— Let me preface this post by saying that this is only for those of you who are interested in fashion and/or shopping. Anyone interested in the more philosophical aspects of this blog will have no interest in this post and shouldn’t read any further. I am capable of more depth than what follows, but there is no question that the superficial often gets the better of me. I find that superficial concerns can be quite funny, which makes life a lot more fun after all. However, for those who like pretty pictures, this post is extremely wordy. In other words, this post should appeal to about two people. I promise I won’t make a habit of this. —
So, my obsessive compulsive nature got the better of me and I had to head to H&M this morning. Since it is important that I frequently reassure myself that I am less crazy than I actually am, I waited to go until 8:30. The store opened this morning at 8, so 8:30 seemed like a fairly civilized hour to show up. What ensued leads me to wonder why I am not Senior VP of Merchandising for H&M, but clearly there are a number of aspects of business that I am really not understanding. Here are the facts of the situation:
1. The Versace for H&M collection went on sale at 8:00 this morning exclusively in 35 H&M locations across the country. I live in the Greater Boston Area. The collection is (was) at only one of the H&M doors in Boston. The nearest store to have the collection is in Manhattan.
2. The Greater Boston Area has a population something in excess of 4,600,000 people. If you add to that the neighboring urban centers of Providence, Rhode Island, and Worcester, Massachusetts, you are looking at a population of more than 7,600,000 people.
3. I am skeptical about how far people would actually trek to go shopping, especially knowing there was limited supply, but reports from London mentioned people driving from as far as three hours away to line up for the Versace collection. So, knowing that the nearest store with the collection is in Manhattan, let’s also take into account that the populations of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and Rhode Island (I know, some of Massachusetts and Rhode Island would shop in Manhattan, but I’m giving Manhattan all of Connecticut and hoping it’s a fairly even trade), and we are looking at more than 10,800,000 people.
4. In an attempt to control the masses, unlike Target, H&M had a very clearly defined system and rules for shopping. The first 280 people outside of the store received colored wristbands. There were 14 different colors, and 20 people were given each color. Each color then had an allotted shopping time when those 20 people would be allowed to enter a cordoned off area and shop the collection for around 15 minutes. After this initial group of 280 had finished shopping, the collection would be opened to the rest of the public. In order to limit reselling on eBay, customers were limited to two pieces per product per customer. From what I can tell from eavesdropping while I was in the dressing room, store employees were not allowed the shop the collection until it was opened to the broad public (store employees setting everything aside for themselves was a big complaint during the Target x Missoni collaboration).
These are the ground rules. Arriving at the store at 8:30, I received the last wristband. Amazing, no? I was customer 180. Everyone after me got sent away. I was told to return to the store at about 12:15 and my group would be let in to shop at 12:25. At 10:00 I popped in to see how things were going. Anyone could enter and shop the rest of the store. There was a very small area cordoned off, with ample security surrounding it, which contained the Versace collection. By the time I looked at 10:00, that consisted of one rack of clothing which held about 10 dresses, a big stack of shoe boxes and some books. Rather than letting in 20 people at a time, everyone in the color group allotted that slot of time was lined up single file, and people were being let in one at a time to shop. At 11:30 I was back in the store, about to try on other merchandise, when they announced over a loud-speaker than they were opening Versace to the public early, and anyone with a wristband of any color whatsoever should come up and shop now before they did so. I headed up and was let in to have my pick of the remaining merchandise: 3 pairs of shoes and a bunch of books. I am prone to hyperbole, but in this instance, that is a statement of fact.
I got a winter coat (to replace my current one with a broken zipper) for $35, and saved myself several hundred dollars on outrageous clothes that I would probably wear once by not buying any Versace. So all in all, the morning was a resounding success. Still, as happened during the Missoni debacle in relation to Target, I am left wondering what in hell the executives at H&M were thinking. Right? I understand supply and demand, honestly I do. But this seems a bit excessive. I’m inclined to think they could have sold a lot more merchandise, made more money, and made more customers happy, without diminishing the appeal of the brand or the sense of exclusivity. And anyway, given that the whole idea behind H&M, if I understand correctly, is bringing style to the masses, you would think that with this collaboration with Versace they were aiming to bring style to a slightly larger mass than the fewer than 200 people who managed to purchase anything from the collection in Boston this morning.
H&M witnessed the response to Target. This Versace collaboration has been touted for a while now as the most anticipated collaboration all year. I have to think that H&M had a reasonable sense of how many people would want this collection and how much they were likely to buy. And, having been in manufacturing, while I can acknowledge that H&M probably began their production cycle long before the exact magnitude of the demand was made clear, it may be naive of me but I have to think that they are a major enough player to have the influence and access to resources necessary to adjust production quantities when the overwhelming response to the collection became clear. Was this degree of scarcity really deliberate? Really? I love you H&M, but … kind of obnoxious.
See pictures from the Boston store on boston.com: Versace collection debuts at H&M Newbury – Boston.com.