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Saks Breaking First … Again!

April 28, 2009

There are over 100 comments on a post with this title over at the The Purse Forum on Purseblog.com. The Purse Blog is a huge influencer site. They won the 2009 Glam Network Award for shopping recently and the couple that runs it full time recently hired staff to help. Designers send them bags and give them behind-the-scenes showings, interviews and promotional giveaways. It’s like that. Anyway, if you know me well you know I do love to look at bags and sometimes indulge.  I read a piece in the current issue of MEDIA magazine on the future of luxury as the trend against conspicuous consumption and return to tasteful classics and thriftiness takes hold. Those who are buying are looking for less showy pieces and they are being more thoughtful about the purchases. Hmmm. I’m a bit of a contrarian on this. I think the people who fetishize certain luxury brands will continue to go for it. But they will be savvy shoppers. The savviest of the savvy in the bag hag cult lurk and post over at The Purse Forum. They know bags. They know retailers. They know sales associates (SA in posting shorthand) by name. I felt the need to cultivate a relationship with two Saks SA’s here in St. Louis, a Bergdorf SA in NY and a Nordstrom SA in Minneapolis just to be in the know. It’s worth the time. They e-mail presentations and dish about what the stores will stock months ahead and whip you into a buying frenzy. Well, maybe it’s a dysfunctional relationship. My healthiest SA relationship is with Nancy at Saks St. Louis. She’s terrific (look for lots and lots of pearls in homage to Coco).  So I was over at The Purse Forum to see if the trends were manifesting among the die-hard divas. The answer: sort of. Oh, they’re buying. And seeking affirmation from other members of the coven in the form of “OMG! I love it. It looks great on you. I so want one. More pictures!!!!” followed by an animated emoticon. Seriously. But it’s all in good fun. They are buying like predators stalking prey. Circling. Watching. Waiting.

First post on “Saks Breaking First … Again! SS09 Sale of the Century Begins!” announced to the faithful the following dish:

For all those who missed the Fall 09 mayhem of Chanel & Loubs and YSL at 76% off, looks like Saks is going to be the 1st one to break sale…again.

Like last time, they’re doing it surrepticiously through the guise of only “telling their Saks 1st and friends.” And what’s going to happen is that word will spread like wildfire on the internet!

Anyways, I’ve already gotten the card and my SA S**** in shoes is getting back to me about the FULL LIST of shoes about to be marked down and WHEN:

(he expects Mother’s Day weekend with presaling to happen May 4th), but I thought I’d give everyone the heads up (aka SAVE up and stop eating– or just use your MPA)

Expected 1st cut – 40% off. SWEET.
See flyer photo! (Followed by emoticon.)

From the post you can see why you need to be on e-mailing/chatting terms with a good SA if you’re in the market but don’t want to pay retail.

The glee at this news went on for pages. OMG. Speculating on what brands would be discounted. Clarification on the status of Miu Miu at Saks (no longer carried). And so forth. Then the circling started. The ladies of The Purse Forum agreed to wait for Mother’s Day and storm the stores to inspect merchandise and get the best choices. But there were contrarians in the mix, tamping down the frenzy, warning that the free-for-all carnival of the last event like this will probably not be reprised.

I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but I don’t think we will see markdowns like the last time. Saks received a lot of flack from designers and their competition as a result of their drastic markdowns last winter. I have read several articles with quotes from Saks big-wigs stating they will not discount their prices as much as they had last season. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

The pre-sale research chatter and circling mixed with promises to dine on cereal to save up for the big day — a nod to the recession and thrift trend — soon gave way to predatory waiting. A vocal minority is betting that retailers will cave as the recession lingers. They vow to wait for 70% off before they pounce. One woman sought others to join her cause — let’s hunt in packs to bring down the prey — noting the health of Saks but confident in the community’s ability to move the price by waiting.

I have to second that. The reason Saks put out the 70% or more sale last time was because they were in serious financial trouble, they almost ran out of money to run business. But, the big sale helped them got rid of much of their inventories, and brought in enough money to pay back to their credictors. In fact, CEO from Saks were very happy about the results, he said that they no longer face financial threats. Look at their stocks, they have been up. So, I don’t see a big sale to happen again. I think we should stop shopping at Saks at regular prices, bring them down again, so, that we will see another big sale. Show them whose are the bosses. (Followed by evil emoticon)

What I didn’t see in the Forum was a change toward restraint. There are always members “on a bag ban” — slang for self-imposed restraint for financial reasons, spouse pressure or spiritual growth. They were in a purse strap tug-of-war over price more for the principle of the thing. They believe the bags they covet and buy are over priced. And because they are opportunistic and waiting for retailers to cave.

What this says to me about core luxury shoppers for certain products or brands is that old rules of the game are meeting new rules of the game which makes it harder to market your way through to a full price sale. CRM matters. E-mails, catalogs, handwritten correspondence cards (love those) matter. Retail calender and pricing strategy matters. The timing and nature of gift card events and seasonal sales are well known. Once you discount, consumers learn. Luxury good or not, a sale is a sale and who doesn’t love a sale? The new dynamic is the internet and online sharing. Consumers know if a line falls apart from poor craftsmanship, who the “adorable” SA’s are, which store has the bag of the season in the hot color, which location has just marked down again, and so forth. And they know from trolling, posting or sharing online.

In my opinion, the upside is better than the downside. Promoting new stock, new designers, engaging customer programs — and of course, sales and events — is easier in many ways. Building buzz and informing customers is easy. Managing the transparency and the web/brick and mortar dynamic is the new challenge for CRM. There’s a Saks First Triple Points event going on now online and in stores April 30 through May 2. It’s a good offer for members. But will Saks shoppers like the ladies over at The Purse Forum bite if they’re holding out for the rumored big break after Mother’s Day?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. kimtrokey permalink
    April 29, 2009 6:37 pm

    I’ve got high hopes for the Mother’s Day break. Fingers crossed – even though 40% off is still too expensive for my Target tastes.

  2. Linda Garavalia permalink
    April 30, 2009 2:39 pm

    I’ve cleared my calendar for May 4th, if you need me, I’ll be pre-sale-ing it at Saks. With my fav SA in shoes, Marlin. Tall, dark and handsome.

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