If you read that chick-lit classic Bergdorf Blondes (I'm proud to admit that I did), you'll probably recall the scene in which the shopaholic female protagonists hold a military-style planning session in advance of the legendary Chanel sample sale--a chance for them to snag the high-end designer goods at staggering discounts, the only caveat being that hundreds of other viciously competitive Manhattan women were also hoping to get their hands on the same stuff.
It was only a matter of time before that sort of upper-crust cutthroat shopping hit the Web.
Enter Ideeli (pronounced "ideally"), which debuted Monday after several months of soft-launch. Described as a "red-rope online shopping community," Ideeli is an invite-only site that hosts high-speed sales of luxury goods (so far, just accessories) at 50 to 90 percent discounts and keeps its members in the loop through e-mail and mobile alerts to let them know when a sale has started.
Quantities are limited and can sell out within minutes--if this sounds familiar, it's because it's a model pioneered by rapid-fire sale sites like Woot.com, which has built up an enviable cult following, and the girlier Delight.com.
But as the luxury market warms up to the Web, the Woot model is being applied to sites that are more Sex and the City than Star Trek. Following in the vein of "velvet rope" social networks like ASmallWorld (for the jet set) and Metrofunk (for the club set), Ideeli and similar sites like Gilt Groupe (which hosts high-end online sample sales), are invite-only.
Ideeli has some twists thrown in the mix, too. The site offers a paid "first row" membership ($7.99 per month) that enables mobile alerts and also allows for an hour of early access to sales.
It's obviously not for everyone. Even considering the discounted prices, these are still luxury goods, and hence typically cost a few hundred dollars at the minimum. Some pragmatic shopaholics aren't willing to plunk down that kind of cash without seeing the item in person, or with that kind of impulse-buying required. But some money types are banking on success: Ideeli announced Monday that it has secured $3.8 million in capital from Kodiak Ventures and a handful of angel investors.
Snobbish? Totally. But so are Apple fanboys, for the record. We also happen to have Ideeli invites available for readers: go to ideeli.com and use "cnet" as your invitation code.