Interview: Flash Growth at HauteLook.com
Listen to an in-depth interview with Kerry Bennett,
director of marketing communications for Hautelook.com. See the RetailWire
sales, flash sales, sample sales – a new breed of websites offering discounted
merchandise for a limited time only are taking off and among the most popular
is HauteLook.com, which has attracted over two million members in the U.S.
and Canada since it first launched in September 2007.
HauteLook partners with
brands in a variety of product categories allowing the designers to select
both the merchandise and pricing of items sold. The retailer handles fulfillment
for all orders with a warehouse positioned on both coasts to expedite orders.
“Unlike some other competitors in this space, we typically don’t buy
the merchandise up front,” said Kerry Bennett,
director of marketing communications for HauteLook. “So we partner with them (brands) every step of the
way, from deciding when their
event is going to be, what inventory is going to be available, what sizes and
what amount. We produce the event in-house entirely. They get approval over
it, and then — while the event is going on — they get clear visibility into
all the metrics of the sale. At the end we place an order with the brand for
just what’s sold.”
Ms. Bennett said the site’s merchandise
falls under the “casual chic” tent.
“It’s that kind of style we are really trying to cultivate,” she
very real world; it’s very wearable. When it comes to your home, it’s very
accessible and that’s something that members really respond to on our site.
It’s finding these brands that they know but also finding brands that they
don’t know that fits into this style.”
Meeting the needs of its members has led HauteLook
into new product categories.
“We started with women’s apparel and accessories and that’s certainly
a very core business for us, but we’ve expanded pretty quickly into men’s,
into kid’s, into beauty, which is a huge business for us. Also, into home.
We’ve had Omaha Steaks on the site a few times, and people love them,” said
“We’ve just had our first event with Exhale Spas, which is a chain of
spas and fitness centers in the country and that did really well for us —
more of an experiential thing. I think we will probably explore that as well,” she
The site’s rapid growth has taken the company somewhat by surprise. “We
literally did not have a marketing department six months ago, so it was really
a business built on word of mouth,” said Ms. Bennett. “We had over
a million members before we started marketing, and even today 60 percent of
our buyers are coming from either direct referrals, directly from the site
or word of mouth from members. So really, the virality of the business was
not something that you typically see so quickly in retail. It’s something that
really took off and we continue to be really, just thrilled by.”
Discussion Questions: Why do you think flash sales sites appear to be catching
on so quickly with consumers? What do you think about HauteLook.com’s business
model? Will we see mainstream retailers start to move aggressively into this
space in the near future?