Confession: We’re positively guilty of anticipating the stroke of noon for Gilt.com’s newest sales. So when Gilt Groupe’s Founder and Chief Merchandising Officer Alexandra Wilkis Wilson made a jaunt to Miami for a Gilt Noir soiree (a private party for best customers), we just had to meet the 34-year-old entrepreneur. Born and raised in New York, Wilson actually holds South Florida ties. A Harvard College and Harvard Business School graduate, she’s worked in the rough-and-tumble worlds of finance and fashion (with Louis Vuitton and Bulgari) and is now touted for revolutionizing the landscape of luxury e-commerce with gilt.com, which celebrates its four-year anniversary this November.
You have Miami roots, how so? Well, first off, my mother is Cuban. Need I say more? Throughout my childhood, I spent my summers in Key Biscayne, one of my favorite places in the world. I love Miami! My husband proposed to me here and a year later we got married at The Biltmore Hotel and had our rehearsal dinner at Villa Woodbine.
How did Gilt.com come to fruition? I’ve always loved sample sales. I wanted to recreate the excitement of the sample sale — only online.
Why the name “Gilt”? My co-founder Alexis Maybank and I came up with the name Gilt Groupe. Gilt has a double meaning — guilt as well as gilt, which means gold covered. We thought of the gilded age, luxurious and opulent. As for Groupe, the idea of “Group” made us sound more established than our initial five-person team and we added the “e” for a certain je ne sais quoi!
As founder and Chief Merchandising Officer of Gilt.com, describe your day-to-day job. No two days have ever been alike for me! It’s been four years since we launched Gilt.com and I still love my job more than ever. I spend the majority of my time meeting with our brand partners and with our members. My job is mostly outward facing so I am almost never sitting at my desk for more than 15 minutes. I’m usually on the run, meeting people and that makes me happy.
Deal sites come and go, but Gilt is forever (so it seems!). To what do you attribute the site’s success? We have an amazing team of talented, creative, hard-working, passionate, consumer oriented employees.
From Land Rovers to bridal gowns, to date, what designer has been the site’s bestseller? Our Christian Louboutin sale was pretty spectacular! Everyone in the office still talks about it and members want to know when we’ll have another. Last year we sold three Volkswagon Jetta’s for $5,995 each ($15,995 originally at the dealership) and they sold in minutes.
Where are your favorite spots in Miami to score the best deals? Well, if I have it in me, Sawgrass is fun, but you need a whole day for that! I know I’m biased, but I regularly check out the sales on Gilt City Miami.
What are the best trends or local designers coming out of Miami? There are so many great Miami-based designers and brands! Some of my faves include: Citrine by the Stones, Eberjey, James Stuart Duncan, Elephantito, Red Carter, Pianegonda, Cosabella and TechnoMarine. Also, The Webster is a store not to be missed!
Dish. Give us some insider tips on shopping flash sales sites and how to score that must-have item before someone else snaps it up:
•Check your Inbox as well as the “Upcoming Sales” calendar to see if your favorite brands are going to available soon. You can then schedule your shopping appropriately and you’ll be ready right when the sale launches. Gilt.com lets you know what’s on deck up to four days in advance.
•Refresh! Sign in early and then hit refresh right at 12 p.m. ET to view everything that’s available right at the sale launch. Gilt’s full collection of merchandise is always available at the start of the sale, so be sure to sign in early.
•View from the bottom up! The vast majority of our members start viewing the sale right at the top. A good tip is to do the opposite and go straight to the bottom, then scroll up. The merchandise towards the bottom of the screen doesn’t tend get snatched into carts as quickly.
•Check your size! For sizable items, always filter by size to eliminate wasted time falling in love with items that are no longer available in your size.
•Watch the items that are on Reserve — A shopper has 10 minutes to purchase the items reserved in their cart. Some tend to put a lot of items on Reserve and then edit down so products tend to become available again. Just keep a close eye on those that you really love.
•Don’t be scared of the Waiting List. We always try to fulfill our waiting list at Gilt. Because we work directly with the designers, we sometimes have the ability to go back to them and let them know an item is in demand.
What’s next for you? A book entitled By Invitation Only, which comes out in April. It’s a business book that we hope will inspire entrepreneurs.
Lastly, do you ever pay full price? Yes. For classic items and investment pieces.