Yet even more online sample sales
Bricks-and-mortar stores are still closing at a somewhat alarming pace, but there's no doubt about it: People are shopping online. Online shopping has always been great for bargain shopping--Google is all one needs to find a coupon code--but one of the fastest-growing categories in e-commerce is private sale websites, also known as online sample sales. WWD wrote about them [subscription required] a few weeks ago; basically, as the article describes, these sites are win-win for everybody: Designers get to dump merchandise quickly and efficiently without turning up in search engines; consumers get same-season merchandise at great discounts, without having to deal with the hassle of actual sample sales, but while still succumbing to sample-sale craziness. Plus, many sites have return policies (often for store credit). The great thing is that with so many new sample sale websites popping up, there are ample opportunities to shop a wide range of products, with different sites specializing in different areas--shopping them is a good way to get exposed to new and independent designers, as well as finding crazy deals on some of your favorites.

Gilt Groupe is the undisputed master of online sample sales--according to the WWD article, they're on track to do $400 million in sales this year. But while they have 1.2 million members, a large number of them never purchase anything--due to, Gilt thinks, too-high prices. Enter Gilt Fuse, their contemporary site, a sort of Co-Op to Gilt's Barneys. Hosting brands like Kova & T, Generra, and Modern Amusement, prices are chiefly under $100, and since the site doesn't quite have the membership numbers of its older sister, most items don't sell out yet (as I'm writing this, most of the Faryl Robin, Earnest Sewn, and Sequin stock is still available). If you're already a member of of Gilt Groupe, then you're automatically a member of Gilt Fuse. If you're a member of neither, you can always join here; as with Gilt, the $25 referral policy applies here as well, and your accounts are linked, so if you return an item from Gilt, for example, you can use the credit on Fuse.

Like the OutNet is to Net-a-Porter, Revolve Clothing has recently launched Rewind, a place for them to dump clearance stock as well as host pop-up sales. While the pop-ups tend to be more under-the-radar designers like Boulee and Erik Hart, the regular sale selection is quite impressive, with good deals on Rachel Comey, Lyell, and Acne Jeans, among others. I also like the interface, which allows you to rollover and get a preview of the item (and what sizes are available) without having to click through to the page. If you're already a Revolve customer, you can shop Rewind; otherwise, you need an invitation (click here to join). Their referral policy is slightly different than other sites: If your friend buys something, you get a $25 credit toward your next purchase of $50 or more.

Beyond The Rack is the first of the sample-sale websites based in Canada, but before you start laughing, know that they've recently had YSL handbags and Gucci sunglasses; J Brand jeans are currently on sale; and coming up, they have Dior handbags, Burberry accessories, and Sam Edelman shoes. And even though everything is being shipped from Canada, the shipping cost is only $10. The only caveat is that the prices are not as low as on some other websites, but as Beyond The Rack is fairly new, the products don't sell out quite as quickly as on other sites. You must be a member to shop (if you need a referral code, mine is NCM260AC086), and the friend referral credit is $10.

Gomatta Girls was started by two L.A. fashion insiders, and despite its strange name, it has a pretty good selection of West Coast designers. A great thing about this site is that unless the merch sells out, it lives for awhile under the CLOSEOUT link--currently, you can find clothes by Dolce Vita, Tulle, Jenny Han, and more for up to a whopping 90% off. My one criticism is that its emails don't say who the designer is in the subject line, so you have to read through a bunch of text to figure out what's going on sale that particular day. But in the grand scheme of things, it's a minor complaint. You can invite your friends to join (and get a $10 credit when they make a purchase), but you don't need an invite to shop the site.

Finally, the newest kid on the block is Retail Happy Hour, which thus far appears to host four long-weekend sales that last five days, from Thursday to Monday. The last round included Pop Beauty and L Space swimwear; the next round, starting this week, includes Kara Janx (remember her?) and Prairie NY. Retail Happy Hour does not require a referral to shop, and has no referral program (well, give them time).

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