Private sale sites offer consumers high end fashion and home goods at marked down prices that will make your jaw drop. We pitted the 10 best private sale sites against each other based on criteria ranging from discounts to usability. When we emerged from this multi-site shopping bender, we put all of our findings together to create this user guide to private sale sites. So, let’s start with what matters most: savings. How does the average price of items at the top five sale sites stack up against what you’d pay when buying retail?
When private sale sites (or “flash sales sites”) hit the web, fashion that was only accessible via sample sales or to insiders living in major metro fashion hubs became available to anyone with an internet connection—well, at least to those who had invites to the exclusive sites. Now, private sale sites aren’t so private anymore. Most require little more than an email address before you can start shopping the virtual racks.
In fact, they’re becoming so ubiquitous that it’s getting increasingly difficult to tell them apart. Many flash sale sites operate the same way: They work directly with designers and suppliers to bring you exclusive access to luxury items at unbelievable discounts.
When these sales goes live, they usually only lasts a few days or even a few hours, so sites typically send email blasts to whip shoppers into a fashion frenzy. But before you give your email address out to any site that promises deep designer discounts, you should know which sites will best suit your shopping needs.
To save you the discomfort of an inflated inbox—and, of course, to help you save money—we joined some of the most popular sites and quite literally shopped around. We looked at which sample sales were easiest to shop, fastest to deliver the goods and most accepting of returns (an important detail considering that the limited timeframe to shop can result in some serious impulse buys).
HauteLook is the clear frontrunner when it comes to savings, but we all know that there is more to good shopping than discounts. After all, a site has to carry the products you want to buy, and it must treat you well and deliver the goods once you’ve clicked to purchase. Read on to find out which private sale site is best suited to fill your closet and home.
HauteLook offers high end, big-name brands mixed in with indie designers in categories ranging from fashion (from the likes of Balenciaga, Herve Leger and Christian Lacroix) and beauty (think Stila and Philosophy) to accessories, kids and home brands.
Member Headcount: 2,500,000
Sale Info: HauteLook hosts several sales each week. Sale lengths vary, though each generally runs for 48 hours. All sales begin at 8 am PT, which levels the field among time zones. Each morning, HauteLook members can expect an email invite that outlines the day’s shopping bliss. Sunday email blasts offer a sneak peek of the week’s upcoming events.
Extrabux Discount: Save 3% cash back at HauteLook
Shopability: HauteLook shoppers can organize items by price, size and category. The site also allows you to call dibs on an item by placing it in your shopping cart. The time that you’re allowed to place a piece on hold varies by event, so once you’ve selected a piece, you’ll want to watch the timer to make sure you don’t lose it.
Mobility: No mobile apps available yet.
Returns: HauteLook accepts returns for apparel only within 21 days for store credit. Expect a deduction of $4.95 from your return credit for shipping. After 21 days, returns are subject to a restocking fee equaling 50 percent of the item’s sale price. All items other than apparel—accessories, footwear, swimwear, intimates, home goods, vintage—are final sale.
Extra Perks: Aside from the $10 credit you’ll get when friends you’ve invited make their first purchases, HauteLook has one serious trick up its sleeve: a collaboration with Lucky magazine. Every Thursday at 4 pm ET, designer pieces handpicked by Lucky editors are up for grabs at the Afternoon Pick-Me-Up sale—a dream come true for anyone longing for a sartorial guru.
If you’re looking for options and tons of browsing fodder, you’ll find it at Beyond the Rack. At this site, sometimes as many as 15 events launch daily, which truly sets Beyond the Rack apart from its competitors. Here you’ll find designer apparel, accessories, beauty products, homewares, travel deals, kid gear and more. It’s like a visit to a mall with stores that carry only the labels you want at remarkable sale prices—sans trekking from store to store and waiting in endless lines, of course.
Member Headcount: 1,500,000
Sale Info: Each event starts at 11 am ET and lasts only about 48 hours. As a member, you’ll receive emails about sales based on your preferences, which you can edit to ensure what types of sales you want to be notified about and how often you would like a heads up.
Extrabux Discount: Save 2% cash back at Beyond the Rack
Shopability: You can shop relevant items—shoes, apparel, bedding, rings—by size. Also, when you save an item in your shopping bag, the site will reserve it for 20 minutes.
Mobility: Beyond the Rack allows you to set your preferences to ensure that you receive text message reminders about sales, but the site does not offer any mobile apps.
Shipping: Beyond the Rack charges $9.95 for shipping, and items can take anywhere from two to three weeks to ship out and up to one week from that ship date to arrive on your doorstep.
Returns: You can return most items (with the exception of beauty products, some home goods, earrings and certain apparel) within 14 days for store credit.
Extra Perks: When an invited friend makes a purchase, you’ll be credited $10.
Gilt’s coterie of the most sought-after, high-end designers (Marc Jacobs and Valentino, anyone?) truly makes it the golden private sale site. If it’s luxe sophistication you’re after, Gilt will not disappoint. With to-die-for designer pieces for women, men and even kids and tots—not to mention home décor and pet accessories—Gilt has all of your glamorous bases covered.
Member Headcount: 2,500,000
Sale Info: Sales start everyday at noon ET and last 36 hours, though you shouldn’t count on items lasting long. The entire stock of merchandise is presented at the beginning of a sale, so dawdling isn’t wise. Read the Gilt Monday-morning email, mark your calendar for choice sales and then log in at 11:55 am (or sooner!) to stave off disappointment over near misses.
Extrabux Discount: None
Shopability: Gilt’s site may be ultra sleek, but it certainly doesn’t place form over function. Aside from browsing by size, you can sort items by ultra-specific categories. If it’s a romper or crewneck you’re after, you’ll find a category for it. Not to mention, Gilt also hosts sales by trend, so if you’re loving the military look for fall, you can find an impressive collection of military-inspired pieces from various designers (everything from trenches and tops to booties and bangles) all in one spot.
The ease of shopping only gets better: If you’re an uncertain buyer, you can reserve items in your cart for 10 minutes, so you can load up at the beginning of a sale and decide later. Plus, you can cancel your order up to an hour after purchase. Gilt also offers a wait list. If an item becomes available after a sale, Gilt will send you an email.
Mobility: You can download the “Gilt on the Go” app for the iPhone, iPad and Android.
Shipping: Prices for shipping typically range from $7.95 to $9.95.
Returns: Gilt accepts clothing and footwear returns for store credit within 21 days with free return shipping. Everything else is final sale.
Extra Perks: For each friend you invite, Gilt will credit $25 to your account once your friend’s first purchase has shipped.
While Gilt brings the glamour with the highest of high-end labels, Rue La La oozes youthful, downtown chic. The price points are more affordable, and the aesthetic is certainly more playful than you’ll find at Gilt or HauteLook. Look for finds from up-and-coming designers and some of the most diverse weekly offerings, including homewares (including Bodum’s candy-colored kitchen appliances and Michael Kors home goods) to stays at exclusive five-star hotels.
Member Headcount: 1,600,000
Sale Info: Boutiques always open at 11 am ET and only last for two or three days, so be sure to sign up for email reminders to ensure that you won’t miss your favorite brand. While you can visit the Boutiques page for a looksy at the day’s sales, the emails (which sometimes arrive several times in a day) are a welcome workday distraction.
Extrabux Discount: None
Shopability: When shopping, you can sort items by price and category (for instance, apparel vs. outerwear). But there is no option to sort by size, which does slow down the quest for instant gratification.
Mobility: Rue La La offers mobile apps to ensure that iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android shoppers don’t miss any buying opportunities. Plus, you can share the love with your virtual shopping buddies. Use the integrated Facebook and Twitter features with the Android app to show off your buys and invite friends to join, or use the iPhone app’s bump technology to knock phones with friends and invite them to tag along on your virtual shopping sprees.
Shipping: Rue La La offers all-day shipping. Once you place your first order and pay the accompanying $9.95 shipping fee, standard shipping is free for all additional orders you place before 10 PM that day.
Returns: Rue La La is all about options. You can choose to receive a merchandise credit and free return shipping, or you can opt for a refund to the original form of payment minus the cost of return shipping. Some intimate apparel and swimwear items are final sale. And, if an item you’re returning is hefty of bulky, special return instructions may apply.
Extra Perks: When a friend you invite makes her first purchase, you’ll earn $10. Plus, an insider tip for frequent shoppers: If you’re worried that someone will nab your newest find before you can complete the check-out process, save your vital stats. Once you’ve saved your preferred credit card, billing and shipping info, you can hit Rue La La’s “Quick! Buy It” button to shave crucial seconds off of your checkout time.
Once a site for accessories-only shopping, Ideeli (pronounced “ideally”) is now a hub for luxury finds for women, kids and home. If other private sale sites aren’t elite enough for you, you’ll love Ideeli’s 1st Row access. For $6.99 a month, Ideeli will bump you from the 2nd Row (read: free shopping) and give you VIP access. Translation: You’ll be a privileged member who gets to shop sales one hour earlier and gains access to 1st Row-only sales events.
Member Headcount: 2,500,000
Sale Info: Ideeli sales begin at noon each day—unless you’re among the 1st Row members, who get first dibs on the goods at 11 am ET. Sales often last less than 36 hours. An hour before each sale event, Ideeli sends out an email blast to members. Ideeli also notifies members of giveaways via email or text. If it’s freebies you’re after, the site hosts weekly giveaways that allow all members a chance to win crave-worthy prizes—just be sure to enter quickly to avoid missing the brief window for entries.
Extrabux Discount: None
Shopability: Ideeli offers several options for organizing your searches—size, price, bestsellers and Ideeli faves.
Mobility: If you think your social media accounts and Ideeli would make for a happy marriage, you’re right. Once you’ve opted to receive text messages from Twitter, you can simply follow Ideeli to have the latest shopping dish sent to your phone. You can also connect your Facebook and Ideeli accounts for easier log-in and the ability to share Ideeli events on your newsfeed.
Shipping: For all items, shipping is generally $9.95. As with Rue La La, Ideeli offers all-day shipping. Once you’ve placed your first order for the day, shipping for all additional orders is free until midnight PT.
Returns: Ideeli’s 14-day return policy applies to shoes and some apparel—that means no returns on accessories, home décor and the like. Return shipping is free, and you’ll be able to use the refund for store credit.
Extra Perks: Oprah fans rejoice: Ideeli has launched The O Shop, a sale section where editors from O, The Oprah Magazine curate their favorite items. For two weeks each month, the O experts showcase their picks, ranging from food to fashion and everything in between. Ideeli also offers a $25 refer-a-friend credit.
eBay has long been a destination for fashionistas who engage in heated bidding wars over designer clothing. (If you’ve been a bidder, you know that a lust-worthy designer piece can cause some serious e-drama.) So it makes sense that the site would spread the fashion love and start offering direct-from-designer products via its Fashion Vault. While you may not find pieces that are as high end as what you’d score on Gilt or HauteLook, you will find new, in-season designer clothes and accessories and even capsule collections from the likes of Narciso Rodriguez.
Sale Info: Sales for each designer last for 60 hours or less. If you join the Fashion Vault “In Crowd,” which you can do with the click of a button after you first log on, you’ll get extra perks, including early access to sales, invites to secret sales and exclusive coupons and promotions.
Extrabux Discount: Save 1-4% cash back at eBay Fashion Vault
Shopability: Finding the perfect piece with the Fashion Vault is as easy as it gets. Aside from its clean, simple layout, the site categorizes its offerings by piece—dresses, jackets, handbags and so on—and then lets you sort by price and featured items. If you already have an eBay account, you can link it with your Fashion Vault account just by signing in with your usual eBay log-in information.
Mobility: You can follow the Fashion Vault on Twitter for info about sales, but the site doesn’t offer any mobile apps.
Shipping: Shipping is where the Fashion Vault really has other flash sale sites beat. And by beat, we mean it’s free—always. No need to worry about how much your spoils will cost to ship. Items are typically delivered within 9 to 13 business days.
Returns: Items can be returned within 14 days, but the return shipping will cost you $8.95.
Extra Perks: Aside from free shipping and $10 bonuses for friend referrals, regular eBay shoppers will appreciate the familiarity of shopping via the Fashion Vault. Once you’ve set your sights on a tasty fashion treat, you’ll find that the item’s product page is very much the same as any other you’ve encountered when shopping on eBay. And, with so many private sale sites to choose from, there certainly is something to be said for a friendly face.
Prada, Balenciaga, Valentino, Fendi… if it’s high end and highly covetable, you’ll find it here. Editors’ Closet is all about the luxury brands that are the trappings of, well, a fashion editor’s dreamy, label-filled closet. If you dream in Moschino and Stella McCartney, this hub for clothes, accessories, shoes and more just may become your newest shopping addiction.
Sale Info: At Editors’ Closet, sales start at 11 am ET and last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. But with limited quantities of merchandise, you can bet that if you want it, someone else wants it, too. Be sure to check the site’s calendar to see what labels will be hitting the virtual racks.
Extrabux Discount: Save 4% cash back at Editors’ Closet
Shopability: You can only sort items by price, which isn’t exactly helpful when you just know you want a pair of Prada peep-toe pumps in a size 7. But at these prices, who’s complaining?
Mobility: Shoppers can keep watch for Editors’ Closet sale info via Facebook and Twitter and can visit the site’s blog for some juicy tidbits on what’s to come. Alas, the site offers no mobile apps yet.
Shipping: Editors’ Closet offers same-day shipping for in-stock merchandise if you order before 2 pm ET. Yes, you read that right—same day. And you’ll get free shipping for all orders of more than $75 (like we needed any more incentive to spend!).
Returns: Editors’ Closet accepts returns within 14 days for store credit, but shoppers will have to foot the bill for return shipping. Unlike many private sale sites, Editors’ Closet does accept returns on footwear, accessories, beauty products and even swimwear and intimate apparel if the items are unworn and the security tag is still in tact—a relief to anyone who fears spending most of next month’s rent on a gorgeous pair of shoes before trying them on.
Extra Perks: You’ll get $25 in virtual cash to spend when you refer a friend. Plus, if you’re into suspense and even better discounts, watch for the Editors’ Closet “Going, Going Gone” sales. The site’s editors may be tight-lipped about what you’ll find each time one of these last-chance sales launches, but the prices and selection often live up to the hype.
If you’re more into home décor than fashion (or if your closet is simply too stuffed and you’ve deemed the ottoman your new object of affection), meet Eziba. Brought to you by the people at Overstock.com, Eziba offers deep discounts on home goods, accessories and appliances from major brands. Expect to find items that are a bit more upscale than the typical Overstock.com inventory, including brands like C.G. Sparks, Kitchenaid and Lenox.
Sale Info: Sales start at 11am ET and last between 48 and 72 hours.
Extrabux Discount: None
Shopability: When it comes to home décor shopping, you don’t exactly need to sort by dress size. But the ability to organize area rugs by price or artwork by size would be nice. While you won’t find any categories that increase ease of shopping, those who are already Overstock.com members will find that their account info has carried over to Eziba, which does simplify login for some. Buyers can also use Paypal and Bill Me Later options.
Mobility: No mobile apps.
Shipping: Just like Overstock.com, your entire order ships for $2.95, which is oh-so exciting when you realize that a couch ships for the same price as a candlestick.
Returns: Eziba issues full refunds within 30 days.
Extra Perks: There is no bonus for friend referrals, but did we mention that you’ll only pay $2.95 to ship that huge sectional sofa?
If you’re passionate about building your nest but want designer décor items that are a bit more high end than what you’d find on Eziba, skip on over to One King’s Lane. This design hub features décor, home essentials and items to help you entertain in style. If you’re in need of a housewarming or wedding gift—or any kind of present, for that matter—you’ll surely find it here. Be sure to stop by “The Pantry” for specialty spices and herbs, imported specialty foods and exceptional ingredients (the black truffle risotto kit from New York City’s Primizie Fine Foods had us salivating). And don’t miss the site’s impressive selection of beautiful coffee table books.
Sale Info: At least three new sales launch each weekday at 11 am ET and last 72 hours. Members receive daily emails that announce new events and provide designer dossiers.
Extrabux Discount: None
Shopability: One King’s Lane allows you to sort items by price and by availability, which helps you avoid the inevitable letdown when you realize that an item you really, really want is sold out. Plus, the site will hold selections in your cart for you for 15 minutes.
Mobility: No mobile apps.
Shipping: Expect 12 to 20 business days for orders to arrive. Shipping rates vary depending on how much you spend. Spend less than $50, and your shipping cost will be $7.95. Spend $200, and shipping will be $15.95. If it’s furniture that you’re after, note that shipping costs and arrival times for bigger pieces may be higher.
Returns: The site accepts returns within 14 days for store credit. You can find out what items are eligible for returns on each product page.
Extra Perks: Rather than just giving you credit when you refer a friend, One King’s Lane spreads the love. Friends you invite will get $15 for joining, and you’ll get $15 when friends make their first purchases. Not sure how to spend that $15? Check out the site’s “Get Inspired” feature for design ideas and then hit up the “Tastemaker Tag Sales at Twilight,” which feature products curated by leading designers.
Zulily offers daily deals on hard-to-find items for babies and kids, including apparel, hip nursery décor (yes, it does exist!) and goodies for moms. Zulily carries boutique-worthy gear—we’re talking European high chairs and cribs, organic baby duds and modern art for children’s rooms—at up to 70 percent off. The site is perfect for busy moms with discerning taste and anyone looking for sure-to-please gifts for baby showers.
Sale Info: New sales launch every day and last up to 72 hours, and members receive daily email alerts full of tempting deals.
Extrabux Discount: Save 4% cash back at Zulily
Shopability: Zulily allows you to sort items like clothing and artwork by size, but be sure you know baby’s size because returns can be tricky.
Mobility: No mobile apps.
Shipping: Orders ship within 10 to 14 days. The cost of shipping varies by item—and baby furniture and other bulky items may carry additional charges—so be sure to check the shopping basket to verify shipping charges before completing your order.
Returns: Zulily typically doesn’t accept returns or exchanges, but shoppers can check the product information page to see if an item is eligible for return. Returned items that Zulily does accept will be credited toward a future purchase.
Extra Perks: Invite friends and get $10 to spend when they place an order. Added bonus for moms with camera skills and especially photogenic babies: Zulily hosts a weekly photo contest. If your child’s photo earns the most votes, you’ll win a $10 credit. Plus, if your cutie is chosen as the month’s winner, you’ll win an extra $20 credit and your photo will be featured on the site’s sign-in page.