Employee discounts as a corporate perk have been around for some time. But now, companies of all sizes are setting up virtual discount malls through aggregators, which negotiate deals with local and national vendors, tailoring a shopping site to each company's tastes.
For companies, it's a way to increase employees' disposable income without handing out raises, says Christopher Covill, a partner at benefits consultant Mercer. And it softens the blow if other benefits are cut. "It's good news that employers can pass along in an otherwise bad-news environment," says Covill.
Melissa Todd helped set up a virtual mall at Chick-fil-A in Atlanta, Ga., where she works in human resources. She saves big on movie tickets, paying $7 for passes that might cost $11 at the box office. "My purchases have been mostly tickets for movies and concerts," says Todd, "but I enjoy browsing for Disney vacations or clothing at Ann Taylor."
Motivano, the employee-benefits-technology company that administers Chick-fil-A's program, claims more than 1,000 vendors on its platform. Recent deals include 25% off an Avis rental car and 15% off a pair of Calvin Klein jeans. Another aggregator, PerkSpot, says its employee members save $315 a year, on average, with active users pocketing more than $1,000 on computers and other electronics, merchandise at Target, and gym memberships, among other deals.