By  on February 13, 2014

NEW YORK — As Gilt Groupe reportedly gears up for an initial public offering, the move stirs yet more questions over the long-term viability of the flash-sale model.

Pioneered in Europe by the likes of Vente-Privee and then in the U.S. by Gilt, Rue La La, HauteLook and Ideeli, flash sales became the darling of e-commerce after the Great Recession as brands rushed to get rid of excess inventories and consumers were eager for any bargain they could find. Gilt rapidly expanded to cover not only women’s apparel and accessories but also men’s wear, travel, home furnishings and even food. Competitors rushed into the sector and even department stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus began holding flash sales on their Web sites.

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