By Rachel Lamb
August 30, 2011
Although luxury brands took precautions and prepared for the worst this past weekend, Hurricane Irene did not do much to hamper sales of luxury goods.
Brands have done their best to keep sales going despite the bad weather in the northeast by promoting their ecommerce sites and other online platforms. Others have even reached out via social media to ensure the safety of consumers and to offer valuable emergency resources.
“I don’t think that luxury branded sales were that affected,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of New York-based Luxury Institute. “If anything, they just lost a weekend’s worth of sales from local buyers and from tourists.
“There is significant geography where shopping is a large part of culture, but I think that consumers will make it up,” he said. “There was more of a lag than a foregone sale.”
Luxury brands, most notably New York-based retailers, took advanced precautions by deciding to shut down locations in the Northeast on Saturday Aug. 27 and Sunday Aug. 28 when the storm was supposed to be the worst.
For instance, department store chain Bloomingdale’s posted store hours and property closings on its Facebook page.
Bloomingdale’s also posted a picture of its stores being boarded up in preparation for the storm.
The retailer was joined by Bergdorf Goodman, which announced that it had boarded its windows and would “see consumers on the other side of the storm.”
“Like all messages, [luxury brands promoting] news of a storm has to be relevant,” Mr. Pedraza said. “You can overdo it because customers certainly have a lot more to worry about than luxury in a hurricane.”
However, other luxury brands decided to use the platform to aid their Facebook fans.
For instance, Mercedes-Benz USA posted a link to the Red Cross Web site with a checklist of preparations for consumers to take note of before a hurricane hits.
“If messages are lending a hand with true resources, that is wonderful,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Otherwise, I think that the messages in the height of an emergency are trite and irrelevant.
Shaken, not stirred
Despite the worries from the past weekend, luxury sales are actually doing well.
Retail stocks are up post-Irene, possibly because retailers emphasized ecommerce options despite the closing of physical retail locations.
Although the effects of this storm were less than those of other natural disasters, it is still encouraging that luxury brands stepped up to help.
Brands may not have posted links like Mercedes had, but many of them reached out to consumers to wish them safety and good thoughts.
For instance, in the height of the London riots earlier this month, luxury department stores Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols used social media to communicate and express sympathy to consumers.
“Disasters are topical,” said Chris Ramey, president of Affluent Insights, Miami. “Facebook and other Internet media are the fastest ways to communicate with clients.”
Luxury brands may feel the need to reach out to affluent consumers because brands see their customers as family, Mr. Ramey said.
Indeed, social media may be a better approach than sending out an email or another form of digital advertising, since that could just alarm or panic consumers.
“It’s about your relationship,” Mr. Ramey said. “Treat your customers with the same care you’d show your family.
“A deepening relationship always benefits the brand,” he said.