Have Exclusive Designer Deals Lost Their Value?

Discussion
Feb 15, 2013

Over the holidays, the question of designers came up at the family table. Our 19-year-old and a group of her friends were discussing the relative merits of celebrity fashions compared to those by "real" designers and whether it made sense to purchase products from either when sold in mass outlets (Target), fast fashion specialty (H&M) or department stores (Kohl’s, Macy’s, etc.).

Interestingly, the small group agreed that the whole exclusive thing was getting a bit tired because, let’s face it, pretty much every retailer is doing it these days. Now, that doesn’t mean that these young women wouldn’t go online or stop by a store if Jason Wu or Stella McCartney’s name was attached to an affordable line of clothing, but they weren’t going to rush to a store featuring fashions designed by any member of the Kardashian clan, Selena Gomez, etc.

This week, Target put its exclusive designer cred on the line again (remember the Target + Neiman Marcus partnership did not fare as well as expected) and apparently won with the Prabal Gurung for Target collection. In fact, it appears based on my research that inventory for the line is as deep or deeper on eBay (more than 2,000 search results) than it is in Target’s stores or Target.com.

But this apparent success aside, have chains gone too far with the whole exclusive designer tactic and, if yes, what must they do differently to create excitement and sales for their businesses?

RetailWire BrainTrust member Carol Spieckerman told the Pioneer Press, "The novelty has certainly worn off" retailer and designer partnerships. She suggested that Target and others needed to develop "complementary" programs to create further buzz and drive sales.

Are exclusive designer deals losing some of their value for mass, specialty and department store chains? What can retailers do in place of or in addition to exclusive deals to improve results?

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10 Comments on "Have Exclusive Designer Deals Lost Their Value?"


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Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

George, I wonder if your 19 year old is pointing to something further.

In “The Devil Wears Prada,” Miranda Priestly goes on and on about the quantum differences between two indistinguishably different shades of blue on two identical belts. Clearly Ms Priestly would dismiss me with the wave of her hand…but does anyone else think that “Designer Fashions” are mostly smoke and mirrors? If there wasn’t the hype, would you give a lot of that stuff hanging on a rack a second look? Really?

Why might these Designer Alliances not meet lofty objectives? Because for the most part, it’s boring rehashed stuff. A designer label does not equal innovation, uniqueness, creativity, appeal. Even the quality is suspect in so many cases.

Maybe designers, like the emperor, have no clothes.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Could it be as simple (or complex) as knowing your target audience (pun intended). Neiman Marcus and Target assumes that Target shoppers are aspirational about Neiman shopping. But apparently that’s not the case. On the other hand Target shoppers are fashion conscious. The tricky aspect of fashion is that when you’re hot, you’re hot…and when you’re not, you’re not.

I think that Target has positioned itself as “hot” most of the time and especially “hot” often enough. Their shoppers and the fashion conscious pay attention to Target’s hot fashion promotions. It’s unrealistic to expect them all to work. Therefore it’s even more unrealistic for retailers without the fashion aura of Target to promote a fashion brand once and expect success.

There has to be an integrated plan that in is in sync with the retailer’s overall strategy and equity. Exclusive deals can still work…but they won’t be effective for every retailer. As inscribed at the Temple of Apollo in Delphi: Know thyself.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Among my students, the fashion craze is still building, especially sort-term offers as special events for reasonable prices.

Zel Bianco
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Designer deals are definitely losing some brand appeal by offering lower priced items for mass, specialty and department stores; however, the inflow of sales far outweighs the designer snobs that are pooh-poohing these alliances.

Does anyone remember Missoni for Target in 2011? Target’s site was shut down for hours and stores sold out in as little as their first hour of opening. As Carol Spieckerman suggests, the novelty has worn off for some. But for the population that could never afford the brands’ core line and those just wanting a great deal, these collaborations will continue to yield profits. When it’s done correctly, the brand + quality products + quantity of products + buzz = massive sales.

In order to improve results, retailers should make limits on how much is purchased (to eliminate eBay power sellers from grabbing all the goods) and be strategic on the brands they are partnering with. Neiman Marcus for Target? Didn’t make much sense. Karl Lagerfeld for H&M? Match made in heaven.

Tom Redd
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

This is where you come back to the melding of the store brand and the designer. Buying Ralph L. at a Ralph store or Sak’s has more of the “designer image” power then picking up a new Ralph jacket at SteinMart.

Designer fashion is about the total experience…not just the apparel or the hardgoods.

Off to SteinMart for a new Ralph shirt! Tom…fashion-fast guy.

Ed Dunn
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

Missoni was very engaged and driven the Target/Missoni hype which resulted in overwhelming success. Versace also brought their passion to the H&M audience. With both of these, fashion led the way, not the department store.

Target did not attract Missoni buyers, Missoni attracted buyers to Target.

Retailers should seek to work only with luxury brands motivated and committed to promote to their own audience of fashionistas.

Stacey Silliman
Guest
Stacey Silliman
9 years 3 months ago

People are tired of “fast fashion” and these designer lines at discounters the McDonald’s of clothing—low quality and cheap. Who wants to buy a blouse of inferior quality at any price? In this economy, one cannot afford to do that. Besides, exclusive designer collections are trite—they happen so frequently, it’s a non-event.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
9 years 3 months ago

In the world of reality TV, fashion like Project Runway plus the proliferation of social media and fashion, designer deals need to be evaluated carefully to make sure it fits with the retailers brand promise. There is a place for designer deals because there is a natural draw of fans of the brand to visit and if the product matches the designer+retailer brand experience.

My girlfriend looked over the NM+Target collaboration at Christmas and basically concluded it was too expensive for the quality of the products. When the products went on discount after the holidays, she did go back and purchase because the price was reduced to match her perceived value of the goods.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 3 months ago

It is all about alignment. When a hot designer launches a collection in a retail environment whose DNA suppports the idea of this product appearing there, magic can happen. If not, it is unlikely. Fashion continues to be a hot segment, and is led by the innovators who can connect to the audience in authentic ways. Don’t dismiss the idea of exclusive designer deals. Just question the alignment.

William Passodelis
Guest
9 years 3 months ago
It is true that fashion is the thing and let us face facts, for the great majority of consumers, you are not talking about buying couture at Dior in Paris or even $800.00 separates at Saks or Neimans. So for the great majority, the appeal is something fashionable with decent quality at an affordable price. Target has really been able to do this with great panache for over a decade and should be applauded, and rightly deserve their status. They have been copied by Kohl’s, Macy’s, Penney’s, and Target, and just about everyone else, is not the first to do what they have been successful at. Remember Halston at JCP in the ’80s. But department stores in the ‘1960s were doing it, and probably before that too! The thing is that if something is hot and hits, your store will be successful and that is EVERYTHING—simple…AND very hard! Every store has its own “in-store” brand labels, but it is possible that with a “name” you might just be able to drive more interest, more visits,… Read more »
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