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Flash Sales Go To Battle: Who Will Take The Crown?

Online sample sales just can't be escaped. In the ever-growing industry's latest news, top performer Gilt Groupe introduced a loyalty program for cust

Online sample sales just can't be escaped. In the ever-growing industry's latest news, top performer Gilt Groupe introduced a loyalty program for customers spending more than $10,000 per year on the site. There's no doubt that Gilt, the first flash sale site to launch in the States, still reigns supreme over competitors like Rue La La and ideeli. But it's also getting a little crowded in sample sale land. Who, then, will survive the inevitable bubble pop? To make it all a little clearer, we've determined what's really good--and really bad--about a handful of these sites. We've also made a call on who will stay and who's bound to eventually go.

Gilt Groupe/Gilt Fuse The Good: They've got the best designers--Alex Wang, Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs--and the best selection. What's more, they source directly from the manufacturers, which cuts costs. Those qualities will help the company reach its $500 million sales goal for 2010. The Bad: Gilt's recent foray into full-price sales could mean that its business model might change altogether in the not-so-distant future. Make It Or Break It? Make it, but competition will get tougher. Especially if the first online sample sale site ever, France's Vente-Privee, enters the U.S. market over the next year or two. ideeli The Good: A range of price points, from Jessica Simpson clutches for $30 to See By Chloe dresses for $200. The Bad: Selection. While it's great that ideeli offers plenty of items below $50, why would consumers go to a flash site to buy the aforementioned Jessica Simpson clutch if they can stop by their local Macy's at their leisure and probably get it for even cheaper. Make It Or Break It? Make it, for now. The company announced in December 2009 that it had raised $20 million in additional funding, so that should help. Market For Drama The Good: This site's unique spin is that it's beauty products-only. And high-quality products at that, including men's grooming items from Task Essential and skincare from Tracie Martyn. The Bad: It might be too niche. Although the site launched in November 2009, it hasn't seen a ton of traction as of yet. Make It Or Break It? If it can tap beauty addicts--maybe through a partnership with Allure or Sephora?--it can surely make it. If not, it will be difficult to grow. Daily Candy's Swirl The Good: The site features designers vetted by Daily Candy's editors. The Bad: Daily Candy has a very specific editorial point-of-view--as they should!--but that means the product is geared toward one "type" of shopper, leaving those that don't share a similar aesthetic without much choice. Will They Make It Or Break It? Make it. Daily Candy is now owned by cable company Comcast, which also recently bought NBC. If Comcast can get Daily Candy editors on The Today Show to promote the sales and other content fairly regularly, Swirl will be able to quickly build on its audience. CutDrop The Good: The site features cool brands and part of the revenue goes to charity. The Bad: It only holds one sale per week. Make It Or Break It? Unclear. The site needs to up its sale frequency. HauteLook The Good: Created by a Los Angeles-based fashion journalist, HauteLook has a distinct West Coast style, featuring vintage Chanel from Decades Two, denim from Siwi and shoes from Tibi. The Bad: While it might be Gilt's biggest competition currently selling to the U.S. market, HauteLook just doesn't possess insider air Gilt gives off so successfully. Make It Or Break It? Make it. Especially if it can cut some exclusive deals with top designers.

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