For aspiring Carrie Bradshaws, getting the best deals on luxury clothes and accessories comes down to who you know and if they'll invite you to shop. RueLaLa, a Web site launched by Retail Convergence this spring, is an invitation-only private sale site that features two-day sales on high-end, current-season merchandise. Its membership is exclusively user generated.
RueLaLa.com, which was re-platformed by Boston-based Optaros, is just the latest entrant into the new but growing field of private-event retailing, which includes fashion sites Gilt.com, Ideeli.com and Hautelook.com. All of the sites are banking on the success of their European forerunner, French site Vente-Privee.com, to make a splash in the states, according to Adam Michelson, director of e-commerce at Optaros. "Retailers are creating the community themselves," Michelson says. "Here, they're trying to have a retail site first and then create community around it."
The idea of the online private-event sale comes from the brick-and-mortar retail world, he says, where special sales are offered to preferred customers. "It's social in that it's a club. It's exclusive because you have to be invited and have to be invited by someone you know, so there's already a higher degree of trust with the site."Are e-tailers ready to jump on the SmallWorld bandwagon? "Retailers, I don't know if they love the word innovation - they're bottom-line people," he says. "But right now, e-commerce is really an innovative area."