Lux shoppingThe online version of the sample sale is catching fire. American Express is the latest player to join the growing field of sites offering shoppers luxury items at discounted prices. Amex says its site, which has yet to be named, will be up-and-running late this year or in early 2012.

Some Background

Luxury discount sites such as Gilt.com, Hautelook.com and Ruelala.com have been growing in popularity for a few years. The sites offer flash sales that usually last no more than a couple days; items are discounted by as much as 75 percent.

The sites try to create an aura of exclusivity by stating that only members can access their private sales. But anybody can join and membership is free. In some cases, there may be a delay of a day or two before your registration is approved.

Daily deals might feature specific high-end brands, product categories or themes such as gear and accessories for golf.

In addition to clothing and accessories, visitors can shop for home furnishings, travel deals and personal care services such as massages and haircuts.

In response to their growing popularity, Amazon rolled out MyHabit.com earlier this month. The site launched with clothes from Badgley Mischka, Doo.Ri and i.am clothing, the brand of Black Eyed Peas member Will.i.am. And last year, eBay launched its “Fashion Vault” at Fashionvault.ebay.com.

The Latest Entrant

American Express says its site is still under development and is mum on the details. But the company says it won’t be exclusive to Amex cardholders — anyone will be able to join. The site is being developed in partnership with the French company Vent-privee.com, which already operates similar sites in Europe.

Source: The Associated Press.