Eye on the Industry. Gilt (y) Pleasure

May 22, 2008 • Shopping


Natayle Henry for Second City Style Magazine

GILT Groupe, a high-end online sample sale, has taken the
retail industry by storm. Traditionally sample sales were a
highly-coveted past time mostly for New York women seeking exceptional
deals on exclusive brands. Exciting and yet sometimes dangerous, sample
sales were the best way to look like a billion while only spending
$100. Well Alexis and Alexandra, founders of GILT Groupe, have changed that.
The excitement and bargains are still there, but without the danger.
They have changed the stigma associated with the sales and have now
made it an enjoyable endeavor by bringing the sample sale to you! Some
might call these women innovators or entrepreneurs, but I call them
geniuses. I sat down with Alexis to learn more.

SCS:Tell me a little about GILT Groupe.

Alexis: I started GILT Groupe last year with my
friend, Alexandra Wilson. We’d known each other for over ten years. She
hails from the luxury fashion world [like] Loius Vuitton managing their
leather goods business and Bulgari managing their retail stores
for a while as well. I come strictly from the e-commerce world. I was
one of the first employees at Ebay and worked at Ebay for
nearly four years as it scaled from about 40 employees to about 5,000
employees. I ran two businesses for Ebay.

We used to be here in NY attending sample sales and fielding all
sorts of incoming calls from family members that called outside of NY
metro area. So we started thinking that this could be a really
lucrative business to be online. If you were to ever attend a sample
here in NYC you would see lines around the block buzzing with frenzy
and excitement. It’s such a fun form of [basically] retailing. So
we thought the perfect thing to bring online to the Internet would be
this sample sale format. Quick sales featuring one highly sought after
brand in a really short time period.
And it’s something that’s
available mostly to people in the metro NY area. We thought it would be
great to reach a national audience and showcase items. You don’t have
to leave your office or home to stand in line. So that was really our
inspiration and it matched our backgrounds really nicely given my
Internet focus and her longtime luxury/fashion focus.

SCS: There have been a growing number of online sample sales. What makes GILT different?

Alexis: Well GILT is the only site that works
directly with a brand. Literally the one that has personal
relationships with the brands. We don’t sell sourced inventory and will
never source inventory from third parties. Third parties are
individuals who place certain inventory on other websites or [places
like] Filene’s Basement and Century 21. We pride our personal
relationships with the brands that allows us to hand-select those very,
very best, tightly edited selection of goods on our site. It makes it
such we can take out selection and work very closely with them to show
runway shows on the site and interviews with the designers, himself or
herself. So that relationship is very critical and a big differentiator
between GILT and others. And we only focus right now on brands that we feel have a high demand and have a very loyal consumer following. We work with a range of those from Diane Von Furstenberg to Valentino
that is almost an iconic brand in many ways. Not always available not
always accessible in a local outlet, but for us it’s the breadth that’s
important to us.

Read more "Gilt (y) Pleasure" here

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