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Photographs by Spencer Heyfron

Gilt Groupe Without Guilt: Fans Flaunt Their Finds

Passionate fashionistas have made Gilt Groupe the darling of luxury-obsessed bargain hunters.

Nothing's sexier than a bargain. Sure, you can spend $1,340 on a Marc Jacobs sweater that's softer than a baby's skin -- or you can buy the same sweater for $174 and be stylish and savvy. This potent cocktail of luxury and value has made Gilt Groupe -- an e-commerce site that runs daily private sales of high-end designer apparel, accessories, and home furnishings discounted as much as 85% off -- a breakout success amid sluggish consumer spending.

Gilt expects to rake in more than $500 million in revenue in 2010, 20 times what it reaped in 2008. "Companies like private sales because they maintain the exclusivity and integrity of their brands," says Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Gilt's only big competitor is the outlet malls." Venture capitalists have embraced it as passionately as overstocked designers, pumping in $40 million this summer and pushing its value to about $400 million.

The members-only site has amassed more than 1 million users in two years through friends tapping friends and occasional offers to join in urban-lifestyle newsletters such as RareDaily. These fans drive growth by eagerly clicking refresh when new sales go up at noon Eastern. Seven dedicated followers tell Gilt's story -- and proudly display their purchases.

Annie Au
Derivatives options associate

GUILTY OF: "Sometimes before I buy, I'll chat with friends and ask them for their opinion. On the Web site, you can copy and paste the image, so it's easy to send. It's just like shopping in a store."
SCORED: 7 for All Mankind straight-leg jeans
PAID: $109, originally $175 to $200

Jessica Hallie
Stylist and personal shopper, Anthropologie

GUILTY OF: "I shop sample sales every day, since it's my job to know the industry. I get the Gilt alert on my BlackBerry at noon, and then I run to a computer -- it's hard to view on my BlackBerry. I wish Gilt had a BlackBerry-friendly version."
SCORED: Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent black suede wedges
PAID: $68, originally $358

Geoffrey Chen
VP, foreign exchange trading, the Royal Bank of Scotland

GUILTY OF: "Every day I find something that I could or would buy, but obviously I need to maintain some discipline."
SCORED: Benjamin Bixby tuxedo blazer
PAID: $378, originally $1,395

Ashlie Darrel
Production assistant, Calvin Klein; contestant on reality show Stylista

GUILTY OF: "I play around a lot -- I zoom in and look at the fabric, the texture, the color, and the details. They do a good job of blending up-and-coming designers with established ones."
SCORED: Galliano print wrap dress
PAID: $270, originally $500

Nick Mullen
Student, Fordham Law

GUILTY OF: "At 11:58, everyone [in school] tunes into Gilt and waits for the sale to start. We usually go, 'OMG, did you see what's on Gilt?' We help each other."
TEAMWORK: "My wife's going to buy a Kooba bag no matter what, so I might as well find one for $200 rather than $700."
SCORED: John Varvatos distressed boat shoes
PAID: $88, originally $225

Cristina Dennstedt
Publicist, Sarah Hall Productions

GUILTY OF: Constantly refreshing the site if an item is unavailable (members have 10 minutes to mull over a purchase). "If I really want something, I'll spend the time to make sure I get it."
SCORED: Twelfth Street by Cynthia Vincent dress
PAID: $120, originally $295

Hayley Mullen
Account executive, Citrix

GUILTY OF: "It's one of the six Web sites I go to every day."
TEAMWORK: "My husband had purses in his cart that I didn't get in mine."
SCORED: Kevia ring, $110, originally $240; Amrita Singh bangles, $38, originally $100; Lauren Merkin clutch, $98, originally $200

Photographs by Spencer Heyfron

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7 Comments

  • chopper noble

    Yes, I absolutely love shopping on member-only sites for saving money online. I have been finding the best deals at Rue La La and Gilt as of late. However, you have to get to the sale fairly early when it opens because these deals are selling out so fast. I've hesitated on buying an item I wanted and then a few hours later it was already sold out. Such is life.

    Just so you know... Here are a few choice invitation codes to Members-Only shopping websites to go and check them out for yourself. Happy Shopping and Saving.

    Gilt:
    http://www.giltgroupe.com/invi...

    RueLaLa:
    Use this email to sign up - choppernoble@gmail.com

    Ideeli:
    www.ideeli.com/invite/savemone...

  • chopper noble

    Yes, I absolutely love shopping on member-only sites for saving money online. I have been finding the best deals at Rue La La and Gilt as of late. However, you have to get to the sale fairly early when it opens because these deals are selling out so fast. I've hesitated on buying an item I wanted and then a few hours later it was already sold out. Such is life.

    Just so you know... Here are a few other invitation codes to Members Only shopping websites to go and check them out for yourself. Happy Shopping and Saving.

    Gilt:
    http://www.giltgroupe.com/invi...

    RueLaLa:
    Use this email to sign up - choppernoble@gmail.com

    Ideeli:
    www.ideeli.com/invite/savemone...

  • Lindsay Thomas

    I am SOOO addicted to Gilt!! I love it! And I love that you can return clothes (not accessories though) if they don't fit, etc. It keeps me from wasting lots of $! Here is an invitation link if anyone is interested in joining: http://www.giltgroupe.com/invi...

    You should join!! At least to see what AMAZING deals are out there!! Never pay retail (or even retail sale prices) again!!!

  • Lindsay Thomas

    I am SOOO addicted to Gilt!! I love it! And I love that you can return clothes (not accessories though) if they don't fit, etc. It keeps me from wasting lots of $! Here is an invitation link if anyone is interested in joining: http://www.giltgroupe.com/invi...

    You should join!! At least to see what AMAZING deals are out there!! Never pay retail (or even retail sale prices) again!!!