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How to Shop: Flash Sales

Shopping comes naturally for me, and it wasn’t until I hit adulthood that I learned this isn’t the case for every woman. In fact, since I started blogging, I’ve discovered that many women actually hate shopping. Some want to enjoy it, but find it way too challenging to be pleasurable. Others just plain hate it, viewing shopping no different than doing laundry or washing the dishes.

It makes sense. Shopping is much more complex than one would think. The way you shop in-store at a boutique it totally different than how you’d shop an online auction website. And the experience of shopping luxury is totally different than shopping with the intention of saving money. I mean, there’s a reason why it’s called bargain hunting. It truly is a hunt! Which brings us to flash sales.

If you’re not familiar with flash sales, now is the time to get to know this wonderful form of bargain shopping. Let’s start by defining it.

A flash sale is an online shopping event that features products or travel at discount prices for a limited time. There is a sense of urgency because stock and availability are limited, hence the word “flash.” In an instant, your size or color could sell out, and the sale could be over. Yes, that happens, often.

Flash sales hit big in the U.S. in 2007 when Gilt Groupe launched Gilt.com. Seven years later, Gilt is still my top favorite. Since then, many other flash sale websites have opened up – some with rave reviews (such as Rue La La and Hautelook) and others with awful reviews that include reports of fake merchandise, damaged merchandise, and orders that took way too long to arrive. Maneuvering the world of flash sale websites should be done carefully. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Read reviews. Before you begin shopping flash sale sites, first learn which ones are liked the most. My top favorites are Gilt, Rue La La, and Hautelook. I shop these three regularly and have never had a bad experience. But there are several other flash sale retailers who have built good reputations, such as ideel, Joss & Main, Amuze, and Belle & Clive. Go online and read customer reviews for flash sale websites. Read reviews posted on fashion blogs. Ask your friends.
  2. Set up an account. Once you’ve read reviews and decided on a flash sale website to shop, you have to set up an account to access it.
  3. Sign up to receive email alerts. Email alerts give you advance notice of sales. This is important, because like I said earlier, these sales can end in a flash, especially if it’s a Christian Louboutin or Marc Jacobs flash sale. If you don’t want to miss out, sign up for email alerts and pay attention!
  4. Expect high traffic. It’s happened. Flash sale websites have been known to crash because who doesn’t want Jimmy Choo at 50% off? If there’s a sale event that you’re desperate for, and you know will be popular, log into the website at least an hour before the sale launches to give you a better chance at shopping it.
  5. Expect expensive shipping. Most flash sale websites charge a hefty price for shipping. So when shopping, factor $10 or more into the total of your order. If you find a $265 DVF dress for only $80, know that your true cost for that bargain will be more than that. (Don’t forget taxes, too.)
  6. Expect slow shipping. Well, not unreasonably slow, but unless you upgrade your shipping, your order will take at least a week to arrive, possibly longer. Some flash sale websites participate in drop shipping. That means that they don’t have a warehouse or inventory on site. They rely on a vendor to ship the order from its own warehouse, which means it takes even longer. Avoid surprises, read the fine print, and know in advance how long your order will take to arrive.
  7. Final sales offer the biggest bargains with the biggest risk. You can save up to 90% at a final sale. I’m talking dirt cheap. But, a final sale is just that. Final. That means no returns (unless you receive the wrong item or it’s damaged – usually a flash sale retailer will work with you on the rare occasion that happens).
  8. Speaking of returns… know the return policy before you click “purchase.” Again, avoid surprises.
  9. Share invitations to join and earn credit. Gilt offers an impressive $25 credit for every person who joins and shops via your invitation. Most other sites offer $10. Think of it as free shopping money!
  10. Download the app. Pretty much every flash sale website offers a free app. Nowadays, at least 50% of my flash sale shopping occurs via my smartphone.

I would say that more than half of my designer bargains have occurred at a flash sale website. If you’re a label whore on a budget, flash sale websites are a must. Use my tips, and you are sure to be as flash sale savvy as I am.

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