Luxury for less?

Luxury for less?

Professor Sonja Prokopec looks at how high-end brands distance themselves from the Black Friday bargain bins.

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“Black Friday” sounds like an ominous warning. Beware the throngs of shoppers, the endless queues, the brawls over the best bargains: hunt for deals at your own risk! Nevertheless, the siren call of sales can be irresistible, both for the consumers, and the brands.

Some luxury brands – Louis Vuitton, for example – never discount their products. After all, luxury goods are by definition exclusive, rare, and valuable. Sales negate these three fundamental pillars of luxury in one fell swoop! Instead of discounting, these brands instead work on optimizing their supply chains to ensure minimal surplus, and unload ‘leftovers’ through internal sales to staff.   

Many luxury brands do offer discounts, however. These brands have to work harder to manage their desirability and protect their image. Discounting has to be discreet.

If a brand is going to take the risk of offering “luxury for less”, it should follow these three cardinal rules:

1.  Never discount iconic products

You will never find a Chanel 2.55 or Celine Luggage handbags on sale. This is because a truly iconic product drives the desire for the brand as a whole.  Once an iconic product is seen as accessible, the entire brand seems less exclusive.

2.  Never offer the same retail experience

Luxury brands host sales in an outside venue. Dior, for example, organizes their annual sale in a basement on rue Montaigne.  The idea here is not only to avoid having visible sales signs in a luxury boutique, but also to distance the brand’s image from the sale in question. You may be getting a Dior product, but you’re not getting the Dior experience.

3.  If you are going to do a sale, make it a ‘private’ sale

The word private still make it feel exclusive. Luxury brands are often faced with this same conundrum: how do we reach out to new clientele without diminishing our exclusiveness? After all, the young professional who buys her first Dior handbag on sale might be the brand’s future loyal consumer. To preserve their luxury cachet, high-end brands have a fine line to walk.  

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