The mid-range for bag: a secret attack for times of crisis?

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It is currently the “it-product”: in the economic crunch, midrange accessories have become stars in Italian department stores. Study carried out in Milan in two stores for big names in boots: La Rinascente and Coin.

In La Rinascente’s flagship store in Milan, finding a mid-range bag is quite a feat. Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Moschino: luxury brands are the favorites in this department store. They are located on a mezzanine floor, an exceptional showcase: a floor between floors that is entirely designed as consecutive, transparent balconies that overlook the ground floor’s open area. What about mid-range brands? They are on the mezzanine as well. About a dozen of them share a hall, in a corner, far from what the store calls the “luxury balcony”. They all have identical 13m2 stands, a few shelves and displays. Plain displays that do not keep them from being the current stars: “During the past few months, sales for these bags have increased 30% and even 50% for Guess,” figures Linda Monfrini, Accessories Manager, who interprets: “People consider more the quality-price ratio in times of crisis”. Therefore, although luxury sales are slow, Rinascente customers – 13 points of sale for the department store that was founded in 1865 – grab bags and wallets by Sequoia, DKNY, Francesco Biasia, Coccinelle, 1A classe (by Alviero Martini), Nannini and Guess, with prices between 50 et 400 Euros. Most bags are spotted in showrooms and at the Mipel trade show in Milan. However, during the past months, the crisis has influenced selection: “We favor less expensive basic models and sometimes forego the most expensive items in a collection, admits Linda Monfrini. Unless a product appears in an advertisement: in that case, we always carry it! Supplier’s flexibility is also an important factor that determines our selection. We like to work with the possibility to change quickly if a collection does not sell well. In fact, that is one of the benefits of the crisis: warehouses are full since other department stores have cancelled their orders. So we have no trouble making quick, interesting changes.” Except for unusual circumstances, Rinascente’s mid-range turnover is based on seasons and sales. The store is cautious to count on “The best-known products”, without distinction of nationality, and tesets some new brands – Vanessa Bruno, Marc by Marc Jacobs – by cleverly adding a few pieces in displays. If a product sells well, the brand might have its own spot in the mid-range “hall”. However, the “luxury balcony” is out of the question! Only Furla was lucky enough to obtain 25m2 of personal display area between Celine and Burberry. “Furla is a special case because it has been unbelievable successful in our store”, comments Linda Monfrini. “however, that does not change our priority: luxury. That is what our customers, mainly tourists, expect”. As proof that La Rinascente favors must-have products, it removed its ground floor jewellery-textile accessory area in 2007. From now on, there are no more textile accessories behind fragrances (except for a few pieces that are still discreetly displayed at the end of the mid-range hall). Big jewellery corners are reserved for luxurious Bulgari or Swaroski, while mid-range jewellery shares showcases with watches. DKNY, Fossil, Swatch: “We only carry jewellery that is made by watch brands.” Notes Linda Monfrini. “It is not a very developed market for us because it does not draw customers.”

At Coin, the right price is more important than the brand name

Five tramway stations away, at Coin, another Italian flagship department store specializing in mid to high-end range products, there is a completely different point of view. All accessories are on the ground floor, behind makeup and fragrances. Jewellery and textiles have a definite place too. “The Italian brand, Amore e Baci and Tatune, a discovery from Colombia, are very important to us.” Specifies Cristina Finocchietti, the group’s accessory Manager. We always display textile accessories next to our jewellery area. It adds color and generates trends. We carry Guess, Roberto Cavalli, Emporio Armani, Cerruti along with our group brands.” A historical store, founded in 1916, Coin does not wish to share revenue figures but confirms that mid-range accessories are successful: “Jewellery and textile accessories are doing very well and we have sold more bags this year”, summarizes Cristina finochietti. “Consumers have changed with the crisis. They are no longer looking for THE brand, but rather THE right price. As for us, we try to offer the trendiest brands and to discover new talents. The customer should find exclusive products in our store, such as jewellery by Thomas Sabo from Germany, for whom we are the sole distributor in Italy”. Coin’s essential bag brands – priced between 59 et 190 euros – are currently Coccinelle, Guess, Nannini, George Gina & Lucy, Kathy Van Zeeland and Lolippops. In 64 stores, Coin offers half of its brand bag in mid-range, usually displayed in areas that are personalized by the brands, and the other half are “by Coin” bags. Another of the store’s particularities? Quick turnover, “The store has renew displays every three weeks”, indicates Cristina Finocchietti. In order to meet expectations of a very wide range of customers (from teens to businessmen), the team at Coin counts on its originality during the crisis and continues to select basic models and as well as the most expensive pieces in a collection. We find products at the biggest trade shows (Mipel in Mialn, Bread & Butter in Berlin, Pure in London, Premiere Classe in Paris), in the press, on the internet, during trips. Even if today the “made in” label is not as important. “French products are still synonymous with fashion and good taste, but the customer is no longer only interested in that, “states Cristina Finocchietti. The customer also wants a variety of products with genuine, good quality-price ratios.”

Publication Sacastar.com: french online bagstore

Contact: andre@sacastar.com

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