Sample Sales Thrive But The Sites Publicizing Them Die
We had just re-launched The Stylish City with a new, more functional design (yes… again!) when we got the alert that Racked had published their final post. Their short farewell note sent us to their newly launched The Goods by Vox for stories about what people buy and why. In all honesty, Racked stepped away from sample sales coverage a couple of years back when they hired a new editor-in-chief. She decided to focus her resources on turning the website’s spotlight on fashion news and features. You can’t blame her, but you also can’t blame me—sample sale queen—for being sad. I was suddenly worrying: was that a sign that there is no hope to have a sustainable business model in this sample sale publishing space?
While bloggers with real rent-paying-jobs or understanding husbands (guilty as charged) can afford to cover NYC sample sales, it is hardly a business model to be envied. Do you remember DailyCandy? NBC closed them down unceremoniously due to decreased traffic. Even the beloved Mizhattan and the mizterious miss (or miz?) behind it has bowed out. Why? (Reveal yourself to me regardless because I want to meet you!)
What are the factors affecting this sample sale space that make it so difficult for websites about sample sales to survive? Sample sales are thriving, after all. Here is the good news about our beloved sample sales:
- Sample sale events have evolved from showing a limited number of real factory sample sales in the 90s to mostly selling excess inventory today. Let’s call a spade a spade” sample sales are overstock sales with large inventories.
- People love the thrill of scoring a bargain, so the public interest for sample sales has increased, despite the significant difficulties physical retail is facing. Brands took notice and turned it into a lifeline for them, and an opportunity for aspirational and budget shoppers.
- Sample sale events are organized these days. Some brands open up their showrooms so you can meet the designer (this happened to me at a Rachel Roy sample sale!).
- Most brands have stopped keeping the sample sale information secret, and they gladly share it with outlets that will publish it for free.
And yet companies like DailyCandy, Racked, and Mizhattan have all had to call it quits despite all of this good news. The question remains: WHY? Here’s the bad news that we suspect may be contributing to the potential demise of the sites who spread the word about sample sales:
- Prices of samples sales have increased as prices on overstock inventory cannot be as low as those of real samples. Ask anyone who works in the accounting department and they will explain to you why. Also, hiring an external company like 260 Sample Sale to host the sample sale, which has proven to be quite successful, comes at a cost. That leaves little room for other expenses like… advertisement.
- Sample Sales tend to be cyclical While website traffic is high during the months of April-May and October-November, “sample sale season” it decreases significantly during “off season” months.
- Companies like 260 Sample Sale do their own dissemination of news through their customer list. They organize most NYC sample sales and are very transparent with products, prices, and even images. That doesn’t leave much room for a site like Racked to bring in newsworthy articles.
- It appears to be easy to copy large amounts of information from one site to another, which makes business tough. A competitor once asked me if I would agree to willingly give them access to my database or if they would have to “scrape” my site for that information without my approval. Yikes.
- High end brands continue to host “by invitation only” sample sales for their customers. Others prefer to burn merchandise worth millions of dollars than discount it. Um, really, Burberry?
- There is very little money to be made in advertising products at the end of life cycle. Companies push new products, but have little interest in investing more money in overstock items. It’s sad they don’t understand it’s a great opportunity to let aspirational shoppers become ambassadors for their brand.
Needless to say, we understand, Racked. And let this be our farewell letter to you. You will be missed and we are sad to see you go the same way DailyCandy and Mizhattan went. The Stylish City is still here… for now. But hopefully, for much longer…
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