Hermès

Mastering the Art of Hermès Pre-Spend and Building Relationships

Unveiling the unique strategy behind acquiring the most coveted Hermès bags - delving into the 'pre-spend' culture

Hermes’ most popular bags have always been relatively out of reach and hard to get. 30 years ago, that was due to factors such as forbidding Sales Associates, stratospheric pricing, and the fact that there weren’t many boutiques.

Hermès expanded its footprint (and offerings) just as the internet was gaining ground; the explosion and influence of social media have certainly worked in its favor. However, not very much seems to have changed in the actual availability of its most-in-demand items.

Building Relationships through Birkin Bait

What has changed, however, is that instead of running up against a gatekeeping Frau Farbissina-type telling the hoi polloi that “the waitlist is closed” or “we don’t know if/when we are getting any (of whatever it is that you want),” customers (ahem, “clients”) are encouraged to build a relationship with an individual (and generally more accessible) Sales Associate and boutique; to make purchases across various departments; and to make those purchases on at least a somewhat consistent basis. In that regard, I suppose the process of acquiring one’s desired bag has become a bit more egalitarian: show us that you love us, Hermès implies, and we might show you some love back.

These purchases, for lack of a better (or more clickbait-y) descriptor, have become known, colloquially, as “Birkin Bait”: items purchased from various departments so that Hermès will offer you the bag that you want (of course, the right color and leather are a different story…). This is also ironically known as “pre-spend”: ironically, as it is money that you have spent so that you will be invited to spend more.

The Unspoken Pre-Spend Ratio

Clients sometimes talk about pre-spend in terms of a ratio; pre-COVID, it was often 1:1 or 1.5:1. That is, there is an unspoken expectation that a client will spend anywhere from the same amount to one and a half times the amount of the cost of the bag that client wants to buy, to be offered that bag.

More recently, as certain bags have grown exponentially in demand, the ratio has, in some cases, gone much higher, reaching 3:1 or even 5:1 depending upon the particular boutique and the desired bag.

While part of the intent behind this understanding is to dissuade customers from only purchasing Birkins and Kellys, it also serves several practical purposes: it helps manage client expectations, it keeps the most in-demand items hard to get, and it creates clients of various other métiers in the process.

A Personal Experience of Becoming an Hermès Client

As a broke law student in the 90s, I purchased all my good clothes secondhand and tied my workwear together with one of a few Hermès scarves which had been gifted to me. When I could afford to purchase my own scarves, I did – but I didn’t venture beyond scarves and a few SLGs for my first ten years of being an Hermès client. Finally, my SA began actively encouraging me to purchase one. What did I want – a Birkin, a Kelly? I eventually gave her a list with a few choices; 3 days later, my number one choice arrived in the boutique, and I brought home a 30cm Birkin (along with a new addiction to Hermès leather).

More than 15 years later, I still enjoy the bags very much, but as other Hermès métiers have grown and expanded, I always find things to love in every department. This is probably why I’ve never felt the need to keep track of how much I spend; every so often, I figure I have probably spent enough to put in a request, and my SA and I begin to discuss what bag is next.

Of course, everyone’s experience is unique; some clients keep a close eye on their purchases for their pre-spend ratio. What to buy, then? Are all non-bag purchases equal in the eyes of the Store Manager? Or are some metièrs more highly regarded than others?

Navigating the Hermès Departments for Pre-spend

There are, of course, no set rules, and all of this is anecdotal. Some believe that the more expensive departments – furniture and fine jewelry – are the most preferable if you’re hoping not to have to wait very long for a bag. That makes sense, as some of the pieces in these departments cost upwards of six figures.

More realistically (realistic being a relative term here), Ready-to-Wear, Housewares, Watches, and Shoes are also good departments to look at. However, you should only buy what you love and afford, so if, like me, you are addicted to the scarves, know that it all counts.

Expanding Your Hermès Wishlist

With that said, there are many very appealing offerings of late in every category. Whereas years ago, I only really liked the scarf and wallet designs, now I have a different problem: trying to convince myself that I don’t need all the temptations I find in every Hermès department.

That’s not a bad thing: no one wants to feel required to make a purchase – such as, say, an elephant paperweight that no one needs – just to seem like a serious client. Even better, there is a good enough range of price points and styles so that there really is something for a variety of tastes and needs.

Maximizing Your Pre-spend: Recommendations and Strategies

Here, then, are some suggestions to get your ratio going in various departments (“Good”), a less predictable and unique option (“Better”), and a few purchases that might even get a Store Manager’s attention (“Ratio Buster”).

The Hermès Shoes Department

Many clients start with this department, as the prices are relatively reasonable and are comparable to other fashion houses. Additionally, they have a lot of useful and/or appealing designs.

Good: Oran Sandals

Many clients buy at least one pair of Orans: they’re easy to wear; they’re a good price point for Hermès; they come in many different colors; and new embellished options (silk patterns, crystals, studs, fur) are offered every season. Most clients find them comfortable (I live in Orans most summer days), although it seems that those with a high arch or a narrow/wide foot may not be able to find the right fit so easily.

Of course, the Oran might not be your thing. They have many sandal styles, all in about the same price range: some have a block heel, others have a cork sole, and styles range from feminine to that ubiquitous “dad shoe” look.

Good: Sneakers

My most worn shoe – not my most worn Hermès shoe, my most worn shoe, period – is a pair of white Dare sneakers, with gold fuzzy lining and a thick sole, which seem to go perfectly with anything from casual dresses and skirts to any style of jeans. For a similar, go-anywhere aesthetic, there is the Deep sneaker, which is offered in white with different accent colors; for a style that’s a bit more similar to the specific shape of the Dare but with a thinner sole, there is the Day sneaker.

Better: Jumping Boots

No item in the shoe department is more iconically Hermès than the Jumping Boot: a riding-style boot with a tall, elegant Boxcalf leather shaft accented with a Kelly-style buckle. It’s also one of the more expensive unembellished shoes Hermès makes, but it is a forever classic (and really, how many will you need?). Note that these are now produced in two shaft heights – 14.7″ (the Jumping) and 13.5″ (the Jumping Shorter) – to accommodate different leg proportions.

Jumping Boot in Box calfskin with palladium plated Kelly buckle, $2,625. Photo via Hermès.com.
Jumping Boot in Box calfskin with palladium plated Kelly buckle, $2,625. Photo via Hermès.com.

Ratio Buster: Exotic Shoes

Of course, if you really want to speed up your waiting time, shoes can sometimes be found in various exotic leathers, including Ostrich, Lizard, and Crocodile.

The Hermès Housewares Department

This is another good department with expanding options, even though everyone seems to just go for the Avalon Blanket. While the Avalon is a useful, iconic piece, of course, there is so much more.

Good: Porcelain

Hermès produces a range of elegant patterns to fall in love with, and you can build a collection piece by piece over time within a pattern or be whimsical and mix-and-match. Of course, the ashtray has long outlived its original purpose, but the style has found new life, along with the change tray, as a pretty decorative piece or a catch-all for jewelry or small items.

Better: A Cozy Blanket (but not the Avalon!)

Hermès blankets are yummy and thick; most are 100% cashmere, and some have amazing designs featuring equestrian themes. Others are abstract, yet others have photo-quality prints. If you must get a blanket and really like the Avalon (53″ × 67″, $1,750) aesthetic, there is also the Ithaque (53.1″ × 68.9″, $1,775). The dimensions and the prices are about the same, and the Ithaque, which is made of wool and cashmere, is double-sided; it has a lighter and darker side, each featuring the same colors.

Ratio Buster: Samarcande Chess Set

While it’s not the first item that comes to mind when planning an Hermès shopping trip, Hermès does produce game sets, from various styles of playing cards to backgammon to chess. This is one of those items which will likely get an SA’s attention.

Samarcande Chess set in sapodilla wood and leather marquetry, hand sculpted pawns in solid cassia and sapodilla wood with Clou de Selle engraved stainless steel weights. Handles in saddle-stitched Evercolor calfskin. Leather marquetry. $15,700. Photo via Hermès.com
Samarcande Chess set in sapodilla wood and leather marquetry , hand sculpted pawns in solid cassia and sapodilla wood with Clou de Selle engraved stainless steel weights. Handles in saddle-stitched Evercolor calfskin. Leather marquetry.
Measures 17.7″ long x 17.7″ wide. $15,700. Photo via Hermès.com
samarcande mini chess set Samarcande Magnetic mini chess set in sapodilla wood and solid cassia woodMeasures 4.7" long x 2.3" high x 4.7" deep, $3,775. Photo via Hermès.com.
Samarcande Magnetic mini chess set in sapodilla wood and solid cassia wood
Measures 4.7″ long x 2.3″ high x 4.7″ deep, $3,775. Photo via Hermès.com.

The Hermès Ready-to-Wear Department

Good: Cotton Dress

I love a good, easy cotton dress: it’s a throw-it-on-and-go piece that can be dressed up or down, worn layered or alone. Hermès seems to make two versions every season, each available in two or three different colors: one with a print and one in a single color with an embroidered pocket.

Good: Knits

Hermès makes great knits: the sweaters always seem to hit the right spot for pants or a skirt and feature either a textured pattern in the knit or a silk panel (twillaine).

Better: Leather

Of course, Hermès is known for its leather, and not just the bags: the leather ready-to-wear is solidly constructed and often very flattering. The Equestrian Jacket is a classic piece they make every season that will suit just about any wardrobe.

Equestrian jacket in grained goatskin (100% goatskin), Clou de Selle engraved palladium-plated buttons, palladium-plated zips, pull-tabs and Clou de Selle engraved palladium-plated rivets, lining with "H passant" motif, $7,050. Photo via Hermes.com.
Equestrian jacket in grained goatskin (100% goatskin), Clou de Selle engraved palladium-plated buttons, palladium-plated zips, pull-tabs, and Clou de Selle engraved palladium-plated rivets, lining with “H passant” motif, $7,050. Photo via Hermes.com.

Ratio Buster: Outerwear

Hermès produces luscious winter coats of cashmere, shearling, and leather; prices tend to start in the five figures. Unfortunately, this is not the time of year to find tempting winter wear, but stay tuned!

The Hermès Watches Department

Good: Apple Watch Hermès

Hermès has had a very successful collaboration with Apple on the digital watch: it keeps all the bells and whistles of the unbranded version and adds special straps and Hermès-only watch faces.

Better: Cape Cod

Another classic Hermès design, the Cape Cod is a great everyday watch. There are sporty-chic versions with a simple single- or double-tour strap and dressier versions with a sprinkle of diamonds.

Ratio Buster: Exceptional Timepieces

At the (far) upper end of the price range are exceptional timepieces like the Faubourg Joailliere Watches, which are just as much jewelry as timepieces.

The Hermès Fine Jewelry Department

Good: Sterling Silver

Many of Hermès Sterling Silver pieces are reasonably priced and easy to wear; some designs, especially the multilayered Enchainèe and Punk pieces, have a big impact. The classic Chaine d’Ancre bracelet is versatile and comes in a variety of sizes.

Better: Gold Bracelets

The perennially popular Kelly and Collier de Chien bracelets go well in any stack or on their own; newer styles like the Chaine d’Ancre Chaos Bracelet have a more relaxed look.

Ratio Buster: Galop Hermès Bracelet

Lastly, The Hermès Furtniture Department

Furniture is the most challenging metier to suggest because even the most basic items are exorbitant, and many may only appeal to a certain modern-minimalist aesthetic (the least expensive item on the Hermes website is a seat cushion for $1,500; sofa prices are in the six figures).

Good: Les Trotteuses d’Hermes occasional tables

With that said, if you want to get on the inside track with your SA, you like the style, and you don’t want to go too crazy, there is the new Les Trotteuses d’Hermes line of occasional tables (in 3 sizes with varying height-width combinations) which utilize a round painted porcelain tray atop a leather-and-wood base that is a bit more universally appealing.

Ratio Buster: Les Necessaires d’Hermes folding desk

However, if you really want to go crazy and get that bag of your dreams right away, may I suggest this super-cool fantasy piece?

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Madame
Madame
1 year ago

I would pay a sourcing fee with a ps before I do a pre-spend amount in various departments to get stringed along for a long time before I’m offered a bag.

Travelbliss
Travelbliss
1 year ago

Very informative article explaining (to those like me not in the “know”) the Hermes game with an overview of their product line. I’m quite content with not being bitten by the “H” bug, as I can only imagine how frustrating it can get.

Molina
Molina
1 year ago

I can’t help but think about the environmental toll that Hermès is laying by making people buy things they would otherwise not, in the name of pre-spend. Especially knowing the sacrifice of an animal’s life to produce each sheet of leather, it’s hard to see this in a positive light. I’m a fan of their items (both bags and others) but I find it frustrating that a lot of the items that will supposedly get the SAs attention are also the ones that are unnecessarily wasteful and diminishing the value of the lives lost. It’s one thing to buy the one and only bag you’ve been lusting for and baby-ing it, and another to buy virtually everything and anything because it’s part of “the game” and not caring it about it much when in possession.

Kit
Kit
1 year ago

While I think what they do with Petit H line is admirable, and also appreciate that their items are made to last, I still don’t think it does much to address the emphasis on overconsumption that the “pre-spend” business model encourages. The secondhand market always feels stuffed with H stuff people bought to get their B or K and now want to get rid of. And while I’m sure some will find a second life, I just don’t believe that many people are hustling to spend big $$ on used sandals that won’t “count” toward the bag you know they really want.

Regina
Regina
1 year ago

Trying to reply but may have accidentally flagged this. Forgive me. Totally agree. I personally enjoy quality over quantity. I was attracted to the brand as the mission is to create products that last for generations knowing that repair may be necessary. The beauty of sustainable fashion is not just in the product but it is also providing consideration for the artisans who create the product.

Avery
Avery
1 year ago

You are so right Notorious Pink! Hermes takes these matters seriously all the while keeping local artisans employed and crafting alive. If LESS people viewed fashion as a disposable social media decoration and researched the brands they were buying to weed out “bad manufacturing behavior” that would certainly make a difference.

austerity_measures
austerity_measures
1 year ago
Reply to  Molina

Maybe you can buy exclusively from Petit H.

vnex
vnex
1 year ago

I like the Birkin, it is a wonderful classy bag, but I would never spend 10/15k (or even 20/30k) on other items in order to have the chance (!) to buy it.

I get it that this strategy works and that they keep the allure but it is too much. If I had the money I would just ask an experienced artisan to make my dream bags (yes, not just one bag) with the best leather/hardware.

Terri
Terri
1 year ago
Reply to  vnex

May I suggest Primo Atelier. I get my dream bags from him and every single detail is tailored, and the PRICE!! Can’t beat that.

vnex
vnex
1 year ago
Reply to  Terri

Thank you!

TKS
TKS
1 year ago
Reply to  vnex

Check out Mila Jito. Exactly what she does. She DOES have a very long waitlist tho…worth it to wait, however…

vnex
vnex
1 year ago
Reply to  TKS

Thank you! Exactly what I was looking for.

brioflores
brioflores
1 year ago

I really don’t want to belong to that club. Feels so incredibly manipulative. No thanks. So many other bags I’d prefer to have anyway. But if you love Hermes, then go along with their game – I just hate seeing women get played like this….

FashionableLena
FashionableLena
1 year ago

I’m not going to debase myself for a piece of leather. I like what I like. When I’m ready to buy, I want to buy. I have zero patience for games and am very no nonsense. I’ve always been like this. There is no way that I’m going to wait to get permission to spend my hard earned money on something extremely expensive that I don’t want. If I ever get a Birkin, I would like to have a 25, Rose Poupre, palladium hardware, and any leather. I’m not going to take a yellow 30 Birkin just to say I got an in-store offer. Personally, I would feel like a moron.

Say what you want. Call it what you want. I’m not doing it. If I ever want an Hermes quota bag, I’ll just go the secondhand route. While it maybe over retail, I’ll get what I want. At the end of the day, you’re going to end up spending that anyway (pre-spend + bag cost).

Kudos to Hermes. The marketing strategy is GENIUS. I’m not going to fault their money-making scheme.

Yamamura Shokuhin
Yamamura Shokuhin
4 months ago

“The marketing strategy is GENIUS.”

Some might say illegal.
I guess we’re about to find out.

https://www.businessinsider.com/hermes-lawsuit-birkin-bags-tough-to-buy-sales-practices-2024-3

MomIn4inch
MomIn4inch
1 year ago

I will never ever play their stupid game!
What kind of customer service makes you feel lucky that you were offered a bag in a size or colorway you don’t want?! If you turn it down you may never be offered one again. If we as customers refused to put up with it they would have to change their customer service to earn their money. I choose what, where and when I want to purchase. If my money is not good enough until I have bought all the junk they try to force on you for ridiculous prices, I take my money elsewhere.

Barbara
Barbara
1 year ago

Thanks for the eye opening article. What a racket! Spend for years and then, maybe, we will offer a bag for you to also pay for through the nose. I’d rather go to Chanel or Bottega where I pick what I want from the shelf. Birkins are nothing special to look at anyway.

austerity_measures
austerity_measures
1 year ago
Reply to  Barbara

Chanel is also going down this route.

Megs Mahoney Dusil
Admin
Megs Mahoney Dusil
1 year ago

That elephant paperweight felt personal….. because that was me! HA

Vlad Dusil
Admin
Vlad Dusil
1 year ago

And I love my blue elephant paperweight!

L1000009.jpg
Megs Mahoney Dusil
Admin
Megs Mahoney Dusil
1 year ago
Reply to  Vlad Dusil

You’re welcome… now where is my special order?! HA

Kimberly
Kimberly
1 year ago

1. Do non quota bag count towards your spending ratio?
2. What items do not count towards spending ratio?
3. After being offered a quota bag is your spending ratio reset to zero?
4. What items other than quota bags do SA’s make no commission?
5. What items do SA’s make the most commission on?
Thank you for any help and insight

OliviaG
OliviaG
1 year ago

Love the Austin Powers reference

Rosielane
Rosielane
1 year ago

Thank you for this excellent article ! I see the value of purchasing sandals or sneakers from the store instead of on resale sites. What is the average spend you would need today to have the opportunity to be offered a Kelly or a Birkin? What are some of the current prices of Birkin 30 or 35 at Hermes? Should you always go to the same H boutique ? Thanks again !

Elle
Elle
1 year ago
Reply to  Rosielane

always go to the same boutique and sales associate. The prespend applies to the store. If you shop multiple stores, the SA/manager won’t see your commitment to them (their store profitability) and would be less likely to offer you a Birkin or Kelly. It is extremely rare to shop around and be offered a coveted bag/bag size/color.

Rosielane
Rosielane
1 year ago
Reply to  Elle

Thank you ! I have bought two Birkins on resale sites and am considering a third one which I like. But reading about the boutiques makes me think I should probably wait and try to have a relationship at a store. The current Birkin I am looking at is a 2011 B30 Togo in blue de galice. In excellent shape except for a slightly rubbed silver Hermes made in France stamp. E missing from France 🙂 Is it better to wait and try for a store ? Thank you – I am trying to figure out the benefits of a store versus resale sites.

Elle
Elle
1 year ago
Reply to  Rosielane

Only you can determine your ability to deal with prespend/wait from a boutique. I enjoy other Hermes items and thus the present happens for me. I don’t mind the wait for a bag but am also very happy with my collection.

Resale is good in that you know you are getting the bag you want. No prespend or approvals from management etc. Click and buy. Authenticity is key in resale – Always have your prospective preloved purchase authenticated.

Sallymae
Sallymae
1 year ago
Reply to  Elle

Can you recommend how to get a pre-loved Hermes bag authenticated? Thanks!

Pandy
Pandy
1 year ago

lol is it really this complicated? My husband bought me random items as gifts over the years not realizing he was doing some sort of “pre-spend”. Then one day as a joke, he asked his SA if she had any Kelly’s. She pulled one out and he bought it. Then a week later she offered him 2 exotic leather Birkin and he got them both. He didn’t know these bags were supposed to be hard to get.

Gail Goldstein
Gail Goldstein
1 year ago

I got my Birkin by phoning the sales associate who helped me find a scarf and saying I’d like to buy a Birkin. He asked, What color? He had two for me to choose from when I went to the store. I bought the Colvert 35cm. That was it.

HermesGoals4everyone
HermesGoals4everyone
1 year ago
Reply to  Gail Goldstein

Hermes rules are arbitrary, which is very frustrating and “unfair” (I don’t care for the word “unfair”, because nothing is fair, but it seems to apply here). All customers should receive the same service and offered desired products regardless of their spending habits.

Becky
Becky
1 year ago

It’s just so horrifically inefficient. And it leads to the resellers that the company gets so offended about (and somehow claim to have not seen coming?)

Anyway, when so many of the boutiques won’t sell to a disabled person, do they really have a need to add more obstacles? I’d easily pre-spend circles around them on scarves alone, but the Madison Avenue boutique wouldn’t even let me get that far.

Ed B
Ed B
1 year ago

I love how good-looking and well researched your articles are, NP!

But as I always inevitably comment on similar posts: I’d be more inclined to spend if they had any frigging thing in stock. I’ll be in Europe next week (haven’t lived there in years unfortunately), hopefully the stock is as well as I remember. I am so tired for feeling like a beggar to buy even simple stuff. I wouldn’t carry a Birkin even if it was given to me for free, I just want the other stuff that they SAY they want me to buy if you listen to everybody else, but never ever have in stock.

Yeah, I’m bitter, lol.

CeCeB
CeCeB
1 year ago

I love this challenge and am determined to start my own journey soon. Mine will be on the DL because few people in my circles will understand it. But I do plan to document it for kicks.
I don’t even mind that whichever bag is offered may not be my ultimate favorite (gold, 30 & bright, for anyone curious). It doesn’t have to be. My goal is to get the offer. I have to think that not having super specific requests can quicken my wait time? Dunno, we’ll see. Plus, I like having some decisions made for me. It’s a fun gamble. I’m a positive thinker and choose to believe I will be financially able to buy the bag that checks all my boxes on the secondary market, if needed.

Adangerousbeauti
Adangerousbeauti
4 months ago

I fell into this game a few years back. Two Bs and Two Kelly’s later, Im done and actually leaning towards non quota bags— when it happens. The H game isnt forever; I would say the first 5 years into it is intense. If you’re a collector of colors, then that would be a different story.