Daily Daze

Flash Dance! Luxury Flash Sales Sites Regroup After Layoffs

kevin ryan

Around 4 p.m. on a recent Thursday, all but 14 of the employees of the members-only luxury e-commerce site Lot18 got an email asking them to report to the new conference room for an urgent meeting. The remaining employees, including the vice president of operations and director of operations, received an almost-identical note but were asked to report to the “alt” conference room instead. They were told they were being let go, asked to leave the building immediately and instructed to return on Saturday to clean out their desks.

The survivors were shocked by the layoffs, which came a day earlier than planned due to inquiries by Betabeat. Lot18, which started with private sales for wine before moving into full-price wine and epicurean deals, has raised a total of $44.5 million from investors—its latest round spearheaded in November by the highly regarded Accel Partners. Lot18 also moved into a new office over the summer that features a tasting room, mounted LCD screens that pop up a buyer’s location on a map every time Lot18 sells a bottle and a permanent DJ booth. In its one-year existence, Lot18 launched several new verticals, bought Paris-based e-commerce site Vinobest, and announced a foray into Europe.

To industry insiders, the scenario sounded familiar. Mass flash sales—deep discounts that expire usually after one to three days—had been touted as the first real innovation in e-commerce in years, and start-ups that applied the flash-sales phenomenon to the luxury market had investors salivating. But the former venture capital darlings suddenly seemed to be hemorrhaging employees. Earlier this month, another site, Boston-based Rue La La, slashed 60 of its 550 employees after months of growth.

Suddenly, the question is being asked: Could flash sales for the well-to-do wind up being more of a marketing gimmick than a business model? Read More

Daily Daze

Layoffs and Restructuring at Gilt Groupe as New Verticals Fail to Deliver Growth [UPDATED]

Gilt-Groupe

UPDATE: Gilt Groupe has not returned requests for clarification or comment, but responded via AllThingsD this morning.

CEO Kevin Ryan told the blog: “We are not closing down any businesses. We are not closing down Gilt Taste, and we aren’t merging Gilt City and Jetsetter.” Mr. Ryan also said, “In its fifth month of business, Park & Bond did more revenue than any other business in its fifth month,” although he did not say by what metric. He added that President John Auerbach is still employed at the company for now. But, he noted, there was a chance some of its top 15 executives may leave. (Chief Marketing Officer David Zucker left the company in July and Chief Product Officer Stefan Pepe left the company in June.)

Mr. Ryan did, however, tell AllThingsD that Gilt expects to “selectively trim” staff by about 50 over the next couple months, but claimed that by the end of March the number of employees would be larger than it is now. Gilt Groupe, he said, is on track for an IPO, possibly at the end of the fourth quarter, but mostly likely in 2013.

As for Gilt Taste, Mr. Ryan claimed that the site would need fewer staffers despite “doing great.”

Business Insider, where Mr. Ryan is chairman, has also confirmed impending layoffs of 50 to 60 people within the next week or so. According to Business Insider’s source, five to six percent of the company will let go across various departments in order to get cash-flow break-even by the second quarter of 2012.

Here is our original post:

Since Friday Betabeat has been hearing rumors about impending layoffs at Gilt Groupe. Late Tuesday night, a second source familiar with the company told us that the layoffs would happen on Wednesday and might be as high as 170 employees. We have reached out to Gilt Groupe for confirmation and will update the post as soon as we hear back.

The accounts vary, but both sources also point to restructuring within the company. One source said Gilt Taste, which hired former Gourmet editor-in-chief Ruth Reichl as editorial director last May, is expected to function at half its current workforce, with the remaining staffers funneled into other open positions in the company. Another source speculated that Gilt Taste was likely to be shut down.

Betabeat also heard that Gilt City and Jetsetter, which overlap in the high-end travel market, will merge. In October, Gilt City, which has a partnership deal with Google offers, acquired the daily deals site BuyWithMe, which itself suffered from big layoffs in the crowded deals space. Read More

Discount Daze

Gilt Groupe Begins Selling Overpriced Food With Help From Ruth Reichl

ruth reichl

Now that is has a dedicated audience of wealthy, compulsive shoppers locked in, Gilt Groupe is experimenting with high end groceries, hold the discounts please.

Gilt Taste, which just launched in Beta, is aiming to be an online zine for luxury food shoppers, featuring former Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl above the jump on the homepage. In the side bar of recipes there are also articles like What Will Fracking Do To Your Food Supply, about the effect of the controversial drilling practice on your $159.00 D’Artagnan game bird variety pack. Read More