The Socio-Economics of Sales: Part 2, United States Luxe Edition (or, how the 1% lives)
May 28, 2017
It is now time in our journey to move away from the big box, ready to wear stores of the masses, and to explore a different kind of shopping experience. The major cities and tony suburbs (and by that I mean rich) in the U.S. have designer brands which present a different shopping experience altogether. If we are still going by the premise that you are an alien here to learn about humans and gain a better understanding of their culture, this would be a very interesting stop indeed. (See part one if you are just joining us to catch up on the series’ story line.)
Here in the world of the well-heeled, you frequent stores with cache and aspirational, typically one-word names such as: Chanel, Dior, Gucci, Valentino, Tiffany’s, etc… Whether a person grows up shopping there (old money) or find themselves in the position to be able to afford these brands later in life (new money) they are already household names with recognizable logos in even the poorest homes. This is due in large part to the capital M – Marketing Machine that people are subjected to since birth. If capital S – Shopping is a religion, Marketing is it’s high priest and prophet – telling the flock what brands and trends are worthy of our attention.
How did we get here?
Example 1: When a baby is born in the United States, their parents and friends typically spend between $10,000 and $14,000 on “essentials” during the little darling’s first year (estimated by pollsters at BabyCenter 2012). True essentials are actually much less, but giving birth in the U.S. is an event designed to create an ”if you love me you’ll spend it” competitive environment. First there is a baby shower (usually before the child is born) where people throw a party and invited guests buy gifts from a registry. The closer the child is related to the guest or the more dependent the guest is on the family (such as a coworker) the more likely the gift will bear the name of a high-end designer. Then there are religious ceremonies welcoming the child into the world where the same guests are invited and more gifts are bought. Then the little dear will celebrate milestones with gifts touted on his/her own Twitter feed, and then there is the first birthday bash… The term “Nothing is too good for my (or your) little prince/princess.” will be bandied about liberally. The U.S. does not really have a system of Royalty; I suppose it is because each child is royalty in their parent’s eyes.
As this human being develops, he/she will face thousands of advertisements from the Marketing Machine. This information will come in print, radio, television, billboard, and subtle celebrity endorsements telling the developing person who he/she should want to become. If the child is not rich, there will be cheaper copies of designer labels that he/she can wear – always with a hint of bitterness at not being given the “Real” thing.
Example 2: There will also be occasional peer-pressure generated “Fads” especially during early teen years. Upper class children will be given an inappropriately expensive item (remember Uggs?) to be worn as a badge of honor (showing that their parents really love them). Children of average income households will then save to buy these items in order to keep up.
Bottom line: Ten year olds have no business owning $300 boots, but…
Rich parents with expendable income will buy them (30 minutes’ worth of a parent’s earnings)
Middle class parents will be pressured into doing the same (two days’ worth of a parent’s earnings)
Lower income parents will originally buy a copy (remember Fuggs?) which will look and seem the same for $100. The child will be ridiculed in school – something he/she will remember forever. Then the parents will relent, making sacrifices to afford the original boots, though the damage to their relationship is already done (a total of $400 spent, four days’ worth of a parent’s work earnings)
It is worth mentioning that most children will have no concept of the value of these boots. They will wear them and outgrow them within a few months, and the price will seem normal. The only time children have a moment of realization regarding the expense of high-end brands is when they are first living on their own and working entry level jobs. They are disheartened that their paychecks do not match their designer tastes. They realize that T.V. shows like Sex and the City and Keeping Up with the Kardashians are unattainable fantasies for most of the population. Some children find this adjustment so shocking, they move back in with their parents.
Now that you are armed with background information, imagine that you are going shopping with an adult who has enough expendable income to afford top of the line designers. You are about to visit a fashion house that everyone wants to frequent. Here will be your experience:
It is only through your connections that you are able to get an appointment for a fitting. This is a close knit society and unknowns are not invited unless they can be referenced on Google.
You will dress “to impress” for the day, wearing your best outfit in order to fit in. Instinct would dictate that you wear the same designer, but wearing the past collection can seem like an affront to their sensibilities and mark you as a “poser” (imposter or fraud). Instead you will be well advised to wear a competitor’s current season of clothing – something the store clerk will recognize and serve to put him/her on notice.
Upon entering, you will be offered cappuccino, herbal tea, or champagne. The economy stores attempt to replicate this welcome by having Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks for sale – this is however, not the same at all.
The service professional (one who is experienced and on commission) will be attractively groomed. He/she will address you by name, compliment you on something you are wearing, and you will be placed on a platform (pedestal) with flattering lighting and three way mirror.
This professional will then offer you SERVICE. He/she will ask: What do you like to wear? What type of materials/colors do you prefer? What type of event is the outfit for? Etc… Slowly getting to know you and your interests, allowing for a more strategic, targeted sale.
Fittings and alterations will be offered if needed (always), delivery to your home/hotel will be guaranteed, and business cards will be exchanged between you and the service professional. The sales person is not just selling the clothing, but also their expertise as a stylist – should they leave one designer for another – they will contact you and invite you for a showing.
Money is rarely discussed, and the bill will be given so discreetly, it will barely register that you gave your credit card. There are no lines at the counter, all currency transactions are done from a couch or the dressing room.
Everything is tailored to your needs. Intimidation tactics and pressured sales are not needed once it is established that you belong (have the means to afford their items). The only people who will feel awkward will be those who dare to enter without knowing the rules of engagement.
Sounds like a dream experience doesn’t it? I know about this level of service – not because I am rich – but because it is what I teach people to do. Although I am not a creature from outer space (and don’t know any personally), instructing employees from many countries to work with the wealthiest, most demanding clients in the world is a lot like traveling to a foreign planet. Human nature is the same everywhere, but human rights and behaviors are not. Our next journey will be to Western Europe – I hope you will join me!