It’s true -- sample sale sites can be dangerous places. Those low, low, limited-time-only prices can suck you in faster than you can say Fendi. But they can also be a girl’s best friend. Gift-giving (for other people or to yourself) is suddenly elevated. That Jonathan Adler giraffe lamp that you’ve spent six months saving for -- yours.
Do a quick online search for sample sale sites and thousands of results are returned. So to save you some time (and research, ugh) I’ve rounded up some of the best of the web. These sites offer up information openly, are reputable and well reviewed, and are free to join. Plus, they have kick-ass discounts on awesome loot.
Savings for Babies and Kids
The Mini Social -- This site, built by moms, is updated every weekday, and savings can be up to 60 percent in some cases. Designers include milkdot, lola et moi, and the ever-adorable kukunest. Sales only last a few days, and shipping, though reasonably priced, can take up to two weeks. The site states that it's invitation only, but it appears that you can also sign up for an account. Bonus: You can feel good about shopping there because a portion of all proceeds goes to UNICEF and Shoe4Africa.
Zulily -- Sells a wide range of boutique brands for moms, babies, and kids, including some maternity and household items. With savings up to 70 percent and free membership, you also get access to five special shopping events each weekday. Like The Mini Social, shipping can take up to two weeks -- but there is no set shipping rate. Each package will vary. Drawback: The site doesn’t usually accept returns or exchanges.
Kids.woot! -- An offshoot of the popular techie sale site, woot!, kids.woot! focuses on … kids. Each day the site features one product at a deep sale price, and it sells until it’s gone. Next day, next product. The day I checked, a $29.95 Gr8x diaper changing wallet was on sale for $9.95 -- pretty decent deal. They sell for all ages: Past sales have included a plush musical rocker, an alarm clock, and Baby Genius CDs. Shipping is only via Fed-Ex at this time.
Totsy -- Advertising exclusive sales for moms, kids, and babies with savings of up to 80 percent off, this site won my heart. For every purchase you make, they’ll plant a tree and they claim to be a “green” company. Like the other sites, sales are for a limited time, just three days. Currently they are running sales on items from Petunia Pickle Bottom, Ellie B, and Nicole Miller -- so the picks are good. Drawback: Shipping times edge up on four weeks, so you’ll have to be patient with your purchase.
Savings for the Home
One Kings Lane -- Easily the best of the lot, One Kings Lane specializes in deeply discounted designer home décor and essentials from outfits like Dwell Studio. Offerings are at up to 70% off retail, and new sales launch every day at 11 a.m. EST -- now you don’t have to wait till Monday to score! They also offer a curated boutique of must-have items in limited quantities.
The Top Secret -- Although they sell mostly clothes, the site also sells products for the home, sometimes at as much as 90% off. They run new sales every day, with each one lasting no more than 4 days. Past sales have included brands like L.A.M.B., Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, and Heys Luggage. Drawback: Information about the particulars (shipping, etc.) is impossible to get unless you actually become a member.
Row Nine -- Selling just about everything, including spa services, the site also sells plenty of home décor items at deep discounts -- up to 80% in some cases. And, they offer targeted marketing so you can opt to receive an email or tweet only when home décor is on sale, versus having to scour the site looking for it. Like the other sites, their sales only last a couple of days, and once a product is gone, it’s gone.
Other sites that sell some home décor include Ideeli, HauteLook, and Beyond the Rack.
Savings in the Closet
Ideeli -- A long-time favorite of nearly everyone I know, Ideeli offers several tiers of sales to its members. On any given day you’ll find Kenneth Jay Lane, Versace, Chloe, and Donna Karan. Although they’ve recently added travel and home goods to their sales, the focus remains on designer clothes, footwear, and accessories. New sales go up daily at noon and last for 40 hours, or until the item sells out. Members are notified of surprise weekly giveaways via email, Twitter, or Facebook. As seems to be standard, items ship in about two weeks.
Billion Dollar Babes -- Savings of up to 85 percent on Chanel? Yes, please! BDB sells both online and at designer sale events in major cities around the world. New sales start every day at 8 a.m. Pacific. So you East Coasters will need to be up early if you want to get the jump on things. Their customer service is quite good, though you need to read the fine print about returns and exchanges as they are very particular.
Swirl -- You may have already come across the ads in your Daily Candy emails, so the only surprise here is how long it took Daily Candy to put together an online sample shop. It’s still in beta, but you know that with DC involved, the shop will have great products -- and they are marked down up to 80 percent. If you are not currently a Daily Candy subscriber, you’ll have to sign up to be allowed membership with Swirl.
Gilt Groupe -- Exclusive and very posh, Gilt offers luxury brands at up to 70 percent off retail prices. Sales last a mere 36 hours, and is a carefully curated selection of items from a single designer. Spin-offs of the site include Gilt Man and Jetsetter, which is devoted to travel sales. You must be invited or request a membership from the site to join.