Turns out WalMart and Amazon aren’t the only retailers finding shelter from the economic storm. A small group of invitation-only retail sites are establishing growth with high-end product and shrewd marketing.
The three attracting the most attention are Gilt.com, ideeli.com, and RueLaLa.com. Gilt has a high powered executive team including DoubleClick founder Kevin Ryan and former Martha Stewart Omnimedia CEO Susan Lyne. The three share a basic business model. You get an invitation from a member, you join, you get a preview of a designer boutique event, then you buy. First come, first served. Stores magazine reports that Gilt has added membership each month since its November 2007 launch. RueLaLa claims membership in the “hundreds of thousands.” Ideeli also has “hundreds of thousands of members” and doubled its business during the fourth quarter of 2008 over 2007, according to fashion industry trade JC Report.