Special Orders: has the landscape changed for your and at your store?

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  1. #1 Jul 19, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    India's recent thread on SO's - which was very interesting and thought provoking - got closed because the logical digressions of follow up posters created not only light but heat. I hope not to go down the same path here, so please everybody try to close to topic and not get personal, if you get my drift.

    Many if not most of you have ordered or are even waiting for SO's. I am sure for virtually everyone, you have been urged to place the SO and that there is no obligation to buy the bag if you dont love it when it comes, or if price increases have taken the bag out of your parameters. Are you now hearing a different story at your store? Do you perceive that, whereas a year ago, the store could care less if you bought a birkin or kelly, even a special order, that now, your SA is fearful of being stuck with a bags, even "high demand" or "grail" ones? Because no demand is really that high now? Because many people, due to changes in circumstances (pay cuts of themselves or their spouses/partners, increased expenses, anticipated increased taxes, decrease in retirement savings values, and/or a general loss of shopping desire in light of massive job losses and hardships in the US)? Have you heard noises at your store along these lines - whereas customers a year ago may have been told, "no obligation", are folks now hearing "you better buy this when it comes in or there will be h@@@ to pay"? Well not exactly those words maybe, but that vibe.
     
  2. I can hardly speak for the way things are done in the US. But I can most certainly tell you how things are done in Asia. SAs in Asia do not urge customers to place SOs. SOs are by invitations only, and they most certainly almost fear that customers would ask for SOs because quotas are so small, and there is insatiable demand. Perhaps in the US, the given SO quotas are in excess of customer demand??? That is the opposite in Asia.

    And another difference .... yes, there IS obligation for the customer to pick up the SOs. It may not be stated in black and white, or is there a spoken contrast. But we all know, what is expected of us. Or we risk not being taken seriously the next time, and our request for bag in future would also be placed in jeopardy.


    Overall, I got the sense from some SAs that customers were taking longer to decide on their purchases, and things had slowed down a bit. BUT, the demand for Birkins hasn't decreased. And economic confidence in Asia has picked up since it bottomed in March. It is probably the fastest growing region in the world right now.

    Just to give an example. A very poignant one. I have the impression that croc Birkins can be found without buyers in the US. One croc Birkin over here has 5 - 10 customers hankering for it.
     
  3. #3 Jul 19, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    For the past year, its typical to see at least one croc birkin on the shelves in either or both of the NY stores at any given time.

    Price increases need to also be considered. Hermes raised its prices on bags three times for a total almost 20% in the twelve month period immediately prior to the economic meltdown in the US at the end of last summer. This hurt Hermes' American customers (and Hermes US sales), but after all, we are only a small fraction (around 15%) of the global market, so practically irrelevant. The prices of SOs coming in, on average, can be $1K or more than what the price was when ordered, at a time when everyones income in down by 10% and taxes going up by 1 to 5 % not counting state and local. I am just saying, things have changed and it factors into people not buying planned purchases.
     
  4. On my .... lucky day for any Asian tourist visiting NYC! If the stores want to sell their croc birkins, they should offer it upfront to any Asian tourist! It would be an instant sale!

    PS: Never ever has anyone seen a Birkin (not even non-exotic) on the shelf over here. Well, only once. A 50cm Birkin ...

    Birkins have been seen on shelves in Japan. And Bali. And we know these markets are exceptions. Bali is the Hawaii of the region. Depends 100% on tourist traffic.
     
  5. I agree with MrsS - I think my local store would care a lot if an SO were rejected after it has reached the store. It's not stated in black and white, but it's just a general sense I get from my SA.

    I had the same feeling with my etoupe togo - if I were to refuse it (after expressively saying that I would like one), it would make it a little harder for me to get offered another Birkin, since they are so hard to come by at my store.

    That being said, I think H might ease off a little during this period and taking into account the economy and its uncertainty may not hold it against customers who for whatever reasons cannot take their SOs. But this, I think, may vary from store to store.
     
  6. #6 Jul 19, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    Believe me, they do!

    The price point is also an issue in the US - the price of a croc birkin now is more than many well to do shoppers can afford to spend on one bag, in fact, its most than many well-heeled people's annual entire clothing and accessories budget.
     
  7. My local store had a croc and a togo birkin on the shelf yesterday. The croc has been there for a while.
     
  8. #8 Jul 19, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    Jedi, since we deal primarily with the same store, I will preface my comments by saying that I think that our experiences may not be representative of other stores or markets (like Asia, as Mrssparkles has commented on).

    Here are my thoughts:
    1. I still do not think that in general, SO's are always expected to be purchased---that is unless, the combo or order is thought to be a difficult sell in that particular market. The GM of 'my' store essentially told me this---that he wouldn't order an etoupe crinoline birkin for me unless I "guaranteed" I would buy it when and if it came in. This conversation occurred at probably the height of the Wall Street/US economic meltdown, but indicated to me that they still were cool with people not necessarily taking their SO's as long as they were in that store's eyes, sellable.

    My SO hasn't come in yet, but I can attest to the fact that I have repeatedly been told (and as late as this month) that I can walk away from it if I want (it's not a crinoline birkin). Now whether I'll be told that when it comes in is obviously a different story. While I have no idea when it will come in and I fully intend to purchase it, I am more concerned about whether the skins/construction will be to my liking. After all, we have all seen bags that haven't been as "nice" as we would like and turned down for those reasons.

    2. Having said that, if virtually no-one is buying their SO's, or if particular SA's have many customers who tend not to buy their SO's, my guess is that there will be repercussions of some sort. These might range from more insidious types of "pressure" on individuals to take the SO or buy something else right away to overall H corporate policy changes to SO's.

    3. Actually, I doubt that H will change their policy for SO's. It appeared to me that to increase the pool of loyal H customers, at least in the US, SO's are being offered to more people than before. I know of at least a couple of people who were surprised to be offered an SO (I am one of those people). Obviously, for someone who is a more recent H customer who never expected to be offered an SO, the likelihood is that that person will do everything in their power to buy their SO or, if even they don't take that particular SO for whatever reason, remain a loyal customer for the long haul. Moreover, H benefits by those typically increased prices over the time it takes for the SO to come in.

    On the other hand, individual variations in the offering of SO's and the responses to taking or not-taking SO's can and obviously do occur under the current system, and that will change depending upon the store and the market and perhaps even the day---kind of like how my DH sometimes reacts when watching the stock market (not rational, but happens nonetheless. KWIM?)

    JMHO.
     
  9. #9 Jul 19, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    kipp, I agree with everything you said - as usual, you hit the nail right on the head. I expect to buy my SO also, and like yours, its a bag that on the rare occasions when it becomes available in a store anywhere, is usually gone by the end of the day. However, if its a year from now, Hermes prices and taxes have both gone up and income has gone down well, it changes the equation. I appreciate that some tpf-ers have seemingly limitless resources or probably think this macro-economic talk is silly. Some may be horrified at the suggestion even of passing on an order, special or otherwise. But thats just not the reality for everybody.
     
  10. I think that the SO "model" worked just fine when the economy was humming along so well that it virtually insured a buyer for every birkin and many other bags as well. However now, ordering a bag based on a 2 inch square sample and not knowing IF or WHEN it will arrive, is an iffier proposition. Customers cant plan for the bags if money is a concern. I think the stores and SA's are still adjusting to a changed dynamic. The corporate arrogance though needs a readjustment. The continuing price increases cant help.
     
  11. #11 Jul 19, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2009
    You are right. The price of birkins has doubled during the time I have been an Hermes customer which has been nine years. It would be crazy of H not to think this makes a difference in their business model. They cant use birkins as leverage if there are birkins sitting on the shelf, which at almost 10K (or in the case of exotic, 30K, 40K, 50K) in the middle of an economic slowdown, they sometimes (often) are.
     
  12. A little off topic

    but in recent months.....my small store went from having no birkins on the shelf....or like maybe MAYBE ever 6 months or so there will be one...

    to now...having 2-4 in the store on the shelf and on display...ready for anyone.

    I have been told in so many words...that if I wanted anything and any color...let them know and they will find it.

    But its lost its appeal to me...and.....the prices...just really turn me off right now.
     
  13. Kipp, I agree with you. At "my" boutique, there is no obligation to purchase an SO, but most of the ones ordered are pretty easy to sell.
     
  14. I'm sure things are different from country to country and even store to store. The two H stores in the US that I have visited have had no Birkins on the shelf and maybe more Kellys on display. I'm sure this is not the first nor the worst deression Hermes has gone through. While individual stores may relax their stranglehold on coveted bags, I doubt that will last long once the economy recovers, and for sure I doubt H will change their policies or quotas for SOs.

    MrsS, just say the word and I'll be your croc Birkin acquirer in the US! I have a little free time on my hands between diaper changes. LoL!
     
  15. from my experience I think its not the problem it used to be to obtain a new birkin and easier still to find a kelly. In my local stores there aren't any sitting there but for good customers they seem to be happy to oblige.............