Other's have complained
that when it comes to discount services, our market is oversaturated. This is true, but only insofar as every major metropolitan area is currently hitting a similar saturation point, so I take us hitting ours as yet another reminder that the ATL is a city comparable to Boston and Chicago (both of which were already Gilt Cities). Besides, I'd only start throwing out complaints of oversaturation if Gilt's addition to the scene were an innocuous one, if it were just throwing out deals for the sake of throwing out deals and capitalizing off our thrifty residents in a recession.
More than the oversaturation accusation, I think it's helpful to look at a very specific aspect of Atlanta's deals market: Scoutmob
. While perhaps not so great for merchants (see our article on it in our August issue to learn more), this homegrown service is a godsend for consumers trying to squeeze every penny without sacrificing quality. The success of past deals for One Midtown Kitchen, Wisteria, and Fritti can attest to that. While Groupon, etc., are certainly making a dent in Atlanta's bargain scene, the 'Mob is keeping calm, carrying on, and staying strong. Its ongoing hit status among a slew of less stellar brands has become a sort of warning to potential A-town discounters: Bring your A-game, or don't even try to compete.
Lucky for us, A-game is Gilt to a T. Launched in 2007, Gilt Groupe
rolled out with a promise to give its subscribers access to top designer labels at up to 60 percent off retail prices through online sales. The firm got hyperlocal in 2010 when it initiated the Gilt City program, offering burg-specific discounts on everything luxe, from shopping to more experiential perks (think a private Tinie Tempah concert at the Loft). Since coming to Atlanta, Gilt has scored locals beauty treatments at Bliss Spa, salon work at Van Michael, and a shopping spree at Switch Modern. And as helmed by former Peach
magazine account manager Katie Whitney, Gilt City Atlanta will hopefully keep up that high-end forward momentum.
Furthermore, not only is it bringing its A-game, but it doesn't appear to be a direct competitor with Scoutmob. Which is good. We don't need another Groupon. Scoutmob is casual, Cookie Studio, low-brow, mustachioed fun. Gilt City is lavish, Sugarcoat, opulent, manicured indulgence. Gilt is VIP, with a waitlist; Scoutmob is a free-for-all. While Scoutmob lets you take advantage of deals on your own time, Gilt is more about exclusive, curated group events. Sure, there's a middle ground, and they'll both court it, but by-and-large, they each have their own shtick, their territory.
The MODA event on Wednesday just emphasized that. Yes, there was Sun in My Belly and the King of Pops, both of which were ironic tasty local additions, but mainly there was an event at MODA. Featuring gloATL dancers, DJ Vicki Powell, and a guest list that included designers Mychael Knight and Cinda Boomershine and artist Radcliffe Bailey. It was a fête that underscored the Gilt City brand: It's all about a grand, well-crafted experience, with all the fixings.
My only advice as Gilt City Atlanta moves forward? Stay local, and keep to your area of expertise. Less steak from the Palm, more prix-fixe meals at Bacchanalia. Whitney, who previously worked with Moxie Interactive handling such accounts as Verizon, knows how to maneuver national clients—which is key in this economic climate—but it's her skill with the local ones about which I'm most excited. To echo the views of Nancy Staab
and E. Vincent Martinez
, it's about time our living got a little more luxurious.
Photographs from Wednesday's event at MODA by Ben Rose