Saks to Debut Designer Flash Sales

Department retailer Saks Fifth Avenue will join the likes of membership sites Gilt Groupe, Ideeli, and Rue La La when it debuts the online-only flash sale portal August 9.

Saks fans will recognize the limited-time sale model (24 hours or less) and merchandise (past-season and specially-created goods from the likes of Elizabeth & James and Catherine Malandrino) as similar to those previously featured on — except now, they'll be offered at least once a day, rather than a few times per season. mailing list members will enjoy automatic members-only access, while new shoppers will have to sign up for sale alerts on their own.

Saks Direct president Denise Incandela told WWD that the long-researched move was in response to luxury shoppers looking to the web — and limited time discounts — when making designer purchases:

"We're excited about this phase. Consumer behavior is changing rapidly and they're embracing the flash sale market. This is a tremendous opportunity to attract new customers and increase the existing customers spend [on our site]," Incandela said.

Apart from designer discount chain Century 21, which launched diffusion label flash sales this April, this marks the first major U.S. retailer to enter the designer membership market as a fully integrated, online brand.

It's no wonder that Saks wants a piece of the action: One-off membership sites are gaining in popularity — and racking up impressive numbers in the process. Flash sale originator Gilt Groupe is currently valued at $1 billion thanks to a recent $138 million investor infusion, and pre-order site Moda Operandi — which allows members to buy pieces straight from the runway — raised a whopping $10 million in funding since launching earlier this spring.

Another major department store, Nordstrom, acquired accessories-driven site in February, and while the two brands have yet to publicly merge their sales or websites, The New York Times reported that the department store's annual profits lept 35 percent after the private company's purchase.

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