker, Beulah London, Jenny Packham, Catherine Walker, Moloh, ME+EM, Amanda Wakeley, Emilia Wickstead, Hobbs, Joseph, Paule KaRussell and Bromley, Reiss, Jaeger and Mint Velvet.

On to our quick review of labels Kate likes that we have seen at flash sale sites, beginning with Temperley London. As best I recall the brand has only been offered once, that was July of this year at Gilt.

Gilt July 22 2015

Gilt July 22 2015

Stuart Weitzman is seen only occasionally; this is from a Rue La La sale in April 2015.

Rue La La April 15 2015

Rue La La April 15 2015

Another rarely seen brand, Tod’s; this was a Rue La La sale sometime in the summer of 2014, unfortunately I did not keep track of the specific date.  NOTE: After publishing this post I saw that Tod’s will be on Rue La La Tuesday, August 18, at 11am.

Rue La La 2014

Rue La La 2014

I don’t think of Tory Burch clothing as a regular on the sites.

Rue La La March 31, 2015 (via Milled.com)

Rue La La March 31, 2015 (via Milled.com)

Other Kate-related labels that are seen infrequently: Aquatalia (left) and Mulberry (right).

LEFT: Rue La La Aug 25 2014  RIGHT: Gilt June 4 2014

LEFT: Rue La La Aug 25, 2014 RIGHT: Gilt June 4 2014

Max Mara is available several times a year; we show it at Ideeli (as the site was previously called) last year, and also at Rue La La.

Ideeli/Rue La La

Ideeli/Rue La La

Diane von Furstenberg products have appeared with some regularity (Rue La La is featuring the brand Wednesday, August 19, at 11am), as have LK Bennett’s. In most instances the LK Bennett events are for footwear only.

LK Bennett Gilt June 6 2015

Gilt June 6 2015

But there have been some sales incorporating shoes, clothing and accessories.

LK Bennett Flash Sale site Rue La La March 27 2015

Rue La La March 27 2015

Other brands seen several times a year include Rebecca Taylor, Hudson, and J. Brand (shown below at Haute Look).

Haute Look January 27, 2014

Haute Look January 27, 2014

And then there’s Longchamp, shown at Ideel in May.

Gilt May 16 2015

Ideel May 16 2015

Or were you looking for Longchamp at Gilt?

Gilt October 5 2014

Gilt October 5 2014

Perhaps you prefer Beyond the Rack when shopping the brand?

Beyond the Rack

Beyond the Rack August 4 2015

To say ‘frequently available’ on the flash sites would almost be an understatement. Not unlike Jimmy Choo.

LEFT: Rue La La October 26, 2014

LEFT: Rue La La October 26, 2014 RIGHT: Ideel July 20, 2015

Here’s a look at Jimmy Choo flash sale availability, along with Hall of Famers Longchamp and LK Bennett. To the best of my recollection most, if not all, of the appearances were brand specific events, items weren’t part of a larger themed event. This is not a comprehensive list; rather, dates tracked when I remembered to write them down. One other note: I believe LK Bennett has cut back dramatically on its participation in flash sales.

Word Doc Flash Sale Appearances Choo LK Bennett Longchamp

It’s great knowing you can find certain brands on the flash sites, but how good are the deals they offer? Let’s look at a Longchamp Le Pliage black bag, the large tote with long handles, a piece we know Kate carries. It is $145 at the Longchamp site. That is also the price at Nordstrom and at Bloomingdales. If shopping the Gilt sale you would have been able to purchase the bag for $119, not an inconsequential savings.

Longchamp Le Pliage flash sale Gilt

Longchamp/Gilt July 1, 2015

You will generally see large totes on the flash sites marked down to that $119 price point; the medium nylon totes are usually $90 – $99, with small size totes going for about $80. The trick is being able to snag the size and color you want before it is sold out. It can be tempting to purchase the piece in another color or size; that’s a good time to step back and consider if it’s a combination you will really use.

Next, shopping Jimmy Choo. Below you see the Cosmic in black suede selling in February 2014 for $549, about 20% off the regular $695 retail price. That was a rare occurrence, it may have been the lone flash sale appearance of the Cosmic in black suede.

Gilt February 23, 2014

Gilt February 23, 2014

You could certainly find other Choo styles on the flash sites.

Flash Sale Jimmy Choo Shoes Ideel

Ideel April 16, 2015

The discount is roughly the same regardless of who is hosting the sale: just about 20%.

Rue La La Jimmy Choo Flash Sale

Rue La La August 12, 2014

It’s unusual to find jewelry Kate has worn in the sales. Much of what she wears is from designers that don’t participate in the sales: Kiki McDonough, Mappin & Webb, Tiffany. There are exceptions, like the Kenneth Jay Lane earrings worn in New York last December.

Jackson Lee/Splash News

Jackson Lee/Splash News

They were offered in a Rue La La sale this July, at a savings of $85.

Rue La La RIGHT:

LEFT: Rue La La July 11, 2015  RIGHT: CZ by Kenneth Jay Lane

Tip #1: Pay attention to those themed sales the site runs where they aggregate merchandise under a common theme, occasionally brands the Duchess wears may be included. Some apparel/accessory examples: “Little Black Dresses,” “Summer Lights: Ivory and Beige Looks You’ll Love,” “Fierce Flats,” “Shoes From Nude to Black.” Items may also be grouped by price/discount: “Jewelry and Watch Picks Under $50,” “Calling All Kids – Extra 20% off,” “Accessories From $19.99.” It can be a good idea to explore themed sales, like Rue La La’s “The Duchess’ Style” from this January.

Rue La La January 2015

Rue La La January 2015

The majority of the merchandise was like that seen in this screen grab from the sale: nice, but not quite the same as what Kate wore.

Rue La La January 9 2015

Rue La La January 9 2015

Included in that sale: the Shilo. Oddly, the Shilo was selling for $99.99 in that Duchess’ Style event, and it was simultaneously offered at Rue La La in a separate LK Bennett sale, but at double the price: $199.99.

Rue La La

Rue La La

Tip #2: Always run a price check. This graphic demonstrates why it is so vital to smart shopping: the Aquatalia ‘Diane’ boot was selling for $201.99 at 6pm on August 25, 2014. That same day the boot was included in a flash sale at Rue La La, but at a much higher price, $349.99-that’s $148 more than the 6pm price.

6pm/Rue La La

6pm/Rue La La

Tip #3: if you see an item at a lower price than what it is selling for on one of the sites, let the site know; most (if not all) will honor that lower price. The best method I’ve found for dealing with this is via Twitter or Facebook, but I imagine it could also be done via a telephone call. Try the same thing for regular sites; in a comment to Tuesday’s post Mary noted that Overstock may also have a price-matching policy.

Tip #4: the search function is your friend. Inputting brand or item names into the search box can offer surprising results. At Gilt a search for LK Bennett brought up 187 products, including the Sledge in limited sizing and colors, priced at $199 and $219. (They really look like 2 different shoes in these photos, no?)

Gilt.com

Gilt.com

At Ideel 62 results were found when searching Longchamp, 29 results for Diane von Furstenberg and 62 products for Jimmy Choo. Unfortunately Rue La La does not offer a search function.

Tip #5: Check the ‘upcoming sales’ info so you can plan ahead and be ready to pounce if need be. A quick look at Rue La La’s upcoming sales reveals that Longchamp will be offered today starting at 3pm.

Tip #6: Consider shopping the discount sites: Bluefly, The Outnet (Net-a-Porter’s discount arm), Sierra Trading Post (owned by the same company that owns TJ Maxx), Overstock and Amazon are all good options. A cursory search at Bluefly revealed Kate’s Corkswoon wedges selling at $304 (but only in size 10), as well as a medium Le Pliage priced at $77.59, in fuchsia.

Bluefly.com

Bluefly.com

Tip #7: Use one/some of the price-tracking sites that notify you when items are marked down. There are also apps that do this for your mobile devices. Here’s what Nancy shared in a comment on Tuesday’s post:

A website called camelcamelcamel.com gives historical prices charged by amazon and will notify you if the price drops by a percentage you can specify. Ebay shows historical pricing data if you check the “sold” or “completed listings” boxes on the left hand side of the screen.

Brenda and ElizaMo both shared their fondness for Amazon’s price checking tool. This is from Brenda’s comment:

My go-to price comparison site is Amazon.com. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve checked RueLaLa and Haute and other specials against Amazon, to find that the flash sale price is not a bargain at all.

Here’s a link to Amazon’s CamelCamelCamel, Shop Advisor is here, Lyst is here, Price Zombie is here,  and Rack It Up is here. Apps available include Nifti, and Shoptagr. If you use a price-tracking site or app, please let us know so we can include it in our list.

As is obvious, I did keep a fair amount of data for this post in the last 16 months, but not everything. My perceptions about the frequency of a company’s availability on flash sites could be flawed; if you have input please don’t be shy about letting me know.

Following are links to the primary flash sale sites in the US that we listed in Tuesday’s post. Full disclosure: many of the links use my ‘invitation,’ if you ultimately purchase something I receive a merchandise credit. Knowing the way I excoriated the ‘private club’ and ‘members only’ aspect of the sites, this may appear disingenuous, it isn’t intended to be. If you prefer *not* using these links, it is almost as easy to simply go to the sites and sign-up there.

CLOTHING/ACCESSORIES SITES:

SPECIALTY SITES:

  • One Kings Lane: offers home goods, decor, furniture, art, books & more
  • Joss and Main: also specializes in home décor items & is owned by home goods giant Wayfair
  • Zulily: specializes primarily in women’s/children’s merchandise

 

Aug 112015
 

Hello, and happy summer wishes to everyone.

We are back with a two-part report on those bargain-promising flash sale sites, with an eye toward boosting your purchasing power, especially for Kate-inspired items. Today we have a backgrounder on the sites for those who might not be familiar with them, and a spot of comparison shopping. Friday we’ll cover the bargains (or not) from Kate-related brands.

HOW IT ALL BEGAN: When the US economy went south in 2007 most consumers simply didn’t have disposable income to spend on things like clothes, shoes and handbags. The fortunate few who did have money to spend were thinking twice about the possibility of being perceived as flaunting their good fortune when so many others were suffering. U.S. retailers were confronted with falling sales and rising amounts of merchandise sitting in stores across the country. As the recession spread so did the retail malaise; stores in other countries discovered they were facing the same dilemma. In many cases retailers weren’t able to move the merchandise at almost any price. For many there were also issues with vendor agreements, promises stores often make that they won’t discount merchandise below a certain amount to avoid cheapening a brand. The following is from a May, 2014 article in the Business of Fashion:

Back in 2007, with the Great Recession looming, fashion brands were desperate to liquidate large quantities of excess inventory…

Thus the advent of flash sale sites: the sites scooped up the excess merchandise and sold it online, providing at least some income for retailers, while also offering bargain prices for shoppers. Sites required one ‘join’ and become a ‘member’ of their ‘private club,’ proclaiming the many benefits available to ‘members.’ For most sites ‘membership’ in the ‘private club’ was not as exclusive as portrayed; one simply needed to have an email address and be breathing in and out. Early on a very few actually did restrict the number of members, creating wait lists until new members could join. I know of no such practice in use today. The sites also came up with an ingenious method to spur membership: offering site credits to those referring new members, payable when the new member’s first order was shipped. At many sites the credit is $15, although some pay only $10, while others credit accounts $25 per referral.

HOW IT WORKS: Every day a member receives a listing of the ‘events’ (aka sales) starting that day. (Most allow you to set how many emails you want, from a weekly summary to multiple notifications daily.) Different sites have different starting times for sales: for example, at Rue La La the primary sales begin at 11amET; at Beyond the Rack sales start at 9amET and 5pmET. The duration of most sale events runs from 48 – 72 hours.  Almost all of the sites offer apps for mobile devices, making it easier to shop their sales regardless of one’s location.

Initially this all proved a good business model, but as the economy started to rebound and online shopping changed, so did the flash sales business.  There has been a significant amount of churn the past several years, with some players leaving the genre completely, and others being gobbled up by larger sites. For some companies, a reliance on flash sales hasn’t proven a good strategy. Kate Spade is one brand pulling back on the number of sales it does; more from Women’s Wear Daily:

Kate Spade… is working on… a pullback on flash sales on its site. It’s also elected to no longer participate in friends-and-family sales.

Coach is doing the same; from QZ.com:

But Coach has an uphill climb ahead. It is trying to convince the high-end fashion crowd that it’s cool and relevant, even though its handbags haven’t changed that much. Meanwhile, people have become used to buying those bags at a discount.

Coach is trying to address the problem. It has cut way back on promotions, reducing flash sales from three each week to just two per month. But that strategy has started to hurt.

As the landscape has changed some sites are pursuing other strategies to remain profitable. Trade publication Retail Dive shares Gilt’s plan.

The retailer recently announced it is diversifying beyond the traditional online flash sale model, testing a personal closet service where customers speak with one of the company’s stylists before shopping at a physical showroom at the company’s headquarters.

There’s also more competition than ever, especially from off-price/factory outlet malls, with luxury department stores opening their off-price stores at a record pace. For example, Saks has just under 40 full-price stores with 83 Off Fifth discount venues. Neiman Marcus has 41 full-price stores and 43 of its Last Call stores. The off-price stores also outnumber the regular establishments at Nordstrom, with 118 full-line stores eclipsed by 178 Nordstrom Rack off-price stores. That number will skyrocket by 2020 when the company plans to have 300 Nordstrom Rack stores open. Another competitor for the flash sale sites? Brands doing their own limited-time sales. Some run for 3 hours, others for as long as a week or more. This Tory Burch sale started yesterday and lasts 5 days, ending on Friday.

Tory Burch

Tory Burch

Now we’ll look at some of the actual ‘bargains’ we found offered at varying sites. We begin with an example showing Gilt and Rue La La prices for a candle from Bluewick Harlow, a brand that appears to be offered almost exclusively at flash sale and discount sites. Obviously on this particular day (the screen grabs are from September 2, 2014) Gilt had the better buy.

Gilt/Rue La La

Gilt/Rue La La

One other consideration: be cognizant of what you’re purchasing. A cautionary word about the merchandise sold at the sites, via a 2014 story in the Boston Globe:

Instead of buying “distressed” merchandise that was never sold in traditional retail stores, some flash-sale companies are asking designers and manufacturers to create lower-quality clothing for them, said Steven Dennis, founder of SageBerry Consulting and a former executive at Neiman Marcus.

“A lot of the product now is merchandise made specifically for those channels,” Dennis said. “That gives them a much more reliable source of product, but it doesn’t have the cachet of the desirable brands.”

In other words, it’s just like the outlet/off-price stores, where much of the merchandise is made specifically for those discount venue.

Here’s another example demonstrating the need to know what you’re buying: Rue La La claims to offer “Coveted designer names” at “Members-only prices.” Below we show an “Addington Quilt” sold at Rue La La; it was also available at Walmart, and at a lower price! With all due respect to Walmart, I don’t think many Rue La La shoppers consider that retailer to be offering ‘designer names.’ At best, the pricing begs the ‘members of what?” question.  (The screen grabs below are from January 27 2015.)

Walmart/RueLaLa

Walmart/RueLaLa

By the way, this same set remains available at Hayneedle for $73; Wayfair is selling the set for $79.99; at Overstock it is $80.99, and the price is $124.99 at Kohl’s. Again, not to besmirch any of these retailers, but it’s unlikely readers would list them as designer shopping destinations.

Cosmetics are being offered with increasing frequency at the sites. Below we have another example of flash sale competitors going head to head, this time showing same day pricing at Gilt and Rue La La for Erno Laszlo MultipHase Highlighter; another instance when Gilt had the better price. (Screen grabs are from the same day in August 26, 2014.)

Rue La La Gilt

Rue La La Gilt

Next, we compare an accessory item: a pair of Ray Ban Unisex Wayfarers in black. At flash sale site Beyond the Rack the sunglasses are $119.99, while Overstock offers them at $116.99. (Screen grabs are from August 11, 2015.)

TOP: Beyond the Rack, BOTTOM: Overstock.com

TOP: Beyond the Rack, BOTTOM: Overstock.com

Another accessory item: the San Francisco Umbrella Company’s Scottish Terrier Umbrella, regularly priced at $49.95. It’s now offered for about $45.50 with the site’s 15% discount. At Rue La La the price is $35.99.

TOP: San Francisco Umbrella Company BOTTOM: Rue La La

TOP: San Francisco Umbrella Company
BOTTOM: Rue La La

Kitchen appliances are popular on the sites, especially November – February. Below we compare a Cuisinart® SmartPower ™ 7-Speed Blender. Rue La La offered the item at $59.99, it was $20 less at Bed, Bath & Beyond where it was $39.99. (Screen grabs are from March 10, 2015.)

Rue La La/Bed, Bath & Beyond

Rue La La/Bed, Bath & Beyond

Seeing Rue La La launch its Rue Kitchen Shop event today (August 12, 2015) prompted me to do a quick comparison and see if RLL’s appliance prices were much as seen in the March comparison shown above. Rue La La is featuring good brands in the sale, including Nordic WareBergHOFFShun (knives), Rosle, and Cusinart. Our price check appliance is the Cuisinart® Mini-Prep® Plus Food Processor in sapphire blue. You can see how the prices break down: at RLL the item is $39.99;, Cuisinart is selling the item at the same price, $39.95; Bed, Bath & Beyond also has its processor priced at $39.95. This doesn’t mean Rue La La’s price is bad, not at all. But it certainly isn’t any bargain either. (All photos and pricing information from August 12, 2015.)

Rue La La/Cuisinart/Bed, Bath & Beyond

Rue La La/Cuisinart/Bed, Bath & Beyond

One more comparison before we close, this time the ‘Landy’ flat from Tommy Hilfiger. We show the item selling for $39.99 at flash sale site Ideel, while it was $62.99 at 6pm.com; in this case the price was clearly better at the flash site. (6pm is the Zappos discount site. Screen grabs are from January 27 2015.)

Ideel/

Ideel/6PM

One more word to the wise from that Business of Fashion story:

…the deal offered on a pair of current season jeans by a department store like Bloomingdale’s can be more alluring than one offered by Ideeli on a pair that is three or four seasons old.

Definitely something to keep in mind.

Recapping our tips:

  1. Know your prices A – be sure you can’t find it someplace else for a lower price
  2. Know your prices B – be cognizant of those ‘compare at’ or ‘slash through’ prices, what are they based on? Gilt at least addresses the issue in its FAQs, I’ve not see explanations on other sites. (It’s an increasingly sensitive topic for off-price retailers, with the recent filing of a proposed class-action suit against TJ Maxx’s parent company, TJX, for its ‘compare at’ pricing strategy.)
  3. Know the return policies and shipping costs – it’s no bargain if you’re unable to return an item that doesn’t fit, or if all the savings are being eaten up in shipping expenses
  4. Know the merchandise – is it actually a known brand or designer, or an off-price label, possibly made of lower quality materials? Does the site tell you about items made specifically for them? Gilt has always been very good at this, while other sites (this includes you, Rue La La) are not. At Gilt the notice reads this way: “This brand is available exclusively on Gilt. It was created in collaboration with our preferred brand partners to bring you great style at an accessible price point.” Look for this verbiage in a lighter type on the bottom of the description.
  5. Know the brand – is it from a heavily promotional company, with merchandise frequently offered at flash sale sites? If so, you may be able to find it elsewhere at a lower price.
  6. Know the strategy – avoid buying into the ‘time is running out!’ frenzy created by the limited-time element of a sale. Unless it is an absolutely-must-have-it-now-they-never-have-it-in-my-size-item, take time to think about the purchase.

We leave you with a list of more notable sites, beginning with companies serving primarily US and Canadian customers:

APPAREL/ACCESSORIES

SPECIALTY SITES:

OTHER COUNTRIES:

  • Vente-Privee is considered the ‘father’ of flash sale shopping, pioneering the business model in France in 2001. Merchandise was available in the US through a partnership with American Express, but that operation has shuttered. The company’s wares are offered in several European countries.
  • Australia’s “My Sale” shut down in December; however, its parent company (My Sale Group), is still operating multiple flash sites online, including BuyInvite in Australia and also New Zealand. WKW friend Rachael Tagg reports that OZSale features a number of brands Kate wears: Ted Baker, Zara, Aquascutum, and Sebago are among those she says the site carries. Rachael, as well as another WKW friend, Belinda, both mentioned Brands Exclusive Australia as another option.
  • In the UK Achica offers mostly home goods, Cocosa focuses on luxury fashion
  • Brand Alley operates in the UK as well as France, Italy, Spain and other European countries

Friday we will talk about Kate-specific brands and bargains at the flash sale sites. Don’t be shy about sharing any of your tips and tricks for shopping the sites; let us know about great deals you may have discovered via the sites, or words to the wise from a less-than-stellar purchase.

NOTE: The post has been edited to include the information on the Cuisinart® Mini-Prep® Plus Food Processor in sapphire blue.