Tag Archives: Louis retail store

Although it’s a Season of Black and White, Here is a Word About Color

Three Cheers for Color and Pattern

So I can tell you right now by the time the collections are complete in the stores for Spring/Summer everything will look black and white. After two springs of “color, color, color” EVERYONE went back to black and white. But by April the stores will look so boring and unappealing consumers will be begging for some color.  As a buyer you choose from what is in front of you. But as I have been telling you for many years there has been this consensus before the shows even start and the media and stores are forced into a storyline. “These are the TRENDS”. If you are not careful as a buyer you might fall into this trap. But I find these trends leave little to the imagination of the consumers, making the consumers feel like mindless idots who can’t dress themselves without a STAR in a magazine showing them the way.

I am so excited about the merchandise in the store right now. It’s design at its’ best; modern, fresh and yes colorful. We will have our share of black and white, but why does everything have to be all or nothing? Here are some examples….

The Mix of Colors in this Dress are So Special!

Though the “trend ” for printed trousers started a few seasons ago, I think some designers are mastering the art of partnering patterns with high tech fabrics.

The Print on these Trousers Really Need to Be Seen in Person

Mix and Match is Half the Fun

One last photo of a cute little dress from Suno…nothing loud or on TREND just a cute little dress from Suno that you would love to wear all summer.

Stretch Silk and So Easy to Wear

“The Lowest Common Denominator”

 

Before Louis, I used to work in marketing for an advertising agency. We would come up with amazing advertising campaigns that would answer to the needs of our clients, with some humor thrown in for creativity. Inevitably, the campaigns would go in front of focus groups. First everyone in the group would chuckle at the ad. They would understand the message but sure enough, they would find some thing objectionable about our work. The client would panic and strip the ad of the very thing that made them enjoy it to begin with. I could never understand why it would be brought down to the lowest common denominator.

 

Recently, I met a very smart gentleman at a dinner one night that was the head of a company that mines data off websites. With that information, he finds patterns that are supposed to help companies sell more products and better serve its customers. What stuck with me the most from our conversation how differently generations are influenced to shop. My generation (Boomers) look to “known brands” as a reassurance for what we purchase. Generation X-ers look to their friends as a reference. The Millennials looks to complete strangers as their guide to purchases, whether through “curated” inspiration boards, blogs or publicly touted “likes” of products and brands. If this proves true then it explains the herd mentality that is prevalent in much of the content we view today. These socially driven endorsements are now dictating what we are feeling – from Dancing with the Stars to the political polls that are reported hourly – even if we are personally not feeling it. This really scares me.

 

The obsession with polls in this election cycle falls along these lines. It feeds right into this instant gratification of information thanks to the real-time nature of reporting. One blunder from the candidates, or their associates, and the polls skew one way until another blunder comes along. Then with that information the voters get saturated with advertising from the candidates until “the polls” say they are not effective any more. The candidates’ talking points are all based on polling.

 

The politicians are not talking about reality (maybe that hasn’t changed) but the candidates opinions change with every poll that comes out. Who votes like that? When you attempt to please more people at a greater volume, you end up lacking authenticity. For something so gullibly accepted by the masses like the polls, you’re losing the validity of these statements being real. With everything said to please the polls, it’s doubtful the soon-to-be elected officials will continue to shift at the masses every whim. Here, we think we’re getting what we want, but in turn, are giving up so much.

 

It really isn’t much different than the current state of retail. Generally, consumers are driven to shop by price. It’s funny, you don’t even have to mention what the product is, they just want to pay less for it. If surveys went further to ask consumers what would they would give up to get the lowest possible price, the answer is what the retail experience is today – and we still haven’t talked about the product! Consumer indifference has lead to the lowest common denominator, having us believe that getting the best price is the greatest goal. Now shoppers are expected to research the products, find them in big box stores, take it to long-lined registers, even check out and bag, then drag the bags to their cars – all by themselves.

 

Think about when you’re at a store with self check-out. You’re under the guise of getting “it” for less, but there’s a lot of work before you even swipe your credit card: you’ve become an expert on the product, whether it’s your cold medicine, cleaning products, electronics, whatever and then you have to scan and bag it yourself. We, as consumers, have become driven to this. We’re giving up the value of the experience and the civility of shopping for something perceived as a bargain or deal. Meanwhile, the large retailers from drug stores all the way up to the big box stores are making a 25-30% gross margin and lowering labor costs because you’re doing all the work (who’s the real winner here?).

 

We’ve been blinded into believing that choosing lower prices are what we want while having sacrificed service and direct information from the retailers. The fact is that this sort of mass consumer demand is showing up in all facets of life, much like how we’re blinded by politicians telling us what we want to hear rather than what they are really going to do in office. I know that saving money is SO important right now, but at some point living a less stressful life might be equal to the quest. And hopefully that will be the lowest common denominator.

 

 

It’s The Product …. Put Simply

Sorry I haven’t written but I’ve been traveling for business…mainly in Italy. I have lived through many turbulent times running this store. I think my generation has been burdened with the same curse as my grandfather’s, where we have to navigate wars, recession/depressions, and discounting at all levels of retail. But this trip really illustrated how frazzled the world is from dodging and maneuvering to meet all the challenges that have been thrown at business over the last decade. Retail vendors are at their wits end trying to figure out, yet again, how to innovate and keep ahead of all the economic changes happening daily. Forget the frustration with paralyzed governments…we’re just stuck with the results of their non action. In Europe many businesses took advantage of the Asian market which has helped their bottom line for many years now….well that is not a given any more….you can feel the wheels slowing WAY down to a pace of business that mirrors the 70’s more than 2012.

Well I say it’s about time. I think this is what we need to do. We need to step back and redirect the consumer to the product and not just pushing them to shop , for the sake of purchasing (at a discount). We have been spinning for so long, at such a fast pace, that we haven’t educated the consumer about anything except how to get it for less. Somehow this just doesn’t seem right now. Oh I know, I’m just one person talking but I really felt the “tipping point” away from this discount behavior in Europe. I’m sure the change will take years to really feel the full force, and discounting isn’t going away…but purchasing is going to become “thoughtful” again, and my prediction is that “honest to goodness quality” is going to be the new focus. Well let’s hope or true quality will slowly fade out of existence.

One of my visits this trip was to the Belvest Factory. Belvest is one of our outstanding menswear tailored clothing vendors, their factory is just outside of Venice. It’s very reassuring to me that clothing is still made this way. One by one, section by section, each jacket is worked with skill and care. As a result we fit these jackets everyday and they mold to each customer because the jacket is made in a three dimensional way…one by one (not 20 or 100 at a time).

Each Jacket is Worked on One By One

Educating this process to consumers is our life long project. It would be great if the media would spend more time honoring these kind of efforts instead of training consumers to look for cheap goods. When the next generation is ready to learn about how important it is for a garment to be made well, hopefully we will be there to educate them. Plus we can show how ecological, as well as cost effective, to buy  a garment that will last  more than a year and will reward you by feeling like it was made for your body…which it was.

End Result

Here’s what I’m afraid of…. as a result of the economic roller coaster that we (society) will rush to eliminate the more expensive way of doing things, we will convince ourselves that cheap is more important than longevity, and we will forget that the product is KING not the price of it. For now we are lucky that we can still enjoy  jackets made by hand and we have the customers to prove it…

 

Fierce

Memorial Day weekend I made a trek to Atlantic City to see Beyonce in concert. OK OK I wouldn’t normally be doing something like that…only your children can make you do things you wouldn’t normally do. But as always, when I do these things, it becomes an adventure. We stayed at a massive new hotel called the Revel with a casino in it. I felt like I was in Vegas in the sixties. Atlantic City, as a city, has a long way to go (great beaches though) but this hotel is taking it in a new direction. But the point of this story is to make an observation about women in the 21st century.

Beyonce's Confidence Was On Display From The Beginning

The audience at the concert was made up of 60% women and 40% men. Please understand that I am generalizing now. The men in the audience were happy to see a strong performance by an amazing Diva who performed for two and a half hours straight, danced almost every song and looked “HOT” in over the top costumes (And I usually don’t like the way she dresses). The women in the audience were there to honor a mentor, a women who dreamed the dream, fought the fight and won. You could feel it in the auditorium. The tickets to this event were in the hundreds of dollars, yet there were thousands of women, working women, who paid with their hard earned money, to see a woman that represents the life they are living.

The Huge Tron Behind the Stage Was a Great Back Drop

The women of my generation worked hard to blaze the trail for the this new generation of women and I have been waiting to see this new evolution of female strength. I saw it clearly at this concert. Women now make up half of the workforce. They have to be responsible for everything in their lives. They don’t rely on a man for their financial and emotional support as was the case only 20 years ago. But there is another by-product of this independence, which is their need to do be perfect. Beyonce, their fearless leader, is a prime example of this trend. This sold out show was powered by a perfectionist who spent hours making sure that the show was flawless….and it was. The staging, choreography and the musical performances all were the result of hours of rehearsals and constant editing. The credit roll at the end of the show had Beyonce’s name in every category . It was told to me later that “trust” is a commodity that she values and doesn’t give out very easily. Therefore the old adage of “If you want it done well do it yourself”…or the translation is “you can ONLY  trust yourself to get it done right….is more prevalent than ever.

Standing Tall in Front of a Colorful Screen

 

 

 

 

 

I Just Gotta Share this With You

There was a special report about Walmart turning 50 in Women’s Wear Daily and I they had some numbers they wanted to share with the rest of the world .

Can You Believe This?

They had more information but I think you get the general idea. Walmart has changed everything. Doesn’t their size frighten you? It frightens me. How could anyone compete with this Goliath? Certainly I’m not talking about Louis but just in general, how can anyone compete in the retail world with something so large.  Then again I feel like everything now is big. I guess you can’t produce anything economically any more without HUGE quantities. The global economy now means that your product must reach every corner of the world. But how does that keep your product SPECIAL? For companies to be known all over the globe they have to have that BRANDING machine in place. Companies have to be accessible on the internet, and they have to have hundreds of points of distribution.  Zegna has 125 stores in China alone. Still I can’t help getting a queasy feeling that with so much exposure the product just becomes another commodity.  It’s almost a vicious circle that you can’t get noticed until you are already over exposed.

With media firing off information so fast to consumers, manufacturers might get a leg up with the exposure. “New and different” happens every day and then the news becomes stale just as fast. The consumer gets lost and confused and retreats to the familiar, “BRANDED” merchandise. Back to the circle.  On the other side of this issue is the elimination of brands because retail companies can’t compete. The perfect example of this is trying to find brands at CVS. Years ago vendors would fight for shelf spaces that were eye level, they would pay CVS to get the best shelf position. Now the best positioned product is the CVS Brand, which is usually cheaper than the name brand. But you find yourself looking tirelessly for the “name brand” which is usually buried between the CVS brands. The reason for this is that CVS can’t beat the price of Walmart for “name brands” so they try to win with their generic brand….sometimes these products are just not the same. So to get the “brands” you want you have to drive to a Walmart (or shop on line) or buy generic. Best Buy is another example of Samson and Goliath, which is funny because Best Buy used to be Goliath. Best Buy is now closing stores because Amazon is so BIG and they don’t have the expense of having to support brick and mortar stores which enables them to compete on price.

 The way we shop is changing so fast….but I’m not sure the consumer realizes what they are giving up to pay the least amount for what they want. And soon I fear they won’t have a choice to actually go to a store and sample the choices. Are we so willing to give up the act of experiencing things just to get the cheapest price? Obviously the answer is a BIG yes.