The Pioneer of Flash Sales Reboots

I mentioned Fab.com previously and the decline of flash sales (despite it’s recent pivot) but it looks like Matt Rutledge and the folks behind Woot.com are not giving up on it just yet. In case you’re not familiar with Woot:

Woot violated nearly every precept of retail. And it was wildly successful. Each weekday just after midnight Central Standard, a new item went up. It was an event. The site attracted a community of geeks who once flooded its discussion forum with 452 comments about a power adapter. At its height, Woot attracted 1 million daily visitors, to whom Rutledge was something of a rock star. By 2008, annual sales had eclipsed $164 million, and Inc.magazine named Woot the fastest-growing private retailer in the country (and the fastest-growing private company in North Texas). At that point, Amazon had already invested in the company. Then it bought the whole thing.

It will be interesting to see how the Woot guys re-invent the model and whether or not other folks keep trying. I’m not sure anyone’s really figured out how to take old school flash sales onto the web/mobile; not even Jeff Bezos:

He looked down at his plate. Bezos had ordered a dish called Tom’s Big Breakfast, a preparation of Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and a poached egg. “You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast,” Rutledge remembers Bezos saying. “When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.”

So even Bezos doesn’t get flash sales but Woot’s Matt Rutledge and his future endeavours might have some promise, particularly the idea of monetizing an audience:

What if Woot were also able to monetize its audience, those onlookers? Now you’ve got something that starts to look like a media company.

Not every business running an ecommerce website can dive deep into content and do ‘media’ well like Toms Shoes. Nevertheless, Rutledge’s ‘experiments’ in ecommerce are probably what every individual/company in the space should be doing. After-all, it’s what has helped Amazon – this innovation and experimentation – become the company of reference in online retail.