Luxury Institute News

June 10, 2018

Kate Spade stepped away from her brand a decade ago. But what happens now?

The Washington Post
June 8, 2018
By: Abha Bhattarai


The Kate Spade brand is owned by Tapestry, which also includes Coach and Stuart Weitzman. (Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

The Kate Spade brand could survive the death this week of its co-founder because Kate Spade the designer handed over the reins to her company years ago.

But Spade’s suicide could compound the difficulties facing her newer label, Frances Valentine.

Spade, who died Tuesday morning, co-founded her namesake company 25 years ago, bringing color and whimsy to a handbag market filled with dark leather goods. But she sold a majority stake to Neiman Marcus in 1999 and stepped away altogether in 2007. The brand has traded hands twice since and now belongs to Tapestry, the parent company of Coach, which bought it last year for $2.4 billion.

“Kate Spade the brand now transcends Kate Spade the person, which is how you know this is a truly successful brand,” said William McComb, the former chief executive of Liz Claiborne (later renamed Fifth & Pacific), which owned the Kate Spade line from 2006 to 2017. “Kate created something that was simple and stylish, modern and fun — and that’s what continues to this day.”

The brands that have endured the deaths of their namesake designers typically had already moved on years earlier. Hubert de Givenchy, whose little black dresses were closely associated with Audrey Hepburn, died this year, but in 1995 stepped down from his fashion house, which had recently been sold to French luxury giant LVMH. Yves Saint Laurent also handed over the reins of his label and sold it to another French luxury group, Kering.

When Alexander McQueen died in 2010 at age 40, his fashion house was quick to name a successor: Sarah Burton, who had worked with McQueen for many years. The Metropolitan Museum of Art unveiled an exhibit celebrating McQueen, and the brand’s loyal customers kept coming back.

“Let’s be honest: All founders die,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a market research firm in New York. “But if your brand has great DNA — Apple, Alexander McQueen — then there’s already a great foundation to build upon.”

But other brands whose founders died while they were still in charge haven’t fared so well. L’Wren Scott’s clothing line, for example, was dissolved 18 months after her 2014 death. Coco Chanel’s death in 1971 left her label in a 12-year slump until Karl Lagerfeld took over in 1983.

The stock price of Kate Spade’s parent company, Tapestry, faltered on Tuesday before recovering later in the week.

Spade’s laid-back sensibility and penchant for bright, bold colors have continued to drive much of the brand’s aesthetic over the years.

There was a possibility, some said, that the price of original Kate Spade products — her signature Sam bag, say — could climb on resale sites like eBay in the coming days, or that there could be a temporary spike in web traffic to the company’s site.

“Does this create a huge media buzz that drives more people to the Kate Spade website? Who knows,” said Brian Yarbrough, an analyst at investment firm Edward Jones. “But I don’t think this really changes anything for Tapestry. If a product looks good, people are going to buy it.”

Since taking over Kate Spade last year, Tapestry has tried to cut back on online flash sales and sweeping promotions that some say have tarnished the brand’s cachet. But it’s been off to a rocky start: Last month, Kate Spade posted a 9 percent drop in same-store sales, sending shares of Tapestry falling more than 12 percent.

“Although Kate has not been affiliated with the brand for more than a decade, she and her husband and creative partner, Andy, were the founders of our beloved brand,” Anna Bakst, chief executive of Kate Spade New York, said in a statement. “Kate will be dearly missed.”

Nicola Glass, who previously worked for Michael Kors, took over as creative director earlier this year. Her predecessor, Deborah Lloyd, had overseen design for more than 10 years, and helped turn the handbag line into a lifestyle brand that included ready-to-wear clothing, dinnerware and bedding.

But branding experts say Spade’s death raises a number of questions for Frances Valentine. The line of handbags and shoes she co-founded in 2016, which is carried by Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and DSW, had yet to find the mainstream success of her namesake brand and it was unclear who would take over.



May 9, 2018

Harry Rosen presses for success with joint ventures, acquisitions

The Globe and Mail


“Everybody has been hurt” by big shifts in retail, said Milton Pedraza, CEO of New York consultancy Luxury Institute, adding apparel has been the category most affected. Men are dressing down and not buying as many suits and ties, while consumers generally are spending less on apparel and more on …”


For the whole article, subscribe via the source link below!



April 16, 2018

Upscale, downscale: Target draws customers with collaborations with high-end brands

The Washington Post
By: Abha Bhattarai
Friday, April 13, 2018


Not long ago, Gracie Howard got a pair of bright red Hunter rain boots. She felt good about the purchase — at least until she heard Target would soon be selling almost identical Hunter boots for a fraction of the price.

“I just wanna know why I’ve been buying $150 Hunter boots but the Hunter collection at target is $40. . . . ,” the 18-year-old from Cuero, Tex., tweeted. “I feel scammed.”

The boots aren’t so special anymore, she said — “I feel like everybody’s going to be walking around wearing Hunter now” — but that wasn’t going to stop her from heading to Target this weekend to see if she can pick up a pair or two.

“They’re so discounted that I’ll go see what they have,” she said.

And that, shoppers and analysts say, sums up Target’s high-low collaborations: There are obvious downsides, but many shoppers find them irresistible.

The retailer’s newest designer partnership, with iconic British brand Hunter, is set to roll out this weekend (though store credit card holders got access to a few items a week earlier). It is the latest in a series of collaborations that over the past two decades have turned around the retailer’s image and helped establish it as a higher-end alternative to competitors such as Walmart. Target has rolled out limited-time collaborations with established luxury brands such as Missoni, Alexander McQueen and Jean Paul Gaultier, as well as up-and-coming designers including Jason Wu and Prabal Gurung.

But retail analysts say that while the big-box chain has­­ boosted its own cachet, the tie-ups are less fruitful for premium brands looking to attract aspirational shoppers. Sure, partnering with Target may boost brand recognition and awareness in some circles, but to what end? Once the items sell out, often in days or weeks, it’s unlikely, industry insiders say, that Target shoppers will suddenly begin buying Victoria Beckham trousers at Saks Fifth Avenue for 25 times the price. (A version of the designer’s flared trousers sold for $40 at Target last year. A similar item at Saks Fifth Avenue is marked $1,010.)

“I’ve never seen a collaboration between a truly luxury brand and a mass retailer have much of an impact,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a New York-based research firm and consultant to luxury brands. “The only benefit here long term is to the mass retailer, which gets a halo effect from having a top brand on its shelves. But long term, the democratization of a luxury brand rarely works.”

Target, which has rolled out more than 175 such partnerships since the debut of its Michael Graves Design Collection in 1999, has been successful in creating buzz around many of its collaborations. And once shoppers are in the retailer’s stores, or on its website, analysts say they’re likely to make additional purchases.

“These types of lines actually drive little in sales, but the real win is to drive people to stores and have them buy everything else they need,” said Sucharita Kodali, an analyst for the market research firm Forrester. “It’s perfect for Target.”

The partnerships have made high-end pieces more affordable to a mass market — if customers can snag them in time — and helped kick off a frenzy of high-low partnerships. Karl Lagerfeld and Stella McCartney have designed collections for H&M, as have Versace and Balmain. Vera Wang now sells clothing at Kohl’s. And “Project Runway” winner Christian Siriano, whose dresses typically sell for thousands, has a line at Payless ShoeSource, the discount retailer that filed for bankruptcy this month.

Target’s annual sales have more than doubled since 1999, from $33.7 billion to $71.9 billion.

“These collaborations give our guests the opportunity to get their hands on incredible design at an affordable price,” said Mark Tritton, Target’s chief merchandising officer. “With each partnership, whether it be with a designer or brand, we want it to feel unique and special.”

Not always easy to buy

By the time Catherine Donovan logged on to at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, the $35 Hunter backpack she’d been eyeing had sold out. The Target credit card-holder found it on eBay — for three times the price.

“That may be part of the plan — to create hysteria — but it’s become a complete bloodbath,” said the 34-year-old from Des Plaines, Ill. “I’m not going to turn my back on Target, but you have to wonder who they’re selling to.”

Longtime shoppers say scoring designer merchandise at Target can be a frustrating experience. Collections usually sell out on within days, if not hours, and the retailer offers few details on exactly when online sales will begin.

The Minneapolis-based company has also faced criticism for sloppy displays and an unstable website. And some shoppers say the marked-down designer wares are sometimes badly made.

“I feel like the quality really takes a hit in collaborations like these,” said Kate Concannon, 31, who runs the fashion blog Life Sucks in a Strapless Bra. “I mean, Hunter boots are an investment piece — I’ve had mine for 10 years — but the Target collaboration is making me scratch my head a little bit: Why are these boots $40 when they normally cost four times as much?”

Hunter boots are typically made of natural rubber and are handcrafted from 28 parts. But the Hunter for Target line is mass-produced in a factory, using a preformed mold. There are also a few obvious differences in design: Hunter for Target boots, for example, come with calf extenders, and the top of the tall rain boots are cut diagonally instead of straight across. But other than that, shoppers noted few visible differences between the $40 boots at Target and the $150 models sold elsewhere.

Hunter did not respond to requests for comment.

It is unusual, analysts said, for a designer to offer a lower-priced alternative that is virtually identical to their legacy product. But some said Hunter, a 162-year-old brand, was likely to reach a fresh audience at Target.

“The demand for the product is limited, and they could go lower end, but that could diminish the higher-end products,” said Kodali of Forrester. “This is a way for them to dip their toes into the lower end in a brand-appropriate way.”

Pedraza, though, was not persuaded. Sure, these luxury brands attract throngs of people, “but is it profitable? Is it sustainable?” he asked. “Very often, these partnerships are a sign of desperation, and we’re starting to see brands recognize that going mass-market isn’t the best idea.”

A number of department-store brands, such as Michael Kors, Kate Spade and Coach, are struggling to turn around their businesses after flooding outlet stores and off-price retailers with low-priced wares, Pedraza said. “Once you’ve gone mass-market, it’s almost impossible to go back up.”

‘Too much hype’

Amy Arbide has been scouring the Hunter for Target lookbook for weeks. On Friday, she stayed up late waiting for Target to update its website with Hunter backpacks, tote bags and fanny packs that it had promised its credit card holders.

“A couple of friends and I stayed up until midnight,” the 32-year-old said. “Nothing happened. I stayed up until 2:30 the next morning refreshing the site. Nothing.”

She finally decided to go to sleep. When she woke up at 7:30 a.m., three hours after the collection had gone live, everything was sold out.

“It made me so mad, and then my best friend calls me with the same story: ‘Oh my God, everything’s gone,’ ” said Arbide, a paralegal in Miami. “Was I supposed to pull an all-nighter for this so-called exclusive presale? It was just poorly executed — and with too much hype.” (A spokeswoman for Target said the sales typically roll out online “in the wee hours” because the company’s site is refreshed overnight.)

Back in 2012, Arbide bought a couple of items — a zip-up clutch and a water bottle — by Tory Burch as part of Target’s holiday partnership with Neiman Marcus. She’d never heard of the brand before, but all of her friends seemed impressed.

“At the moment, I hadn’t realized what I was getting,” she said. “I was fresh out of college. But then I got those products, and I thought, you know, this is a nice brand.”

Since then, she’s bought Tory Burch items at department stores, including four purses, five pairs of shoes and multiplepieces of jewelry.

“It’s a matter of brand recognition,” Arbide said. “Because of Target, you’re going to have a broader range of people wearing items with the name ‘Hunter’ on it. That’ll get people to notice and say, ‘Where did you get that? What is Hunter?’ ”

Case in point: herself. Even though she’d heard of Hunter’s rain boots before, she had never given them much thought or been to the company’s website.

“But once Target announced the collaboration,” she said, “I began going to”

And Arbide is not giving up on the $40 boots yet — even if it stresses her out. On Saturday, when Target makes its Hunter products widely available, she says she’ll set her alarm for 3 a.m.

“I really do want to snag those boots,” she said. “You’re talking about items that normally cost $200 selling for $40. Any time you have something like that available, why not?”


Most of Trump’s merchandising empire has faded

The Washington Post
By: Zane Anthony, Kathryn Sanders and David A. Fahrenthold
Friday, April 13, 2018


Before he ran for office, Donald Trump made millions by selling his name to adorn other people’s products. There was Trump deodorant. Trump ties. Trump steaks. Trump underwear. Trump furniture. At one time, there was even a Trump-branded urine test.

Now, almost all of them are gone.

In 2015, Trump listed 19 companies that were paying him to produce or distribute Trump-branded consumer goods.

In recent weeks, only two said they are still selling Trump-branded goods. One is a Panamanian company selling Trump bed linens and home goods. The other is a Turkish company selling Trump furniture.

Of the rest, some Trump partners quit in reaction to campaign-trail rhetoric on immigrants and Muslims. Others said their licensing agreements had expired. Others said nothing beyond confirming that they’d stopped working with Trump. Their last Trump goods are now being sold off, often at a discount: One cologne is marked down from $42 to $9.99 for an ounce.

“Success by Trump,” the website says. And below that: “Clearance.”

The decline of the Trump merchandise empire is another sign of how politics has changed the president’s business. On one hand, it has allowed his Mar-a-Lago Club and his D.C. hotel to monetize his political alliances, raking in money from evangelical Christian groups and GOP campaigns.

But it has also driven away customers and partners who’d been drawn to the old Trump – a hustling icon of ostentatious wealth, who sold golf memberships to the truly rich and $42 cologne to those who merely wanted to be.

“Once the political campaign started, the wall went up,” said Marshal Cohen, who measures retail business trends for the NPD Group. “The wall that he [built] was more around his merchandise than it was around Mexico.”

The Trump Organization did not respond to questions about its licensed-merchandise business. Trump has said he has given up day-to-day management of his company while he’s in the White House. But he still owns it.

The Trump Organization sells its own name-branded merchandise. Last year, it opened an e-commerce site,, with an inventory of Trump T-shirts, teddy bears and key chains.

But the licensed-merchandise business was something different. It allowed Trump to make money off other people’s work, other people’s products, other people’s marketing.

All Trump had to do was sell something that he could never run out of.

His name.

Trump first pursued the idea in 2004. His emissaries contacted an executive at Phillips-Van Heusen, the menswear giant, with a proposition.

How would his company like to pay Trump for the right to put his name on their clothes?

The menswear executive wasn’t interested.

“He laughed,” Jeff Danzer, who was a marketer working for Trump, recalled later.

At that point, Trump was still emerging from the long, low years of the 1990s: huge debts, corporate bankruptcies, tabloid divorces. What customer wanted that on their shirt collar?

But then, “The Apprentice” took off – and rebranded Trump as a sharp-dressed boardroom titan.

After that, the idea of Trump shirts wasn’t laughable.

In fact, it wasn’t enough.

“Suits, dress shirts, ties, even down to shoes,” Danzer recalled. “Any- and everything that you would wear in the board room is what we were going out to license.”

By the end of 2004, Trump had a deal with Phillips-Van Heusen and a Donald J. Trump Signature Collection of clothes at Macy’s.

But that wasn’t enough, either.

Eventually, Trump was a smell – A “masculine combination of rich vetiver, tonka bean, birchwood and musk.” Trump was a chandelier. Trump was a mattress. Trump was a steak. “The meat category represents Mr. Trump’s power,” anunderling told the media when Trump Steaks launched.

Trump was a urine test.

“Take a snapshot of the most critical metabolic markers in your body’s natural waste fluids,” said the website for the Trump Network, a vitamin company that sent its customers urine-sample kits with the Trump logo on them. The tests would be used to determine what vitamins the customer needed, according to archived versions of the Trump Network website.

The rest of the marketing business shook its head. But, for a time, it worked.

“A caricature of what wealth is – as opposed to what real wealth is,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a consultant to luxury brands. Trump sold to those, he said, “who didn’t know the difference,” he said.

However, Pedraza said, Trump began to undermine his own success by “label-slapping” – sticking his name on anything he could, even the farfetched and ridiculous. Emeril Lagasse sold pots. Greg Norman sold golf shirts. Trump sold. . . everything.

“There was no strategy,” Pedraza said.

In 2009, Trump reported that his licensing partners had sold $215 million worth of Trump-licensed goods worldwide. That ranked him 80th on License Global magazine’s list of the top 125 merchandisers. In some years, Phillips-Van Heusen alone paid him more than $1 million.

For Trump, the benefit wasn’t just the money. The items brought his name into closets and kitchens around the country.

“It’s ties, shirts, cufflinks, everything sold at Macy’s. And they’re doing great,” Trump told David Letterman in 2012, during an interview in which he’d also complained that China was overtaking the United States as an economic power. “Number-one-selling tie anywhere in the world.”

“The ties are made in China,” Letterman said.

By 2015, when Trump entered the presidential race, some of his more far-out ideas – steaks, urine tests and vitamins – were already kaput. But, according to his financial disclosures, the 19 remaining licensees were still paying him a combined $2.4 million-plus per year, just to put the Trump name on their goods.

Then Trump ran for president.

Within a few weeks, the number was down to 14.

“We are disappointed and distressed by recent remarks about immigrants from Mexico,” said a corporate statement from Macy’s, after Trump called Mexican immigrants criminals and “rapists” at his first campaign event. “. . . We have decided to discontinue our business relationship with Mr. Trump.”

Losing Macy’s meant losing all the Trump merchandise that Macy’s had sold. Phillips-Van Heusen, his first big deal. Peerless, which made Trump suits. Parlux, which made his colognes. Another company made Trump belts. All gone.

Serta, which made Trump Home mattresses, had been one of Trump’s most lucrative partners. Trump lost it, too.

“They’ll all be back,” Trump told Forbes magazine.

A few months later, Trump called for a “total and complete shutdown” of Muslims entering the United States.

He lost another partner, a Dubai-based company that had a license to sell Trump furniture in the Middle East, Africa and India.

That left 13.

What happened to the rest?

To find out, The Washington Post and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University tried to contact all of the remaining companies that Trump had listed as licensing partners on his 2015 financial disclosure forms.

In one case, the company was mystified to have been listed at all.

“We haven’t done business [with him] for a long time,” said Jim Ehren, an executive at a sign-making company in the Los Angeles suburbs. His facility had once made inspirational posters, which paired Trump quotes with scenes of Wall Street or a golf course. But not recently.

Two other partnerships – one to sell Trump-branded shoes in Mexico, the other to sell Trump home organizational products – had apparently ended before any Trump-branded merchandise was sold.

That left 10.

Trump vodka also seems dead. It had survived in Israel, after the product had fizzled elsewhere. But Trump’s own financial disclosures don’t list it after 2015.

Trump coffee, also, is no more.

“It was a lack of sales,” said Sam Blaney at Two Rivers Coffee, which stopped making its Select by Trump coffee pods last year. “Not every idea was a good idea.”

At Downlite, which had sold Trump-branded pillows, the company said it had let the license expire in 2015.

“Purely a business decision,” said Josh Werthaiser, the company’s chief executive. “It had nothing to do with the election.”

That left seven.

Of them, five companies said that they weren’t making Trump products anymore – but gave little detail beyond that.

Wonu, which made Trump-branded bedding in Korea, said simply that its license had expired. Ditto for the makers of Donald J. Trump eyeglasses. A French company that once made Trump mattresses has been sold. Its new owner said it didn’t make them anymore.

At the company that once made Trump-branded throw blankets, executives did not call back. When The Post visited its office, a receptionist said she didn’t know of any Trump products being made there now.

At Elk Lighting, a staffer said the company has stopped making Trump-branded chandeliers and sconces. On its website, the company’s Trump Home Regency chandeliers are now sold as just “Regency.”

Since Trump began his campaign, the Trump Organization’s website has not added any listings of new manufacturers, to replace those it has lost. In Trump’s 2017 financial disclosure, he reported that his royalties from licensed merchandise had fallen from more than $2.4 million to just over $370,000. The forms do not give exact numbers, only a range of values that the figures fall between.

Only two companies are still paying to put Trump’s name on their products.

One is HomeStudio, which produces Trump-branded bed linens and housewares for the Latin American market. It declined to comment for this story, beyond confirming that it still makes Trump goods.

The other is Dorya, a Turkey-based manufacturer of Trump Home Collection furniture.

When a reporter visited the company’s Chicago showroom recently, there was a room full of sleek, modern, expensive chairs and tables. But the Trump name itself was hard to find, unless you knew where to look

On one $4,000 end table, for instance, the silver nameplate reading “Trump” – the name Dorya was paying to use – wasn’t on the outside of the piece at all.

To find it, customers had to look inside the drawer.


April 5, 2018

7 Complaints of Successful Luxury Salespeople

By: Jason Knight
Wednesday, April 4, 2018


Change these seven problems, from spending too much energy on social media to altering product lines, and boost sales by 30%, according to the Luxury Institute.


7 Complaints of Successful Luxury Salespeople
New York’s Luxury Institute finds sales training to be a waste, and product discounts are ineffective on high-end clientele. 


Has any integrator playing in the high-end luxury market ever wondered why one of his or her previously top-performing salespeople suddenly seems to be demotivated and in a sales slump? According to information from the independent New York-based Luxury Institute, it could be something you are doing, not necessarily a problem with the salesperson.

The Luxury Institute recently held “intimate and confidential individual interviews” with top performing in-store sales associates across the spectrum of top-tier luxury and premium brands. The Institute also cross-checked the findings with store managers and retail heads to confirm the results. These top performing associates average more than 12 years of experience, and most perform supervisory roles. They are among the 20 percent of associates who deliver 80 percent of the dollars to top brands, comprising all genders and ethnicities.

The data reveals a “performance-numbing lack of communication” between top-tier luxury brand headquarters and their front-line associates. “The consequences continue to be a significant loss of sales, high employee turnover, poor morale, and most importantly, severed or damaged client relationships,” says the Institute. While the focus of the study was on retail luxury brands, many integrators may be able to relate to these same issues for their own sales teams.

According to the Luxury Institute, luxury employers who adopt these principles will boost their sales by 20 percent to 30 percent.  Here are the seven critical issues that top-performing salespeople say negatively affect their sales performance.

1. Sales Training Is a Waste

Top performers are unanimous on this point, according to the Institute. Successful salespeople learned how to build client relationships from parents and exemplary mentors who inspired in them a passion for living their life purposefully on a daily basis and helping others at work beyond the training tools provided by the brand. They see product and operational training as table stakes. According to these top performers, current sales training is coercive and dehumanizing.

The best associates tell Luxury Institute that they have honed their skills mostly through trial and error, learning to listen without judgment, asking relevant questions, earning trust, and finding creative ways to make individual clients feel cared for and special.

They acknowledge that it took far too long for them to achieve top performance. They want accelerated relationship-building skills for everyone on the sales team, especially for young associates. These young team members have grown up on social media, and the veterans observe that many can’t make eye contact, they lack empathy, and that they are unable to apologize without stating, “I am so sorry you feel that way,” when they make a mistake.

Some top sellers have hired personal coaches at their own expense.

2. Client Feedback Is Often Ignored: Inventory Is Mismanaged

Clients provide constant feedback to the sales associates about products, policies and trends. According to top sales associates, this critical intelligence is rarely collected systematically, or acted upon. One frequently cited example is the constant tweaking, or discontinuance, of timeless staple brands.

Another impediment is inventory mismanagement. VIP clients are often left wanting due to mismanagement of inventory. These destroy customer lifetime value and relationships. Many clients feel betrayed and don’t return.

Top associates say customer attitudes, desires, and behaviors change often. They recommend that these changes be monitored through periodic market research, or by aggregating customer feedback through the voice of the associate. Also, meet with the sales team prior to rolling out any new product offering.

3. Stop Spamming Clients With Emails

Top sales associates earn trust with top clients by committing to them that they will not be spammed by emails or contacted excessively. But salespeople complain their clients are sent waves of “irrelevant, impersonal emails and other communications,” even though the campaigns are often well-intentioned and well-executed.

Associates say they prefer to keep their frayed, outdated black books, and protect their relationships, rather than enter the information into the database and lose a great client. The result is a massive loss of a critical asset in the era of Big Data. Even more damaging, when a client loses trust, the impact on sales is negative and too often permanent.

The best sales associates suggest using a CRM specialist who understands that personal, measured, humanistic communication is required to build a long-lasting client relationship.

4. Stop Discounting Products/Services

One of the greatest annoyances for both clients and sales associates are inconsistencies regarding product pricing. When clients see products or services for which they paid full price available later for a lower price, they revolt and demand make-goods. The wealthiest clients are particularly vocal, based on principle.

Pricing inconsistencies makes clients hesitant to buy at full price. It also allows sales associates, who want to stay in the client’s good graces, to encourage clients to wait until the products go on sale. Those, according to the top performers, are the games they are forced to play, which adversely affect their credibility and their earnings.

They suggest offering more exclusive products for their own channels, and offering classic, heritage, and signature products that never go on sale. Providing early access to very limited-edition exclusives is not only a more profitable way to engage VIP clients than early access to promotions, it is also a more meaningful way to connect with them. Top associates are happy to let marketing communicate sales and promotions. They would prefer to have the inside scoop topics to talk about.

5. Keep Technology Up to Date

Top performers say it’s a big positive to have “wow factor” in a showroom, but it needs to be kept up to date. That same message goes for the back-end systems, such as inventory management. Even things like making sure the Wi-Fi in the showroom is fast and accessible are a plus. If your showroom Wi-Fi is slow, what do you think a customer will think about the system you can install in their home?

6. Social Media Hurts Local Marketing Initiatives

Top sales associates are active personally and professionally on social media. Many of them post to Instagram almost daily and appreciate that some of their clients stay in touch, albeit lightly, on Facebook and Twitter. However, they report, and the research bears out, that the wealthiest and highest potential clients are less active on social media than aspirational consumers, and are becoming even less so as they become more fearful of the potential damage to their identity, reputation, and privacy.

Wealthy clients have far more to lose in a social media environment where the evidence now shows that their data lacks any protection.

According to top associates, marketing has failed to get the message. They want more funds for customized gifting, rewarding special clients, and creating personalized and exclusive client events. They are happy to be held accountable for the return on investment required to fund those programs and invite marketing to be a part of the brainstorming, execution, and measurement.

7. Offer Flexible Schedules

Calling working schedules “dehumanizing” and “stuck in the Industrial Age,” the study says employers need to be flexible in both scheduling and compensation. Top sales associates who pay for themselves in multiples want flexible schedules and compensation to maximize productivity. For example, part-timers can be some of the most productive sales associates.



March 30, 2018

A Huge H&M Sale Might Be Coming Thanks to $4.3 Billion in Unsold Clothes

Harper’s Bazaar
By: Lyndsey Matthews
March 28, 2018

Despite high-profile collaborations with both Erdem and Nicki Minaj last fall, H&M admitted that it is sitting on a stockpile of $4.3 billion worth of unsold dresses, accessories, and other clothing and has seen a 62 percent drop in profits in the three months through February of this year, The New York Times reports.

While this is bad news for the Swedish retailer, which also owns Cos and & Other Stories, it’s great news for everyone else since H&M plans to slash prices in the upcoming months to get rid of the unsold stock to fix the problem. But some of that inventory includes months-old Halloween costumes and Christmas sweaters, according to the Washington Post.

Getty Images

The massive pile of unsold clothing—a 7 percent increase in the past year—is just one example of how the fashion giant has been unable to keep up in a world where more shoppers are skipping stores and heading online to buy clothes instead.

In addition to cutting prices, H&M also plans to cut back on opening new stores and focus their efforts on expanding their online business by 25 percent this year.

However, that might not be enough to fix the problem and financial analysts aren’t optimistic about the company. In fact, one even called H&M “a slow-motion wreck” after seeing the company’s first quarter results, according to The New York Times.

Part of the problem is that the millennial consumer base is starting to opt for well-made clothes rather than cheap “throwaway products,” Milton Pedraza, CEO of New York-based market research firm Luxury Institute, told the Washington Post. They’re more interested in “classic and quality, neither of which H&M has been able to deliver.”

But for those who are still loyal to H&M, keep an eye out for massive sales in the upcoming months.



March 28, 2018

Despite deep discounts, H&M can’t get people to buy its clothes

The Wall Street Journal
Abha Bhattarai
March 27, 2018

(Charles Mostoller/Bloomberg News)

Despite a series of widespread markdowns, clothing chain H&M is struggling to sell off $4 billion in extra merchandise — including months-old Halloween costumes and Christmas sweaters — as changing consumer tastes and increasing competition take their toll on the Swedish retailer.

The company, for years a fast-fashion darling, says it’s having trouble persuading customers to buy its clothes. Sales are slipping, profits are down to their lowest level in 16 years, and inventory is way up, H&M parent company Hennes & Mauritz said Tuesday. Shares of the retailer’s stock fell about 6.8 percent Tuesday, to their lowest level since 2005.

“The rapid transformation of the fashion retail sector continues,” H&M chief executive Karl-Johan Persson said in a statement. “The start of the year has been tough. Weak sales combined with substantial markdowns had a significant negative impact on results in the first quarter.”

A confluence of factors have led to H&M’s troubles, analysts say. Chief among them: Millennials are growing up and are more interested in buying well-made clothes than in buying cheap items. There is also more competition from companies like Zara, Topshop, Uniqlo and Asos — all of which customers tend to associate with higher-quality clothing and better websites, according to Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a New York-based market research firm.

“Millennials are looking for quality over quantity, which means they no longer want throwaway products,” Pedraza said. “They care less about fashion and more about classic and quality, neither of which H&M has been able to deliver.”

The recent backlash over an H&M ad showing a black child wearing a “coolest monkey in the jungle” sweatshirt could also have hurt sales, analysts said. There were widespread calls for customer boycotts after the January incident, and musicians The Weeknd and G-Eazy, both of whom had partnerships with the retailer, announced they would cut ties with the company.

“Whether an oblivious oversight or not, it’s truly sad and disturbing that in 2018, something so racially and culturally insensitive could pass by the eyes of so many (stylist, photographer, creative and marketing teams) and be deemed acceptable,” G-Eazy wrote on Instagram. “I can’t allow for my name and brand to be associated with a company that could let this happen.”

H&M has since apologized for the ad, but some in the industry say the company could feel far-reaching effects.

“There was a huge backlash, particularly in places like South Africa, that could’ve left some customers saying: ‘You know what? I wasn’t that loyal to H&M anyway. Maybe I’ll shop somewhere else,’ ” said Tasha Lewis, a professor of fashion design management at Cornell University.

In the most recent quarter, H&M said inventory rose 7 percent to a record $4 billion. On Tuesday, the company’s website was promoting “further markdowns up to 70 percent off.” Many items were clearly months old: Halloween-themed T-shirts were selling for $3.99, while infants’ Santa outfits were discounted to $4.99.

Excess inventory has plagued a number of traditional retailers in recent years, as customers increasingly shop online and look to start-ups for more unique clothing. Several chains, including Macy’s, Kohl’s and Nordstrom, pared back on holiday inventory last year, hoping to avoid having to offer deep discounts on leftover merchandise. The plan seemed to work: Retailers posted their most successful holiday performance in years, and many said they did not have to resort to huge markdowns.

“We maintained a healthy inventory position, which meant we did not need additional discounting to clear inventory,” Jeffrey Gennette, chief executive of Macy’s, said in a recent call with analysts. “We were disciplined with our promotions.”

That, however, wasn’t the case at H&M. As the world’s second-largest clothing retailer (behind Inditex, which owns Zara), analysts say, the company is particularly susceptible to the whims of consumers. H&M’s quarterly sales began falling late last year.

“There is a massive clash between customers’ expectations and what companies are delivering,” said Andreas Inderst, an analyst for the Macquarie Group in London. “This is an industry-wide issue, but for H&M it has become a particularly pronounced problem.”

Company executives, meanwhile, say they’re planning further discounts in the second quarter, as they look to turn around H&M’s business. The company is also preparing to introduce an “off-price marketplace,” called Afound, that will sell discounted items by H&M, as well as other brands.


February 28, 2018

5 Brands That Reveal The Future Of Luxury Online

Pamela M. Danziger
February 26, 2018

Badgley Mischka New York Fashion Week runway app


Online is the next frontier for luxury brands. It’s where luxury brands can find their next path to growth, but for a variety of reasons they have been notoriously slow to follow it. As an industry steeped in heritage and tradition, change doesn’t come naturally to it, but in today’s dynamically changing consumer market, that is exactly what luxury brands must do.

While luxury brands have accepted that they must market online, they have been much slower to accept that they must sell there as well. That remains its stumbling block.

“A big part of luxury brands’ hesitance to embrace sales online has been how to keep that luxury aspect of the brand, if it is so easily available,” says Lori Mitchell-Keller, Global General Manager, Consumer Industries at SAP. “Keeping that perceived cache of luxury in the online world have made them slow to migrate there.”

But migrate sales online is what they have to do for assure a prosperous future. Bain & Company recently reported online luxury sales growth is phenomenal, increasing by 24% in 2017. Yet it still accounts for only 9% of the total personal luxury goods market worldwide.

On the surface online’s less than 10% market share might not seem compelling, but the industry’s perception may not match the consumers’ reality. Compare that meager market share with luxury consumers’ preferences in where they like to shop and a totally different picture emerges.

In a global survey of affluent consumers with annual incomes of $150,000 per year, or equivalent, the Luxury Institute found that 21% of those surveyed prefer to shop luxury online, and another 27% had no preference between online or in-store shopping. Just shy of a majority of luxury consumers don’t shy away from doing so online, rather they actively embrace it.

“Luxury brands will lose share if they are not able to interact in the way the world is changing and the way customers want to interact with them,” Mitchell-Keller maintains .

While heritage luxury brands drag their feet, plenty of others are jumping in unburdened by fears of losing their luxe on the internet. “We are seeing a lot of luxury brands being created online, companies like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter, Bonobos, that have much more of an online than physical presence,” Mitchell-Keller says. “And other more traditional brands, like Badgley Mischka and Gucci, have figured out how to create, maintain, even enhance their luxe cache online. There is no secret or easy answer how they’ve been able to do that, but it can and is being done.”

Two of these born on the internet brands, she notes, have recently been acquired by other companies – Yoox Net-a-Porter by Richemont and Bonobos by Walmart – and Farfetch has just signed deals with Fendi, Burberry and Chanel in advance of an expected IPO in NYC this coming November.

Such deals are expected to pick up in the future, as Mitchell-Keller explains, “The main reason physical luxury brands are acquiring digital brands is because they haven’t figure out the online equation yet. They are looking for help to reach the digital customer.”

Putting our heads together, we think these 5 brands best exemplify the future of luxury online.

Farfetch goes further

Founded in 2008 as a online luxury fashion platform, Farfetch is seamlessly blending in-store access to fashions across the globe with internet convenience. With offices in 11 fashion hubs, from which it offers same-day express delivery, it lists products from over 700 boutiques and fashion brands. It carries a multitude of heritage and emerging designer brands, including Dolce & Gabbana, Givenchy and Chloé.

Having acquired the London-based Browns boutique in 2015, it used that platform to introduce its technology-enhanced “Store of the Future” concept that marries the digital and personal experience luxury shoppers desire.

Given its chops in digital luxury marketing, Farfetch also initiated a white label digital service called “Farfetch Black and White” for brands that want to use its platform to power their own branded online presence.

Numerous heritage brands are coming on board in one way or another, including Burberry to list all inventory in its marketplace, Fendi for customized handbags, Gucci for 90-minute delivery service, and most recently Chanel.

But tellingly, Chanel was quick to point out that its Farfetch partnership will not include selling fashion online, rather using its proprietary in-store technology for physical retail. “We are not starting to sell Chanel on the Farfetch marketplace – I want to be very clear on that,” said Chanel’s president of fashion Bruno Pavlovky in announcing the deal. To which Mitchell-Keller asks, “How much share will they lose while they are trying to figure online out?”

Such reluctance to embrace full-on digital access for customers is indicative of an industry attitude that has to change to ensure a vibrant future. It is ridiculous for a brand like Chanel to force its 21st customers to shop like they did back in the 80s.

Net-a-Porter brings it

Just acquired by Richemont following a merger with YOOX in 2015, Net-a-Porter founded in 2000 takes a more heavily content-driven strategy than its closest competitor, Farfetch. But like Farfetch it offers white label digital support to designer brands through its YNAP platform which Richemont says will continue to operate as a separate entity. Nonetheless, it will make strange bedfellows, since YNAP operates flagship online stores for many competitive Kering brands, including Bottega Veneta, Balenciaga, and YSL.

While Mitchell-Keller admires Net-a-Porter, she thinks its Outnet website that offers discounted fashions in flash-sale format is especially in tune with how the next generation wants to shop. “My son, who is totally a millennial, had me logon to order a pair of gold Nike shoes, which I understand are status items for the college crowd. So here we are logged in at midnight for the countdown and find out we are #500 in line to order. It is such a different experience than I am used to where luxury brands pamper you in the store, but millennials don’t necessarily want that. They want this,” she says.

Outnet makes it fun for millennials. It is fast, it’s limited, it’s accessible and it’s cheaper.

Bonobos shows men how to wear it

Bonobos is one of those born on the internet luxury brands, or near-luxury for those who want to quibble, that have captured the loyalty of affluent men shoppers, a hard demographic to attract into the store. It’s achieved that by not just selling clothes, but showing men how to dress fashionably. It is also helped by offering casual-luxe styles that modern men favor.

“I’m intrigued by the way Bonobos shows their clothes,” says Mitchell-Keller. “It’s not just a guy standing there like on most websites. You can see the movement and men interacting with each other. It is a much different experience than just going online and seeing picture after picture of clothes. It’s engaging.”

As a result, Bonobos caught the eye of a big company suitor, Walmart, which acquired the company last year, and with it a thought-leader in the next generation of retail fashion, Andy Dunn who joins another ecommerce powerhouse, Marc Lore, at Walmart to give it a leg up into new internet markets.

While Walmart just announced that its recent quarterly online sales growth slowed, up only 23% compared to a year ago vs. the 50% growth enjoyed throughout the first nine months of the year, it continues to project a 40% uptick through the rest of the year, with Bonobos and a recently announced online partnership with Lord & Taylor showing that this low-end leader aspires to reach higher.

Badgley Mischka dress its models with tech

While the Badgley Mischka brand has long maintained a vibrant online ecommerce presence, co-owner and co-designer James Mischka is described by Mitchell-Keller as a “technology geek.” Being as attuned to tech as fashion, he partnered with SAP to create a runway app for the recent New York Fashion Week where those in the audience could vote on each look as it walked down the runway. “In 9 minutes they got feedback that usually takes them 6 months to get,” she says.

The results were eye opening for the company which discovered that a dress they hadn’t thought would make much of a splash turned out to be the #2 most popular look, allowing the company to place sufficient orders to get it into the stores in record time.

The audience in turn loved the ability to get all the fashion details on their phones instantaneously. The models loved it, who were back stage reading the results and competing to see whose look scored highest. And the other designers at show were envious and lined up afterwards to get an app for their next runway show.

Thinking about new ways consumers can interact and engage with a luxury brand is what makes Badgley Mischka an important luxury brand for the future. “Too many luxury brands aren’t thinking about the technology. They are thinking about product, which is important, but they have to understand how their brand is being consumed differently than it used to be consumed,” Mitchell-Keller notes.

Gucci breaks out of the luxury culture

And we can’t finish our look at luxury online without mentioning Gucci. In an interview on CNBC,  Kering’s chairman and CEO Francois-Henri Pinault said its Gucci brand is doing about 50% of its sales with millennials. In recognition of its online success, L2 Research, which specializes in data-driven analysis, gave its top spot for best performing digital fashion brand to Gucci in 2016 and 2017.

I’ve written extensively about Gucci here, but suffice to say that Gucci’s success online is thanks to Gucci’s CEO Marco Bizzarri giving free reign to its young creative director Alessandro Michele, who understands how to connect with this digitally-native generation. Thus Gucci has broken out of the inbred, digitally-adverse culture that plagues so many other luxury brands.

In conclusion, Mitchell-Keller and I see a whole digital transformation that is going to happen in luxury, just as it has happened in other markets. While we recognize that the experience of in-store shopping, and the pampering luxury consumers can find there, isn’t going to be replaced by digital engagement, customers today value the luxury of convenience that online delivers too.

“The time issue is a huge one,” Mitchell-Keller concludes. “It’s not just that everyone is now on social media. Everybody also has huge demands on their time. It’s a very different world than 20 years ago when these brands started to become popular. Luxury brands have to adapt to the way that consumers want to interact with their product now, and that increasingly is going to be online.”




Americans are finally coming back to Macy’s to shop for clothes

The Washington Post
By: Abha Bhattarai
February 27, 2018

A Macy’s department store in New York on Feb. 13.  (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)


Americans are buying more clothing, shoes and jewelry at Macy’s, helping turn around the retailer’s fortunes.

The department store chain on Tuesday said a renewed emphasis on apparel helped bring in more shoppers and persuaded them to spend more. Sales at stores open at least one year rose 1.4 percent in the most recent quarter, marking the first period of sales growth in more than three years.

“Our customers have responded well to the increased focus on fashion and enhanced quality of the merchandise,” Jeffrey Gennette, chief executive of Macy’s, said in a Tuesday call with analysts. “The consumer was out spending, and that was great.”

Macy’s has for years been dogged by many of the same issues facing its peers: changing shopping habits, excess inventory and a culture of deep discounts and promotions. It also faces increasing competition from Amazon, which is projected to surpass Macy’s this year as the country’s largest apparel seller. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)

But on Tuesday there were signs that the retailer’s turnaround efforts were working. Sales of women’s dresses, tailored men’s clothing, winter coats and fragrances all rose during the critical holiday season, helping lift fourth-quarter sales 1.8 percent to $8.67 billion. Profits nearly tripled, to $1.3 billion, or $4.31 per share, from $472 million, or $1.54 per share, a year earlier. Shares of Macy’s stock rose nearly 12 percent Tuesday morning after the news, before closing at 3.5 percent.

“Consumers had the ability to spend,” Dana Telsey, chief executive of Telsey Advisory Group, told CNBC on Tuesday. “Retailers and brands were able to come out with products people wanted. We have a little bit of an apparel cycle: Whether it was fragrances, dresses, active or men’s tailored, it all seemed to work.”

Macy’s said it boosted sales by dialing back discounts, adding exclusive products and investing in its private-label brands. Customers on average spent 3 percent more on each item they purchased during the quarter, according to Gennette.

The company is also adding more exclusive products, which make up about a third of its inventory. Last month, it began selling a line of “modest” clothing, including maxi dresses, jumpsuits and hand-dyed hijabs. Other exclusive brands include lines by Tommy Hilfiger and Martha Stewart.

“Macy’s has realized it needs to focus on its sweet spot: clothing for adults and kids,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the New York-based Luxury Institute. “This is a company that has always been about mainstream apparel, and I think they’ve found a way to make that work for them again.” (That appeal, he added, didn’t necessarily translate to teenage consumers. Indeed, Macy’s executives said sales of junior apparel slipped during the most recent quarter.)

Macy’s has made a number of sweeping changes in recent months. The Cincinnati-based retailer has closed dozens of stores, invested in new businesses and revamped its loyalty rewards program. It is also increasingly looking beyond the mall for expansion. The company opened 36 Bluemercury beauty stores last year, as well as 30 off-price Backstage locations. It plans to add another 100 Backstage stores this year to compete with rivals such as Nordstrom Rack and Saks Off Fifth.

“Macy’s is hot on the heels of a good fourth quarter,” said Stephen Beck, managing partner at New York consultancy cg42. “But there’s still a long way to go before we see a truly healthy turnaround.”



November 28, 2017

Luxury Brands Yield to Discounts Despite Push to Stay Exclusive

Apparel and handbag makers’ efforts to wean customers from discounts are off to a rocky start this holiday season.

Bloomberg Pursuits
By: Lisa Wolfson and Stephanie Hoi-Nga Wong
With Assistance by: Lindsey Rupp and Kim Bhasin
November 27, 2017


Take Michael Kors’s Jet Set Leather shoulder bag, selling at a 57 percent discount on the company’s website Monday for $149, or a black silk Prada blouse priced 40 percent lower at $809 at Barneys New York. Those items aren’t outliers, according to researcher Edited, which said luxury labels and retailers saw the industry’s highest volume of markdowns over the Black Friday weekend, followed by premium brands.

The lower prices couldn’t come at a more inopportune time for fashion houses like Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren Corp., which are trying to restore their cachet by clamping down on discounting. Both companies posted better-than-expected earnings last quarter and an increase in profit margins — signs that those efforts are working.

Though heavy promotions and specials are a hallmark of the holiday season, the data from Edited suggests that the labels still have a way to go before getting customers to shell out top dollar. Prices on more than a quarter of luxury items in stock were cut between 26 percent and 50 percent, according to the firm, which tracks real-time data for brands and retailers. The discount volume was 24 percent for premium brands and 20 percent for mass-market goods sold online.

“There are too many luxury and premium brands selling very similar products,” said Milton Pedraza, a New York-based luxury consultant. “Some of them reduced their prices without announcing it because it’s embarrassing and devalues their brand.”

Michael Kors’s website, while touting deals of as much as 50 percent off, offered some handbags and shoes that were marked down even more. Its Aileen leather boot cost $109 on the site, down 63 percent from $295.

For the online apparel market as a whole, Edited found that almost half of all items were discounted an average of 46 percent so far during the holiday season. The price cuts began weeks before Thanksgiving, and led product sellouts to double from this time last year, according to the research firm, which analyzed data from more than 11,000 clothing, footwear and accessory brands.

“While the retail industry has banked on aggressive discounts weeks before Black Friday and Cyber Monday to boost consumer spending, they need to make sure that this does not sacrifice margins in the long-term,” said Katie Smith, Edited’s director of retail analysis and Insights.

Almost a quarter of luxury handbags for sale online have been marked down between 40 percent and 50 percent so far, up from as much as 40 percent last year, Edited said. It named Fendi, Balenciaga, Tom Ford and Prada as some of top discounted brands.

While some high-end boutiques, like Chanel and Louis Vuitton, didn’t hold Black Friday sales events, they did stay open longer to take advantage of traffic. Others, such as Italian leather goods company Fendi, have offered 30 percent off on some products. One model of the company’s double micro baguette bag, originally priced at $1,800, was marked down to $1,260 on Monday at its Manhattan store on tony Madison Avenue. A salesman at the boutique said a lot more items have been discounted this year compared to only about five last year.

At Barneys New York, a blue cashmere coat with mink trim was selling for $2,889, a 40 percent discount off the original $4,820 price.

“I have seen so much discounted so early,” said Terie Bray, 45, who was shopping at Barneys on Monday, her second visit in two days to the upscale Madison Avenue store. Bray bought designer boots and a pair of Maison Margiela pants yesterday, both at 40 percent off. “If they are giving a 40 percent discount now, how much are they going to give for Christmas — 60 percent, 70 percent?”

While more people are shopping online each year, internet sales still represent less than 12 percent of total holiday retail purchases, according to EMarketer estimates. That means there is still plenty of opportunity for physical stores, including the struggling department-store industry.

Researcher ShopperTrak found that consumer visits to brick-and-mortar retailers on the day after Thanksgiving — considered one of the busiest shopping days of the year — slipped less than a percent from last year.


“There has been a significant amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail, and the fact that shopper visits remained intact on Black Friday illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant,” said Brian Field, senior director of advisory services for ShopperTrak.

More retailers opted to close on Thanksgiving Day this year, Field said. Based on years of traffic data, shopping on the holiday was only pulling visits from Black Friday, rather than creating an additional buying opportunity, he said, and that closing on Thanksgiving contributes to lower overhead and increased goodwill.

The National Retail Federation estimates U.S. holiday spending will increase as much as 4 percent this year. The industry’s biggest trade ground will provide its survey of Black Friday weekend shopping on Tuesday.



Older Posts »