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For Gilt Groupe, 2014 Is About Going International

Gilt Groupe CEO Michelle Peluso spells out her plans for expanding the site's reach abroad. But about those IPO rumors? Still no comment.
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Although Gilt Groupe has stated its interest in refocusing on its core flash sales business, the company is looking to expand this year — geographically, that is. Just a few days after news broke that Gilt Groupe had taken steps toward a 2014 IPO, Gilt CEO Michelle Peluso took the stage at Apple's SoHo store with Lauren Indvik, Fashionista's very own co-editor in chief, to talk about the company's future as well as its lingering pain points.

While Peluso declined to comment on the IPO ("We're always thinking about that question"), she didn't shy away from spelling out Gilt's plans for 2014. Consider these the areas where Gilt is looking to add value if it is indeed headed for an IPO later this year.

International is a big focus, Peluso says, with China, Korea, the UAE, Mexico and Canada among the countries that offer the nearest-term opportunity for growth. While 10 percent of customers and revenue derives from abroad, Peluso says that she thinks the company still does "a poor job" internationally.

"We don't accept local forms of payment. That'll change this year," she says. "We don't think about merchandise strategy. It surprises us sometimes when we go to sleep and then we wake up in the morning and all the size twos are gone or size five shoes are gone because Asia woke up and went shopping."

The site isn't translated into languages other than English, so the company will be adapting content for different markets. Shipping and returns, which can be expensive in some countries, similarly need work.

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Since Peluso came on board as CEO, Gilt has been working on getting back to its roots as a flash sales site. In previous years, the company overextended itself, forcing it to later shut down its full-priced men's and food categories. But Peluso is maintaining a positive message around those missteps, emphasizing the company's ability to take risks and recover quickly.

"I actually think we went too far," Peluso says. "In a way, I give us a huge amount of credit because we launched different things and we had the courage to fail."

While Peluso skimmed over the question of user acquisition, she did note that Gilt has a strong retention rate. Users who may have started out shopping for themselves are now using the site to shop for their husbands, home and children.

"As well known as we are, we're still a fairly unrecognized brand in the scheme of things. There's still a lot more we can do to acquire new members," she says.

As far as user acquisition goes, Peluso says that Gilt City and jewelry purchases are the easiest gateways to get customers shopping on the site, since they don't require try-ons and are therefore relatively low risk purchases.

"You're not going to buy necessarily a Carolina Herrera dress on your first purchase," she says.