FlyTitle: Luxury cast-offs

Luxury groups ponder ways to get rid of their unsold inventory

奢侈品集团思索清空库存的方法

EVERY FROCK sold by the likes of Gucci or Givenchy is billed as a must-have that season. But, it turns out, some are more must-have than others. For all the hype they generate, even leading fashion brands struggle to shift much more than half their wares at full price. Whom to sell to once fickle fashionistas have moved on to the next trend? The luxury world is desperately searching for new ways to find a worthy closet for this unwanted inventory.

古驰或纪梵希之类的品牌把它们的每条裙子都标榜为当季必买。但从结果看,有些裙子比另一些更难舍弃。尽管吹得天花乱坠,最顶尖的那些时尚品牌也很难以全价卖出大部分产品。一旦口味多变的时尚达人们转向下一个潮流,又该把东西卖给谁呢?奢侈品行业正在绞尽脑汁地寻找新方法,为这些没人要的库存找一个与它们相称的衣橱。

Dealing with “end-of-season” merchandise is a particularly thorny problem for luxury brands. Offering discounts to offload ageing wares is a time-tested trick among retailers. But cutting prices to clear the shelves is a bad look for labels whose raison d’être is to exude exclusivity.

处理“季末”商品对奢侈品牌来说尤其棘手。通过打折来清理掉过季商品已是零售商们久经考验的一招。但有些品牌存在的理由就是彰显“独享”,靠降价来清空货架只会让它们掉价。

Chic brands used to bin last year’s garb quietly rather than sell them cheap. That changed after July 2018, when Burberry, a British purveyor of upscale macs, faced a furore as it disclosed having destroyed $38m of bling (it claimed incinerating them was a way of generating energy). France will ban the practice entirely by 2023.

时尚品牌过去常会把上一年的服装悄悄扔掉,而不是低价出售。2018年7月,生产高档风衣的英国公司博柏利透漏自己销毁了价值3800万美元的高档服饰,激起了公愤(该品牌声称把它们烧掉是生成能源的一种方式),此后情况发生了变化。法国将在2023年之前完全禁止这种做法。

Luxury groups are loth to reduce production, given that goods can be sold for ten times what they cost to make. But putting up “Sale!!!” signs is considered uncouth. Plus, says Luca Solca of Bernstein, a broker, “you have to weigh cash made from discounted sales with the damage done to the value of the brand.” Prada, a posh Italian label, said last year it would end all in-store discounts.

奢侈品的售价可能会是生产成本的十倍,所以奢侈品集团不愿减产。但是张贴“特价!!!”标识会被认为很粗俗。此外,经纪公司盛博的卢卡·索尔卡(Luca Solca)说,“打折销售能赚到些钱,但也会损害品牌价值,你必须在两者间做权衡。”意大利奢侈品牌普拉达去年表示将终止所有门店折扣活动。

Some brands’ offerings are so timeless—a Hermès handbag, say—that seasonality is not an issue. Others manage to get rid of old stuff by offering discreet “sample sales” to staff and their friends. Many of the duds used to end up on the internet, sold cheaply on sites like Yoox and Saksoff5th.com (though labels now see more potential to sell online at full price).

一些品牌的产品永远不会过时(比如爱马仕手袋),因此季节性不是个问题。其他品牌谨慎地面向员工及他们的朋友做“样品特卖”,以处理掉旧货。过去,许多衣服最终都被放到了网上,在Yoox和Saksoff5th.com之类的网站上廉价出售(不过品牌现在认为在网上全价销售的机会变大了)。

None of this will be enough to get rid of an outmoded collection—or diminish the pile of unsold items that analysts expect as a result of the coronavirus, which will force Chinese travellers to cancel shopping trips. To really shift stocks, brands now look to outdoor malls that group together “factory outlets”. The likes of Bicester Village, an hour’s ride from central London, resemble what a Chinese tourist thinks a quaint European village ought to look like, crossed with an airport shopping concourse. The shops are full of the stuff famous brands could not sell at full price elsewhere. Goods typically sell for 70% of high-street prices.

这些都不足以清空过时商品。此外,分析师预计中国游客会因为新冠病毒被迫取消购物游,由此产生的大量积压商品也很难靠这些手段消化掉。为了能真正出清库存,各大品牌现在把目光投向集中了多家“工厂直销店”的户外购物中心。比斯特购物村(Bicester Village)离伦敦市中心只有一个小时的车程,与它类似的购物村既像中国游客心目中的古雅的欧洲村庄,也像机场购物中心。店铺里摆满了那些著名品牌无法在别处以正价销售的东西。售价通常为传统商业街的70%。

The concept is booming. Out of an estimated €281bn in personal-luxury sales last year, €37bn were in such physical off-price stores, according to Bain, a consultancy. The figure has shot up by 85% in five years. But using the outlets for anything beyond liquidating inventory—for example by stocking them with cheaper, second-tier collections—is a way to dent a brand’s cachet permanently, warns Mr Solca. Best to keep only the most questionable styles and weirdest sizes in stock, and to push a brand’s real aficionados to Regent Street or Avenue Montaigne.

这个概念正在蓬勃发展。根据咨询公司贝恩(Bain)的数据,去年个人奢侈品销售额估计为2810亿欧元,其中有370亿欧元来自此类实体折扣店。这个数字在五年内飙升了85%。但索尔卡警告称,利用工厂直销店做清库存以外的任何事(例如把它们和更便宜的二线品牌商品放在一起卖)都会永久地损害品牌声望。最好只在这些店里销售最有问题的款式和最古怪的尺寸,并将品牌的“真爱粉”推向摄政街或蒙田大道。

Two things may come to the rescue of exasperated inventory liquidators. The first is the rise of second-hand-clothes sales online: expect to see many “used” frocks on offer that are in fact brand new. The second is “up-cycling”, when an unsold dress gets trimmed, combined and dyed into a new fabulous outfit. For luxury brands, these two trends are unmissable.■

有两件事可能会拯救那些为了清库存而焦头烂额的人。第一个是二手服装在线销售的兴起:等着看许多实际上根本没穿过的“旧”衣服上线发售吧。第二个是“升级再造”,把未售出的衣服修剪、组合并染色,改造成新的漂亮衣服。对于奢侈品牌来说,这两种趋势不容错过。