Adventures in Online Shopping: Which Flash Sale Sites Are Still Worth Stalking?

flash sale sites I was looking through the archives of this blog a while ago, and found my old post on sample sale sites.  Man! I remember when flash sale sites like Gilt and Ideeli were shiny and new, and things seriously did sell out in minutes. Then, everyone and their sister started a flash sale site — and half of the comments on this site were asking whether people thought X site or Y site was reputable/worthy.  It’s 2017 now, and I thought it might make an interesting discussion: do YOU still use flash sale sites? Which ones do you love the most — and do you look for specific things on them, or do you just generally like to shop on them? Do you have any preferred tricks for shopping the sites (always use the app! search by X! stalk sales with THIS site)?

For my $.02, while I’m no longer setting my alarm to flash sale sites, I’m still vaguely aware of Gilt (ooh, now offering free returns at Saks OFF5TH stores), Rue La La, and Hautelook (now affiliated with Nordstrom Rack, with free returns to any Rack store). I’ve bought something from all of them recentlyish, I think — a painting from Gilt, Spanx tights from Rue La La, and some hot pink Alexis Bittar earrings from Hautelook — but none of them are really on my radar on a daily basis. (OK, fine: I’ve also searched One King’s Lane and Joss & Main lately for a piece of furniture, as well as Zulily for kid clothes.) I have heard of them being particularly good for some categories of shopping, though, so I thought I’d share:

  • Maternity clothes! The trick here is that the maternity sales are often advertised in the children’s section — which if you don’t have kids yet, you may not be checking.
  • Weird bra sizes. As someone who’s been anywhere from a 30F (at my skinniest) to 38G (while nursing), I definitely get the appeal of seeing a ton of weird European brands that, whoa, offer my size. I’ve yet to pull the trigger because I feel really happy in my current bras (dare I give them HG status?) — but I’ve heard of a lot of women searching for their Holy Grail bra and found it’s a weird Polish brand that’s only sold on a spot like Zulily.
  • Organic cotton. After some skin issues, I try whenever possible to buy organic cotton for my eldest son, particularly for underwear and PJs — and they are often extraordinarily expensive considering he grows out of them pretty quickly. I’d read that Zulily in particular is great to stalk for sales of organic cotton, particularly for European brands where they have more rigorous labeling/certification requirements like OEKO-TEX. Fortunately we’ve been happy with our purchases at Amazon (Burts’ Bees, New Jammies, City Threads), Costco (Kirkland organic PJs for the win!), sale-stalking at Hanna Andersson, and H&M’s Conscious-Sustainable style line — so I haven’t had to stalk Zulily too hard.

And, just for kicks, here are the main sales of note on the flash sale sites today:

  • Gilt: French Connection, French Sole, Narciso Rodriguez — and use code SPRING20 to get 20% off your order.
  • Rue La La: Parker, DvF, Salvatore Ferragamo, French Sole.
  • Hautelook: Eileen Fisher (including plus & petites and shoes), Delman, Le Mystere, Hunter, All Saints Handbags, Jeffrey Campbell shoes.
  • One King’s Lane: Lots of “shop by style” boutiques, including Parisian Chic, Coastal Charm, Modern Glamour, Hotel Luxe, and Modern Ease
  • Joss & Main: Office finds under $300, Lighting under $150
  • Zulily: Wallis Evera (hemp workwear), Naturalizer, Oliver Gal, VANELi (just keep scrolling if you can’t find them on first search)

Psst: we’ve talked in the past about what to shop for on eBay, as well as what to look for at thrift stores — and we just updated our post with tips for shopping at outlet malls

So let’s hear it, readers — are you still shopping at the flash sale sites, even in 2017? Which are your favorite ones, and what do you stalk at the flash sale sites? 

Pictured: Fotolia / Ivan Kruk.

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flash sale sites 2017the best flash sale sites of 2017


  1. I still check out Rue La La every day, but I buy less. I wish they had some better information on sizing. My husband does really well on it though, buying Brooks Brothers all the time! I check out zulily occasionally for my son . It has too much stuff though and is overwhelming and lot of the Melissa and Doug toys are comparably priced on Amazon.

  2. I unsubscribed to all of those years ago and don’t regret it. I’m also so spoiled with the return policy at Nordstrom that I can’t be bothered to go elsewhere, honestly.

  3. I ignore all of them, though did use Rue for a year or so, maybe 10 years ago? Fake urgency, fake clothes (some brands make versions just for flash sales), and no chance of finding something that I actually *need.*

  4. Anonymous in Texas :

    Banana Republic and Athleta are having their friends/family sale next week. For BR, you get 50% off any 5 items! It’s really a great deal. You have to get a coupon though and the coupons can’t be shared/forwarded. So if you know anyone who works for BR, Athleta or Gap, they can send you the coupon. Go to your FB and ask if anyone has a contact who works there.

  5. I seriously considered buying a shinola on the recently hautelook sale but alas, I bought a new rice cooker the day before and needed to put the brakes on spending. I’ll check the hautelook sale for frye, aquatalia, kate spade, and similar brands, but I rarely ever get anything.

  6. I was kind of hooked on zulily because they often featured my favorite shoe brand (the late, great Fidji) and they carried plus sizes. But I don’t like to pay for shipping and I can’t stand a no-returns policy. I also decided I didn’t like the cheap crap I was getting clothing-wise and would rather have fewer, higher quality pieces. So I want cold turkey and it was for the best.

  7. Anonymous :

    I’m really not their target market since I’m not a spontaneous shopper and dislike trying new brands online, but I did always check zulily when they had a brand that I knew and liked when I had a purchase coming (ie, Kid A will need new shoes in the next month, Kid B has a birthday coming so if something strikes my fancy).

    But I don’t anymore. 6pm sells on amazon, so I can get clearance shoes with free shipping and returns, for example. Nordstroms Rack created a website. Similar to groupon ‘deals’ and lines made just for outlet malls, I’m skeptical that I can always get the best deal.

  8. I could never do Zulily because the types of sales they have are too hit or miss for me. I occasionally will check out Rue or Gilt or HauteLook if I am looking for an item online. But I do not check any of them regularly and have deleted all three apps. What really did them in for me was when they started selling lots of their own labels.

  9. I still do Rue a fair amount for certain designers that I know I like and fit me well – I’ve have amazing success with Tory Burch, gotten some Stuart Weitzman and Cole Haan shoes, and some Tahari-type work dresses, as well as lots of Brooks Brothers for DH. I pay the annual fee for the free shipping and have found their return policy to work well for me. Gilt on the other hand I don’t shop anymore because of their return policy (I do not have time to get to Saks Off5th). Zulily makes you pay for shipping, and typically I don’t find the prices on their kids stuff any better than what I could find elsewhere online, so I very rarely order from them

    • +1, adding L K Bennett, Kate Spade, Brooks Brothers, Trina Turk and Lafayette 148 to your Rue list. I don’t buy final sale, though.

  10. Tech Comm Geek :

    I use Zulily every once in a while, but I’ve not been happy with the quality of the last couple of things I’ve gotten there. On the other hand, I got the purse I love there for an excellent deal. They take forever to ship.

    I’ll check in for brands I know. Last week they had a major SmartWool event going on, but we’re fully stocked on SmartWool socks.

  11. I’ve never really done much on flash sites other than look at Kings Lane.

    I’ve bought more clothes in the past six months than I had in ages, because I’ve lost 40 lbs. I buy things in my new size and I have intentionally bought things too small as incentives. So far there are two tops for around $15 and Tahari skirt for $35 that I don’t want and can’t return (and today I’m undecided on shorts I just got that I meant to order too tight but they fit me just right–I have about 15 more pounds to go). I sometimes stalk items on Hannah Andersson, Soft Surroundings, or other sites until they go on sale, but most of my shopping by far is at Nordstrom/Nordstrom Rack/HauteLook. I’m getting to know the woman at the Nordy’s retune desk in our mall.

    I went on Lyst for the first time last weekend. Buying from them looks great, but I haven’t figured out how returns work.

  12. I had a bad experience with Rue La La that made me shy of all these sites. (I bought a vintage bag but they sent it via this weird combination where Fed Ex hands the package off to USPS, which might make some sense in a rural location but this was downtown Chicago, and anyway the package never arrived, and I had to go to the post office to try to find out what happened, and the whole thing was very inconvenient and disappointing. RLL did refund my payment, to be fair, but I really wanted the bag.) Sales at Nordtsrom’s, Saks, and Neiman’s are my go-to sites for deals.

  13. SV engineer :

    I watch HauteLook for the brands that I like, especially since returns are so easy for me at Nordstrom Rack. I pay much more attention to Nordstrom sales, though.

  14. I love a good deal so the first sites I check on a daily basis are sassysteals, groopdealz and sigbees.

  15. Hello everyone!
    “Shop It To Me” would be another good addition to this list. :)

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