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HauteLook's Carlota Espinosa Talks Shop

If you're reading Fashionista, you've probably visited one flash sale site or another over the last couple of years, whether it was ideeli, Gilt Group

If you're reading Fashionista, you've probably visited one flash sale site or another over the last couple of years, whether it was ideeli, Gilt Groupe or HauteLook.

But as the space becomes increasingly crowded, how will each retailer differentiate itself? We recently sat down with HauteLook's vice president of fashion, Carlota Espinosa, who explained where the Los Angeles-based retailer is coming from, and how it plans to outshine the competition.

Fashionista: Flash sales have carved out a new sector of online retail. What differentiates HauteLook from its competitors? Carlota Espinosa: We’re based in Los Angeles and both Adam Bernhard, the founder and CEO of HauteLook, and I are from the L.A. area. I think our site reflects that West Coast, casual chic style that mixes status labels and new brands in a creative way. It's where jeans, a really great bag and the perfect mascara can take you wherever you need to go. We’re also a leader in the online beauty category, with popular beauty brands like Lancome, Kiehl’s and Urban Decay, all at great prices.

What are a few of the brands that you work with again and again? We have hosted very successful sale events with many of the industry’s best known, most desirable brands, including Joe’s Jeans, BCBG and Laura Mercier to name a few. We’ve also had great events with newer brands like Amrita Singh. Our members learn about them on HauteLook and fall in love with these brands. You've had sales as varied as Omaha Steaks to Cartier watches. Why does variety work so well for you? Our member is turning to us because our site is a one-stop destination for all of her needs. She’s too busy to spend hours shopping, and she enjoys finding everything she needs on our site at a discount, whether it’s a great necklace, kids’ toys, the perfect pillow to spice up her home, or even sports memorabilia for her husband. That’s why the variety works.

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Who is your typical customer? Our typical member is a modern, stylish young woman--either single or newly married--who is looking for something special and unique and knows she shouldn’t have to pay full price to look great! I know that you attend NYFW--how important is that to your business, and in what way? Being a part of New York Fashion Week is extremely valuable to us. For the past two seasons we’ve produced a great lounge that has served as a relaxing oasis for media and also as a venue to host special events and previews with some of our partner brands. Plus, it’s a great time to be in New York and catch up with all our friends and business contacts during the week. It’s fun! What trends have you seen on the runways as of late that you think your customers will love? I think our members are going to love that safari meets army look for fall. It’s a great way to bring a casual look to life in a new fresh way. I’m also loving all the soft neutral colors – they’re so timeless and flattering to everyone, and you can mix and match pieces in unexpected, modern ways.

Other flash sale sites have experimented with full-price sales recently. Can you see HauteLook doing that? Not right now. We are focused on ramping up the number of sale events we are hosting every month with new brands and categories that our members have been asking for. I think our members, and shoppers in general, are still looking for great brands at amazing deals – that’s never going to go out of style. I think one thing a lot of consumers are confused about in terms of flash sales is returning stuff. Some places have an extremely strict policy with returns. How does HauteLook approach this, as well as customer service in general? We take customer service very seriously and have an amazing team of representatives that literally sit twenty feet away from our CEO’s office. If our members have issues or questions, we want to know so that we can make sure we’re providing the best experience possible. In terms of returns, we accept them on most apparel items within 21 days from the time the order shipped for account credit.

What's the next big, exciting project you guys are working on? HauteLook is partnering with decadestwo for the “Love Em and Leave Em Tour,” a pop-up shop tour that will visit major cities across the country this spring and summer. We’re excited to offer an amazing selection of designer clothing and accessories in person.