The Leading Flash Sales Sites May Surprise You

Flash sales sites — which specialize in liquidating unsold inventory at greatly reduced prices — are on the rise.

In July, traffic to the sites increased 368 percent, and by 109 percent when compared to the same month two years ago and last year, respectively.

But increasing interest in discounted merchandise in a down economy is not what’s surprising — nearly everyone enjoys the thrill of catching a really great deal, right?

What’s more revealing, in a report published by Experian Hitwise, is who the market leaders are, in terms of number of visits to their sites.

Most flash sales sites entice shoppers by sending them emails with colorful images of clothing, toys, furniture, wine or high-end apparel. From there, buyers click through to the site to see prices and make purchases before the inventory runs out.

According to the report, the top five sites are Zulily, Ideeli, LivingSocial Escapes, Woot! and HauteLook. (See the top 15 in the chart below.)

What’s worth noting about the list is that Zulily, the Seattle-based flash sales site that specializes in kids’ clothing, announced last week that it raised $43 million in venture capital. New York-based Ideeli raised $41 million in April. And another heavy hitter, Gilt Groupe, which recently raised $138 million, ranked No. 7.

Also worth noting is that Amazon is associated with three of the companies in the top 15. The e-commerce giant is a major investor in LivingSocial, which ranked third. The company, which is known for competing against Groupon, also operates Escapes, which offers discounts on travel. Amazon also owns the fourth-largest site, Woot, which it acquired more than a year ago, and it owns MyHabit — in 11th place — a flash sales site it launched in May. Despite being only two months old, MyHabit’s traffic jumped 128 percent since launching, according to Experian Hitwise.

Other findings: 

  • The market is still extremely fragmented. The leader, Zulily, had only 16.3 percent market share, followed by Ideeli with 9.3 percent and LivingSocial Escapes with 8.6 percent.
  • HauteLook, which was acquired by Nordstrom, ranked as the fifth largest.
  • In the past six months, visits to Ideeli increased 42 percent; Gilt.com was up 14 percent and HauteLook went up eight percent.
  • Flash sales shoppers were over index against the online population for household incomes over $100,000 and creditworthiness.


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