Snob Appeal

April 1999


Snob Appeal

Luxury companies shake out penny-ante customers to reach big-ticket spenders

Now that the masses can afford Hermés keychains and Tiffany stationery to make their miniature style statements, some luxury-goods companies are turning cold shoulders. Returning to the origins of the category, these companies are trying to return luxury to a truly exclusive experience, in the process demanding an equal exchange of money for personal pampering.

Tiffany & Co. is already testing the idea, says an article in Luxemagazine. Bombarded by dreamy-eyed mall-goers and Fifth Avenue tourists who check off the flagship store on their list of landmarks, the retailer salvages its resources by outsourcing some of its less-expensive items to a toll-free number and catalog department. The person who trudges uptown in search of a $25 silver dog tag may be upset he can't buy the product in the store, but the jeweler has reserved its salespeople for the big-ticket spenders who need personal attention.

Tiffany's toll-free number is a perfect example of how technology helps this process. Not only can companies reassign in-and-out customers to operators and Web sites, they can use new technology to enhance customized service. If a customer spends a certain amount of money in your store, for example, why not give her a personal, password-restricted Web page she can visit to see new and recommended products based on her tastes and past purchases, then include a gift registry that loved ones can access. If she's an even bigger spender, the salesperson may take the extra step and deliver the goods to her in person for examination.

If retailers really want to get snooty about it, the article goes so far to say, they could charge admission for the privilege of shopping in their store. It's not so different than what tony restaurants do now – show up on time or the place will charge $50 to the credit card you used for the reservation. Time is money and money buys time, the article says. To augment that value, retailers bargain that if customers don't waste their time, they'll return the favor with impeccable, over-the-top service.

– by Stacey King

Copyright © 1999 by Bond Communications.


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