Australian flash Sales site MySale has hit the headlines as it lines up a float. Retail Week takes a look at Flash Sales retailing.

Why are we talking about it now?

MySale, the Australian flash Sales fashion site yesterday (Thursday May 29) revealed its intention to float on AIM. MySale, in which Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green took a 25% stake earlier this month, describes itself as the largest online flash Sales specialist in the Asia-Pacific region - excluding China - and it plans to launch in the UK after snapping up Cocosa’s website and database earlier this week.

Which are the biggest flash Sales sites in the UK?

Brand Alley is one of the best known sites, selling fashion and homewares. It generated sales of £33m in 2013. It has not yet turned a profit but expects to this year and has plans to take on MySale in Australia. Secretsales.com sells branded fashion and is expected to make its first profit this year. Meanwhile, Achica focuses on home products. One of the best known flash sales sites was Cocosa, but owner Mohamed Al Fayed wound it down last year after deciding it would be too expensive to expand.

How popular are flash Sales sites?

Flash sale sites took off when the recession hit. Verdict retail analyst Kate Ormrod says that while they are still popular, consumer interest seems to have has waned. “Interest and usage of these sites was strong when we were in the midst of the recession, as shoppers were looking for alternative ways to buy into well-known brands cheaply,” she observes.

“As we’ve emerged from the downturn, consumers still want to buy into the brands but do so via brands’ stores or their transactional websites as they want the experience and the latest products. A lot of luxury brands didn’t have their own websites five or 10 years ago whereas they do now, making it more challenging for flash Sales sites to compete, especially with the likes of [Net-a-Porter’s designer outlet site] The Outnet as well.”

Is there a space for a global flash Sales player such as MySale?

Ormrod thinks so, although she advises that rather than targeting competitive countries such as the UK and US, MySale would be better off trying to build its offer in countries in mainland Europe or South America.  “I think there is space for a global player, though there are perhaps other less-competitive markets which it could target first to build up awareness and sales,” she says. 

Will MySale succeed where Cocosa failed?

MySale already has some scale with 10 million registered members across six countries. And it plans to boost its brand awareness in the US and UK by ploughing money raised from the IPO into marketing. However, Ormrod points out that established rivals such as Brand Alley could make it difficult for MySale to compete in the UK, making the acquisition of Cocosa a logical move.