For those shoppers who’d rather go to a real store than hunt for clothes in their friends’ apartments, the best way to keep your retail activity on the down low is to have the store package your goods in unmarked bags and boxes. That’s what Kathy Fuld does. Wait. Why is Kathy Fuld shopping?
The Daily Beast: It’s become a common request, an Hermès employee told The Daily Beast. Sales associates at this temple of good taste have gotten used to passing out plain white shopping bags to clients eager to hide their $10,000 Birkin habits in the current economic environment.
At Hermès and a handful of other exclusive retailers, “secret shopping” has becoming the winter season’s newest trend. Anyone who can still afford, say, the three cashmere throws at $2,225 each that Mrs. Fuld bought when she stopped by the store that day isn’t likely to advertise it. Instead, the city’s most extravagant shoppers are ferrying their purchases home in unmarked bags; delegating delivery to assistants; or manipulating credit card bills to disguise their spending from outsiders—and their spouses.
“We kind of respect it,” says the sales associate, who’s worked at the store for several years and sees a white bag twice a day now, up from once a month in August. Skipping the trademark citrus bag, with its thick paper, brown cord handles, and logo, Hermès’ biggest spenders are “trying to be discreet.”
Of course the employee “respect[s] it.” Hermes should be glad people are still coming in to the store.
[Milton Pedraza, C.E.O. of the Luxury Institute, a market research company for purveyors of luxury goods and services] has heard of several retailers offering plain packaging, or shipping in unmarked boxes, including Net-A-Porter, the online designer boutique that traffics in labels such as Chloé, Missoni, and Jimmy Choo. (The company didn’t return a call to confirm.) A quick trip to Tiffany confirmed that the Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan has white bags available too, although a salesperson there said the store has offered them, as an alternative to the classic blue bags, for at least seven years.
In a recent conversation with a top executive at a New York luxury retailer, which Pedraza didn’t identify, the executive observed that sales were down at his stores only partly because no one wanted to splurge. The bigger factor among shoppers of means was that they “don’t want to be seen as consuming luxury,” says Pedraza.