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I recently made my first purchase from Gilt Groupe, an online sample sale website that launched back in November, and I have to say that I am seriously impressed with the quality of their merchandise and high level of service. First off, a little background: The site, which is invitation-only, holds 24-hour sales a few times per week with designer merchandise often selling out within the first hour. Gilt has featured big, big names like Just Cavalli, Vivienne Tam, Allegra Hicks, Gustto and Jill Stuart, to name a few. The selection is always impressive, as are the prices - considering the original price - but that doesn't mean we're crazy enough to buy this stuff. A Rachel Roy dress that's marked from $600 down to $300 is still three hundred dollars, people. We usually spend about $30 for a dress. Oh yes. Not more.
However, we've promoted the site to you, our dear readers, and therefore we had to bite the bullet and give Gilt a test drive ourselves. It's sort of my unwritten policy to have personal experience with every online store or retailer that we feature, and certainly with any beauty products we feature (which we buy ourselves, no freebies to speak of!)
So when Gilt announced they were having a Chip & Pepper denim sale, I marked my calendar and waited, poised to make a reasonably-priced purchase as soon as the sale began. Here's what I learned: You better be online and ready with credit card in hand the moment a sale starts. Decide on the dollar amount you're willing to spend before the "doors" open. Do not go over. My cap was $100 for a pair of jeans (waaay more than I usually spend, but these are normally $200 jeans). I already knew my size and the style I was after because my sister scored a pair of Chip & Pepper Nic skinnies for me back in the fall for just $25 on eBay, and I adore these jeans. They fit like a second skin, and I wear them like every day.
So I had rationalized the price in my mind before the Gilt sample sale even began. When it did, I located the jeans I wanted (a bootcut, medium wash style since I already have dark wash skinnies). Found my size, tried to add it to my cart - denied. I got a message saying that my desired size and style were no longer available, and that I could either try again in a few minutes, or opt to be alerted via email when the jeans became available. I decided to wait. Refreshed my browser a minute later, and this time, success! I added the jeans to my cart, and checked out rather effortlessly. When I came back in 15 minutes, the jeans I bought were completely sold out. Yeah, that fast.
Imagine my surprise when my order arrived at my front door the very next day, even though I selected regular ground shipping. Now that's what I call service! I was even pleased with the packaging: Black lined box, black tissue paper, black note with a message from Gilt written in gold ink, the receipt, and my jeans. A sophisticated presentation helps when you're buying designer duds, even if it's at a sample sale. And the jeans! They fit like a glove. What a relief, since buying jeans online is nearly an impossibility.
So there you have it. Such was my first experience with Gilt, conducted purely for research purposes (ya know, so I could write this review!). If my jeans didn't fit, and I needed to return them, I'd have the option of doing so for credit (no refunds on these sample sale items.) I don't know what Gilt's secret is, because the jeans I bought happen to be available at Shopbop for twice the price I paid, but hey, whatever they're doing is working.
If there is a designer you really love, keep an eye on Gilt and give it a shot. I don't recommend simply making pricey impulse purchases just because they have designer stuff marked down. Remember, it's not what you save, in the end, it's what you spend. But if you're looking for something special - perhaps a special occasion dress, classic blazer or quality leather purse that you'll have for years - you won't have to fight crowds or wait in line to shop at Gilt. And you'll be made to feel like a full-price paying fashionista.