Luxury stores are still reducing crowding after COVID – and won’t admit why
COVID-19 is starting to wane, but shopping for a Louis Vuitton bag, a Chanel suit or a pair of Gucci loafers increasingly means standing in line outside the boutique — and luxury brands are clearly hawkish about why.
Most elite labels turned to “date shopping” during the height of the pandemic, citing the need for social distancing. But as the threat from the virus recedes, some including Cartier and Harry Winston continue to enforce the new policy.
They also fail to convince shoppers and experts alike of their reasoning – if they bother to explain their position at all. Major brands including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Cartier have not responded to calls and emails from The Post about their continued use of props in front of store entrances, as queued shoppers are questioned by “helpers” about potential purchases before entering.
Without going into details, the Cartier website advises, “We recommend that you book an appointment in advance of your visit to your store, as your visits may encounter extended waiting times.”
According to experts, restricted customers can often thank a relentless epidemic of burglaries and burglaries in place of social distancing for massive crowd control nationwide, including in New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. The theft got so bad last year that Beverly Hills hired two private security companies to patrol Rodeo Drive.
Meanwhile, at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, New York, where thieves ransacked a Louis Vuitton store in February, the doors of the boutique were closed, and props invited shoppers to queue outside.
A couple of headphones-wearing welcomes – flanked by a pair of mall security guards – asked customers if they were there to pick up an order or shop. Shoppers were only allowed in when a fellow was ready to escort them inside.
“They don’t want customers looking around the store without a store clerk with them,” a sales assistant told The Post.
Luxury brands have succeeded in masking the embarrassment of the situation in part because making it difficult to get into their stores “creates an aura of exclusivity,” says Steve Dennis, a retail consultant in Dallas.
Dennis, author of Brilliant Retail: How to Win and Retain Customers in the Age of Turbulence.
Melanie Holland, luxury retail consultant, adds, “The new nightclub, in its own whimsical way, is entering the Dolce & Gabbana store on Saturday.”
Last week, a Chanel executive sparked a chatter when he revealed in an interview that the company plans to open “special” stores in Asia next year for major customers. Chanel is hiring 3,500 new employees for the initiative, which experts say could be adopted in the United States.
“Our biggest concern is protecting our customers, especially our pre-existing customers,” Philippe Blondeau, Chanel’s chief financial officer, told Business of Fashion. “We will invest in highly protected stores to serve customers in a very exclusive way.”
In response, Fashion Blog Highsnobiety asked, “What exactly do Blondiaux and Chanel want to ‘protect’ their clients from?”
Holland has speculated that Chanel may be looking to prevent its wealthy clients from becoming targets for thieves after they leave stores. She adds that big spenders don’t usually walk the streets.
“People who want to spend $25,000 on a little dress don’t want to stand in line,” Holland said. “Maybe these customers make an appointment with a personal shopper – they know this line isn’t for them.”
As previously reported by The Post, Madison Avenue stores on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, including Chanel, Prada, and Carolina Herrera, are dimming their lights, closing their doors, and opening by appointment only in an effort to deter a wave of boisterous shoplifters during the day. I dreaded the attractive road this year.
In February, a team of seven thieves walked out of The Real Estate in Madison at 71st Street with nearly $500,000 worth of handbags and jewelry.
In the wake of such thefts, there is simply a “new lack of confidence” on the part of retailers “about who walks through their doors,” said Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School.
In practice, most luxury brands assign a sales representative to each customer or group. One salesperson said that the days of walking into an exclusive store and “browsing” without a colleague chasing you are pretty much gone.
Meanwhile, staff at high-end boutiques including Chanel, Gucci and Burberry are armed with talking points for curious customers, some of which sound plausible.
“We’re still dealing with shipping delays from Paris and you don’t want everyone to come and notice that the store doesn’t have the latest styles,” a salesperson at a store operated by a major luxury brand told The Post. , speaking on condition of anonymity.
“You want to be able to tell them face to face that cutting is on the way,” the assistant added.