05/11/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Will We Be Shopping Online Sample Sales Forever?

In the past year or so, we've seen no less than a dozen sample sale websites change the way we shop for fashion - online sample sales have transitioned from a club for fashion insiders into a full-blown retail phenomenon.

Following the meteoric rise of Gilt Groupe and big competitors like Rue La La and Hautelook, lots of retailers tried to get in on the sample sale game - and they did. On SheFinds, we list a whole schedule of online sample sales every day, and our readers have said they appreciate being able to find them all in one place - keeping track of all those e-mails can get exhausting.

While we're thrilled to get the odd designer piece at 75% off, we're not sure the sample sale flush will last - sample sale sites blossomed in the lagging economy, when there was lots of extra luxury inventory out there. Traditional retailers were scrambling to get rid of their unsold products last year, but now that the economy has begun to pick up and retailers have found ways to avoid the excess inventory, we wonder how sample sale sites are going to stay well-stocked enough to accommodate their ever-growing memberships.

Gilt Groupe, the behemoth of the bunch, is already having this problem, New York magazine reported recently, and now they're commissioning cheaper Gilt-only lines from top designers.

We're actually happy to buy well-designed dresses that are lined in nylon instead of silk if it means saving a couple hundred dollars, but lets be clear here: Really, you're not getting 75% off anything. You're getting a diffusion line, disguised as a higher-end product.