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SNEWS Qs: Erik Fialho talks role of flash-sale sites

LeftLane Sports Erik Fialho talks the role of LeftLane Sports and other flash sale sites like it.

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In recent years, flash-sale websites have spread like uncontrollable wildfires, fueling a debate on their role in fostering discount-hungry consumers.


SNEWS recently connected with Erik Fialho, chief strategy officer for the flash-sale site LeftLane Sports to talk about why the sites have gotten so popular, the history of his site and the company’s recent acquisitions and ventures.

Fialho tells us LeftLane Sports is among the fastest-growing e-commerce sites in the U.S. It experienced more than 850 percent growth last year alone and he said it’s on pace to quadruple that growth this year.

Despite that, he said, “We’ve never lost site of our goal: To be the chosen destination for outdoor, endurance and action sports enthusiasts each and every day.”

With new acquisitions of specialized flash sale sites – the company owns – the company only continues to grow and add partnerships.

Why do you think members-only, flash-sale sights have become so popular in recent years?
Members-only, flash-sale sites offer consumers a new way to shop the brands and products they love. Human nature draws us to exciting new opportunities and flash sales offer consumers incredible deals on new brands and products each and every day. The sporting goods consumer in particular is extremely passionate about the sports in which they participate. LeftLane Sports brings together a community of passionate, like-minded individuals and offers them a selection of brands, products and knowledge to fuel that passion. On top of this, we make our members’ passions more accessible by working directly with our brand partners to offer our members the best prices available on top, high-quality footwear, apparel and gear.

How do flash-sale sites help or hurt specialty outdoor and running retail?
Specialty outdoor and running retailers certainly have their place in our industry and our objective is not to hurt this channel of retail. Our goal is to help our brand partners move inventory that the specialty retail channel is simply unable to move. Our sales also only last for a limited period of time. These short sales help the brands move their inventory quickly and quietly without disrupting their other retail channels. We see ourselves helping the specialty channels because we move through older inventory quickly, allowing specialty to keep selling at full retail longer. We also clearly provide the brands a better solution than offloading their merchandise to large brick-and-mortar discounters (Costco, Marshalls, etc.) and then lose control of the brand or its pricing. Rather than flood the market with constant markdowns at these discount retailers – which ultimately hurt the brands and thus specialty retailers selling those brands, flash sales move the inventory efficiently without disrupting the market.

Tell us about the history of your company:
In 2009, [the founders] found ourselves working together again developing e-commerce solutions for some of the fastest-growing and most successful Internet retailers. Yet, we were missing our days in sporting goods and we wanted to focus again on our passions.

Watching the emergence of a new era of Internet retailing in the form of flash-sale sites, we saw an opportunity to pioneer the concept in the market we knew best. We pooled our talents and backgrounds, and quickly set out to bring deep discounts on the highest quality brands to the world of outdoors, endurance and action sports. We developed our concept and launched as the first members-only flash sale website in the sporting goods industry. LeftLane Sports now teams up with over 600 top-tier brands to deliver exclusive members-only prices (with savings up to 70 percent off retail) on footwear, apparel and gear.

What was the last acquisition you made?
Our latest acquisition was in June 2013. This was our third acquisition since April 2012. Tightlinz focuses primarily on the salt water, fresh water and fly-fishing audience. Tighlinz’s founders developed a solid core audience of passionate members, and we know that with our expertise in flash sales, we can make Tightlinz into the premier player in the fishing space.

Tell us about your new partnership with Competitor Group.
Competitor Group has developed an amazing network of endurance-focused consumers. Competitor connects with that consumer in nearly every aspect of their lifestyle from what they read (Competitor Magazine, Women’s Running Magazine, Velo News, Triathlete Magazine) to the events they participate in (Rock and Roll Marathon series, Muddy Buddy Series and 80-plus others), to the websites and content they consume. LeftLane Sports in partnership with Competitor Group is now able to offer that audience insider access to the best products they need to live their lifestyle. In turn, access to this audience allows us to gain buying power in the endurance industry, further helping to give our members the best products at the best prices.

What role do flash sale sites play in our industry?
In many cases we are able to put brands in the hands of consumers that may not be willing to try that brand at a higher price. Consumers get hooked on the brand and become willing to buy the product at full retail. This is why LeftLane Sports now features certain inline products for key brand partners. For smaller brands, LeftLane Sports has built such a strong reputation for brand selection, that we have dozens of new brands that want to use us as a marketing venue for their products. We are able to expose a brand to millions of consumers, something that would typically be out of the reach of smaller niche brands. These niche brands are vetted by our merchandising team, and those that make the cut immediately benefit by being featured alongside some of the most recognizable names in the industry.