The Greta Garbo solution

If you truly want to be alone try spending an hour in menswear at Neiman Marcus in Dallas (I needed shoes, what can I say).

The store was empty and the beautifully merchandised departments with the new spring / summer ranges looked as if they were closed. I am guessing the same picture was replicated across the country and represents an America which is either unable or unwilling to spend or, more profoundly, an America that may be in longer term re-appraisal of its needs. It’s possible, is it not, that you can deny yourself a $500 pair of shoes enough times to make you realize that you can always live without them even when you do have the money and, worse still the whole idea of $500 shoes becomes somehow distasteful. Perhaps the concept of mass luxury is dying on its feet.

If this turns out to be true the implications may be interesting for all branches of manufacturing and design with a need to re-orientate to something like creating ‘functional delight’ in which fit for purpose triggers pleasure and satisfaction rather than those elements that comprise what we think of us luxury today.

As a side note to the retail gloom it’s fascinating to note the simultaneous success of WalMart and Hermes who operate at slightly different ends of the market but do so with relentless purpose and focus. They are the exceptions that prove the rule and rather hard to copy. You won’t beat WalMart on logistics and price anymore than you can make any old bag a Birkin!


Filed under Things worth thinking about, Uncategorized

3 responses to “The Greta Garbo solution

  1. The really cool thing is that no one really ever had to pay $500 for $500 shoes. People who did were just being incredibly wasteful. I, for instance, have a beautiful pair of alligator loafers (Cole Hahn’s Italian label) that retailed for more than $900. I paid less than $200 at Syms.
    For some the price tag alone was the purpose of the purchase. That’s what gave them the bragging rights. Without a stupid price tag…no conversation. Especially because the esthetics (supposedly the reason for the purchase) is entirely debatable (de gustibus non disputandum est or something like that).
    Here’s an idea: sell quality products for a reasonable price and people will buy them. Then offer them a receipt made out for whatever number they would like.

  2. Jerry Salomon

    Hi Rob, Iam sure that this is a temporary state of affairs. Maybe (hopefully) this crisis is teaching people to save again for a rainy day. The notion of thrift upon which this country was built (e.g Sears-Roebuck) had been completely lost since the middle of last century. But I am also certain that you and your colleagues eventually will come up with the appropriate plans to reverse the situation. Maybe more lay-aways than creditcards? It’ll never happen.

  3. Graciela Benveniste

    Hi Rob,

    I strongly believe that mass luxury is a dying trend and also think that its deterioration started long before the credit crunch. More specifically, I believe that luxury goods’ downturn initially began when an increasing number of brands such as H&M, Topshop, ZARA and IKEA became not only popular, but trendy as well. As a case in point, H&M used Madonna as its spokesperson, a celebrity who is now used for Louis Vuitton ads!

    At this point, it’s also worth mentioning that luxury goods’ purchase is gradually being replaced by a trend towards luxury goods’ rentals. It is my opinion that this comes as a result of people’s need to easily renew their wardrobes which makes rentals all the more relevant and expensive purchases all the more obsolete.

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