Retail Refugees

Madison Ave. Attitudes…
February 23, 2009, 1:28 pm
Filed under: Market Info, Stores | Tags: , , , , ,

With wallets tightenint and windows shuttering around the globe, luxury retailers are turning to new tactics to encourage would-be customers to buy buy buy. On Madison Avenue (NYC) of all places, the most exclusive designers stores seems to be embracing the everyman in hopes of selling products. I recently read about several instances of brands training and giving seminars about how to be friendlier and more welcoming.

MaxMara, for example, is teaching staff how to greet and engage customers so that anybody with a credit card will feel like a star. Eric Wilson from the International Herald Tribune tried an experiment to see how these seismic changes would really affect the daily shopping experience… ”

Within 30 seconds of walking into Chanel’s fine jewelry store at 735 Madison Avenue, I had a $4,500 black ceramic J12 watch snapped onto my wrist and a cheerful salesman telling me he had just read a book that claimed men who wore big, chunky watches were often remembered by those who met them as being taller than they actually are. I had walked in wearing a digital watch that cost less than $3 (made by Acqua, if you’ll excuse my name-dropping), which was placed gingerly on a velvet tray.

At Emanuel Ungaro (792 Madison Avenue), I tried on a $3,000 salt-and-pepper tweed topcoat with side vents, interestingly enough, in the front. It looked silly, but the saleswoman offered to stitch up the vents, even though the coat was on sale at 60 percent off.

Walking though the Ralph Lauren mansion (867 Madison Avenue), I felt like a regular, encountering no fewer than 17 employees who said “Hello,” “Howareya?,” “Can I help?” on three floors.

At Prada (841 Madison Avenue), where years ago I was made to feel small for returning a belt that, paradoxically, would not fit around my waist, a patient salesman attended as I tried on eight styles of loafers in three different sizes, all of them too big in the heel.

After switching to lace-ups, the only pair that fit well looked like safety shoes. They cost $695. I told him I’d think about it. He couldn’t have been nicer, although I will point out that at John Lobb (680 Madison Avenue), the salesman actually got down on his knees to put my feet into a pair of $1,100 loafers.”

However, there was one bad apple among the group of test subjects… Gucci. t was almost shocking, then, to step into the Gucci store (840 Madison Avenue) and encounter a greeter who asked, in a sharp tone, “What are you looking for?” Upstairs, I thought I’d try on a $350 swimsuit — what the heck? — but stood stock-still in the middle of an empty room for a full five minutes before anyone appeared to offer assistance.

The swimsuit was cute, but unrealistic. As I left, another salesman approached and asked, “You still here?”

“I’m just looking.”

“Looking, looking, looking,” he said, wagging his head….

Funny clip here…


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