It’s not surprising that high-end department stores like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks are slashing prices to get people in the doors, but as elite services like “wardrobe consultants” and boutique retailers are feeling the pinch of the recession, they’re desperately seeking shoppers.
NY Observer: “Things are a little slow,” said wardrobe consultant Julie Biandi while hunting for clients at Barneys with a friend. “A lot of them are relying on me to shop more methodically. Before, people would call me to shop for them at stores, but now they are doing more shopping in their closet.”
Rather then buy a new party dress this season, she is helping clients scour their wardrobes for a great black dress and accessorizing it with costume jewelry, like a Vera Wang bangle…
Meanwhile, boutique jewelry stores are guilt-tripping potential customers into shopping at their stores instead of at Tiffany’s.
Luxury brands that a year ago would never deign to put “Sale” signs in their windows before the New Year are now in “survival mode,” according to Renee Kopel, the marketing director for the 122-year-old William Barthman jewellers in the Financial District. Walk-in traffic has plummeted since September and, for the second year in a row, their corporate gift gallery is competing against an iconic blue box: Tiffany’s opened an 11,000-square-foot Wall Street branch in October 2007.
Ms. Kopel began circulating an e-mail urging long-time clients—many of them from the shrinking financial services sector—to buy gifts from William Barthman during what will likely be the most ascetic winter in years and advertising 20 to 40 per cent off most merchandise. “We are extremely mindful of the state of the economy and we want to try and help,” Ms. Kopel wrote in the e-mail. “Gift giving will be inevitable regardless of the state of the economy, so it might as well be as affordable and as painless as possible.”
Last Wednesday, Ms. Kopel had successfully wooed back the head of a Lower Manhattan dental practice who defected to Tiffany’s last year, and was busy preparing the order. “I called him and said, ‘[Tiffany’s] is a big chain and they don’t need your help. I do,'” she said. “And he came back.”
Still, some stores refuse to cut prices…
Eugene Venanzi, a bespoke tailor who owns the eponymous boutique on West 56th Street, believes in “holding true to your standard” whatever the climate.
“We never do a sale,” Mr. Venanzi said from what he called the Swedish, neo-classical boutique he opened three years ago. “You have to look at things from your focus. If you open a shop like this, you’re saying your long-range is based on quality and exclusivity and the classicism of exclusivity. Our approach is classic. We’re not a Prada. We’re not coming out with a new design every four to six months…. For me to take a navy pinstripe suit that, let’s say, is $4,000 and make it available for $2,500, then replace it two months later and put it out for $4,500, doesn’t prove anything.”…
And some shoppers wouldn’t dream of buying merchandise on sale. Quelle horreur!
“I’ve never seen it like this with so many sales and the department stores are in shambles,” said Betsy Reynolds, a visitor from Alabama who strolled through Barneys with the air of a native New Yorker. Ms. Reynolds, 57, makes two trips a year to Manhattan with her 19-year-old daughter Lauren.
Both mother and daughter agreed that this has been their most “frustrating” retail expedition yet and they prefer to shop when “everything in the world is [not] on sale.” “Going to Bergdorf, which to me is the classic department store that there ever was, you know we went up there and the whole store was in shambles like a low-class department store.”
“I would rather buy at regular price than to go through all this,” her daughter chimed in.
Perhaps you should call up that wardrobe consultant and get her to buy you some expensive stuff.
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