Luxury stores are still limiting crowds after COVID – and won’t admit why

Luxury stores are still limiting crowds after COVID - and won't admit why
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COVID-19 is on the decline, but buying a Louis Vuitton bag, a Chanel suit or a pair of Gucci loafers increasingly means queuing outside a boutique – and luxury brands have been conspicuously silent on why.

Most elite labels leaned into “date buying” during the height of the pandemic, citing the need for social distancing. But as the threat of the virus recedes, some, including Cartier and Harry Winston, continue to impose the new policy.

They also failed to convince buyers and experts of their reasoning – if they bother to explain themselves at all. Major brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Cartier did not respond to calls and emails from The Post about their continued use of chandeliers outside store entrances, where shoppers queuing are questioned by “greeters” on potential purchases before entering.

Chanel said it would open “private” stores for its top customers next year.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We recommend making an appointment before your boutique visit, as walk-in visitors may experience extended wait times,” Cartier’s website advises, without giving details.

Confined customers can mostly thank an unrelenting outbreak of crush and grab flights rather than social distancing for intensified crowd controls nationwide, including in New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. The theft got so bad last year that Beverly Hills hired two private security companies patrol Rodeo Drive.

Meanwhile, at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, NY, where thieves ransacked a Louis Vuitton store in February, the store’s doors were closed, with uprights inviting shoppers to queue outside.

A luxury boutique entrance with greeters and a caretaker.
Some luxury boutiques interview customers before they enter the store, asking them what they are looking for.
Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal

A welcoming pair wearing headsets – flanked by a pair of burly mall security guards – asked customers if they were there to take an order or shop. Buyers were only allowed in when an associate was ready to escort them inside.

“They don’t want customers looking around the store without a store employee with them,” a salesperson told the Post.

Cops in Beverly Hills outside a jewelry store that was robbed.
Beverly Hills has hired private security companies to patrol after break-in crime spikes this year.

Luxury brands have managed to mask the embarrassment of the situation in part because making it difficult to get into their stores “creates an aura of exclusivity,” says Dallas-based retail consultant Steve Dennis.

“Most of these stores aren’t crowded anyway,” and lines are getting longer in states like Texas, “which haven’t taken COVID particularly seriously,” said Dennis, author of “Remarkable Retail: How to Win and Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption.”

“The new nightclub, in its own weird way, walks into a Dolce & Gabbana store on a Saturday,” adds luxury retail consultant Melanie Holland.

A Gucci store in San Francisco.
Gucci is one of the luxury brands where customers are asked to queue before entering stores.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Gucci store in Miami draws customers online.
luxury boutiques across the country, including this Gucci store in Miami, limit the number of customers who can enter at one time.
Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal

Last week, a Chanel executive sparked discussion when he revealed in an interview that the company plans to open “private” boutiques in Asia next year for top customers. Chanel is hiring 3,500 new employees for the initiative, which experts say could be adopted in the United States.

“Our greatest concern is to protect our customers and especially our pre-existing customers,” Chanel chief financial officer Philippe Blondiaux told Business of Fashion. “We are going to invest in highly protected stores to serve customers in a very exclusive way.”

In response, fashion blog Highsnobiety questioned “What, exactly, do Blondiaux and Chanel want to “protect” their customers from?”

Holland speculated that Chanel might seek to prevent its wealthy customers from becoming targets of thieves after leaving the stores. But big spenders don’t usually walk down the street either, she adds.

“People who want to spend $25,000 on a little dress don’t want to stand in line,” Holland said. “These customers are probably making an appointment with their personal shopper – they know this line is not for them.”

A queue in front of a Louis Vuitton store.
Some luxury stores still require customers to make an appointment to shop.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

As previously reported by The Post, Madison Avenue boutiques on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, including Chanel, Prada and Carolina Herrera, dim their lights, lock their doors and open by appointment only in a bid to deter a wave of cheeky shoplifters who have terrorized this glitzy thoroughfare this year.

In February, a team of seven robbers emerged from The Real Real on Madison at 71st Street with nearly $500,000 value of handbags and jewelry.

In the aftermath of such burglaries, there is simply a “new lack of trust” on the part of retailers “over who walks through their doors,” said Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School.

In practice, most luxury brands assign a salesperson to each customer or group. The days of having to walk into an exclusive store and “browse” without an associate following you are largely over, a sales representative said.

Meanwhile, employees at high-end boutiques such as Chanel, Gucci and Burberry are armed with talking points for curious customers, some of which seem plausible.

“We’re still dealing with shipping delays from Paris and you don’t want everyone walking in and noticing the store doesn’t have the latest styles,” a salesperson at a company-operated boutique told The Post. major luxury brand. , speaking on condition of anonymity.

“You want to be able to tell them one-on-one that the parts are on the way,” the associate added.

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