November 29, 2006, 12:00 AM

Mass Merchants/Department Stores

(Page 3 of 3)

The “almost gone” notice on items that are running low appeals to those who want to snatch the very last one-no matter what it is. Particularly rigorous bargain hunters can sort their selections so that those with the “greatest percentage off” float to the top. A new jewelry section recognizes that even the rich like a good deal: the Vault Collection showcases deals like an 18-K diamond and gemstone bracelet for a mere $29,999.99 (64% off the $85,000 retail price).

There are enough major designer names-Kate Spade, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana-to give credibility among choosy shoppers and big enough discounts-usually 40% or more-to make the purchases more than worthwhile.

Last year introduced the Smart Shoppers Club, where for an annual fee of $9.95 members can get substantially discounted shipping, a special customer service phone line, and 48 hours of exclusive access to new items and new markdowns before they’re available on the general site. While the company won’t share membership numbers, vice president of marketing Mark McWeeny says the club is growing faster than expected and is an “important part of our business.”

“We want to exceed customer expectations every time,” he adds.

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