By now, savvy shoppers are well-versed in the art of the flash sale. Websites such as Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and HauteLook have been laying the groundwork for limited-time online sales since 2007.
But with the emergence of online coupon sites including Groupon and Living Social, it was only a matter of time before the two converged. The result is twofold: Coupon sites are offering more retail-driven discounts, and editorial sites are launching platforms to combine content with commerce. Here is a map of some of the online avenues for saving on clothes, accessories and more:
The bottom line
If you're a budget-conscious shopper, online deal sites can offer vouchers on fashion and beauty items that yield significant savings. Take care to note restrictions.
Where to shop
Refinery29.com offers an edited selection of shopping deals through Reserve (reserve.refinery29.com/new-york), a sister e-commerce site that caters to fashion-savvy readers. The concept is different from a flash sale "because we look for brands that are doing newsworthy, unique things," says Amy Gruenhut, partnership director for Reserve. The site is the first to offer coupon-style savings at high-end boutiques, beauty retailers and online shops carrying indie designer goods. Unlike its ticking-clock counterparts, Reserve's offerings usually are available for seven days. Get a $25 credit when you refer someone who makes a purchase.
What you get
Curious whether a deal is, in fact, a deal? Here are some sample online offerings:
Refinery29 Reserve: Specialty bridal boutique the Aisle New York offered online shopping vouchers for gowns, accessories and lingerie. The cost: $75 for $150 worth of goods; $250 for $500; and $500 for $1,000. On the lower end, hair-care e-boutique Folica.com offered $10 and $25 vouchers for $20 and $50 worth of goods, respectively.
Before you buy
Before you whip out your credit card, keep in mind that a "deal" is good only if you can use it. The best advice? Study the fine print. Below, additional tips to help you get the most for your money:
Mind the expiration date. Some deals expire a year from purchase, and others are good for only one day. If the deal mentions seasonal offerings, such as summer clothing, pay attention to the fine print; in many cases, a deal like this is good for only a few weeks.
Ignore your mother's advice -- you actually do have to spend it all at once. In most cases, you have to use the entire voucher at the time of purchase, meaning you won't get credit for any unused value.
Don't get swept away by percentages. Before that "75 percent off!" alarm sounds in your head, get an idea of the store's price points -- after all, a $25 voucher doesn't go very far when an average item costs $300.
Most vouchers come with a "no returns" policy. But if you're stuck with something you don't love, keep any tags or packaging intact. You'll make more selling an item on Ebay or at a consignment store if it's in new-with-tags condition.