A Virtual Velvet Rope

A Virtual Velvet Rope

The most exclusive club in town may be just a few mouse clicks away. Invitation-only shopping sites with names like Gilt Groupe and Rue La La are gaining popularity online. They're generating millions of dollars in revenue from limited-time-only private sales, where high-end fashion designers and other retailers sell last season's leftovers at rock-bottom prices.

People who want to join these sites usually need to know a member to join. Others have waiting lists. Whatever their membership policy, private-sale sites are thriving in spite of the recession because they help luxury retailers unload unsold inventory without revealing markdowns to the general public. "It looks like these sites are growing revenues significantly faster than any other part of retail," says JPMorgan retail analyst Brian Tunick.

This BusinessWeek.com slide highlights 13 of the fastest growing private-sale sites and a representative deal that can be found on each.