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Discount Web sites

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(WFLX) - Flash sale and discount Web sites are hot shopping destinations for consumers who want to find bargains on luxury and designer goods.

We found, however, some of these sites are now selling their own trademarked brands -- many advertising an original and then a discounted price. In many cases, the merchandise isn't available anywhere else!

Shopper Lora Tusinski says she's saved hundreds of dollars on designer items on flash sale sites. When a "Barrow and Grove" sweater caught her eye, she ordered it right away from Gilt.com. "Actually, when I got the item, I really liked it."

But what Lora didn't know is "Barrow and Grove" is actually a private label owned by Gilt. "When I bought the item, no, I didn't have any idea."

We found Lora's sweater is one of hundreds of products popular flash sale and discount Web sites are now creating.

Our review of federal records reveals: Rue La La, One Kings Lane, Zulily, Ideeli and Gilt all applied for or registered trademarks for items that range from clothing to jewelry to home goods. "It's a big trend that we're seeing, and, I think, we will continue to see retailers sell more exclusive products," said Melissa Davis with ShopStyle.

So why are some online sale and discount sites now selling exclusive private label merchandise?

Experts say businesses make more money selling their own products. Now, the economy is improving, people are paying more for luxury goods, so there's less inventory for discount and sale sites. "In tighter inventory times, it gives them a chance to maybe sell a range of goods that's a little bit broader, and, I think, there's an opportunity, too, that potentially, some of that product could be great product," online retail expert Lauren Freedman said.

Gilt, which we found filed the most trademarks in our review of the flash sale and discount sites, told us, "With six years of sales history, we know exactly what our members are looking for, and our private label merchandise serves our more intent-based shoppers."

Those in the e-tail biz say these sites closely watch what shoppers buy. "From consumer trends, they've known throughout the years what people are looking for and what they're missing."

But we found not all sites make it clear they're the makers behind some of the products they sell, and that original price you see next to the discount is what retailers value the item at, even if it might not have ever been sold at full price.

So should discount Web sites be more up front? "I don't think its necessary, but it certainly can't hurt, and it makes it more transparent to the consumer," said Freedman.

To make sure your online shopping experience is positive, experts say, when ordering a new brand research similar items for sale to make sure the one you want is competitively priced, check out online reviews, and know the site's return policy since some will only issue you a credit.

Lora says now she knows about this new private label trend, she's willing to give other items a try. "It's just another designer out there -- somebody put their hard work into making this."

Retail insiders point out many department stores have been selling their own private labels for years, and sometimes those aren't advertised as store brands.

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