Ever since we heard rumors that the classic Chanel Grand Shopping Tote was being discontinued, we’ve been paying close attention to what members of our PurseForum have been hearing from their Chanel sales associates and friends at the brand. While we haven’t been able to confirm anything (brands of Chanel’s caliber tend not to dignify these things with a response until they’re good and ready), it seems like the whispered-about changes at Chanel go far beyond just the potential disappearance of a popular tote.

Early last week, one of our Forum members started a new thread in our Chanel subforum to discuss what she had heard from a friend at Chanel corporate about the Grand Shopping Tote. According to that friend, the GST won’t be going anywhere, but even that information comes into doubt as other members pop in to discuss what they’ve been told by Chanel employees and the original poster comes back to report that her friend has reversed course.

The chatter about changes goes far beyond just the GST; the speculation is that Chanel is going to make some important alterations to how it approaches handbags, and although it is just speculation at this point, much of it sounds plausible for the current market climate. We’ve parsed as much of the information as we can and collected the salient details for easy consumption. Prepare your requisite grain of salt and then join us below to figure out just exactly what’s in store for Chanel’s handbag line.

1. The Grand Shopping Tote is being discontinued, or it isn’t, or they’re scaling back production, or there’s a price increase.

Chanel-Grand-Shopping-Tote-Discontinued

This is the question that set us off on this quest for Chanel intel, and it’s still not settled. There are many schools of thought; some people have been told that the bag will not be discontinued, but its distribution will be scaled back in the US to make sure it doesn’t become over-saturated. That would explain why some Chanel sales associates think it’s going away entirely; it may not be a part of incoming orders for their stores. Others have been told that the bag is only being eliminated in the US but will still be available in other markets, and yet another subset of people have been told that only the non-seasonal colors (like black and beige) are disappearing in the US and seasonal shades will be available.

So far, we cannot make heads or tails of this one, but we did notice that the GST had disappeared from Chanel’s classics lineup on its US website. That’s not necessarily meaningful (the Chanel site does not display a complete list of bags being made at any given time), but there is a precedent for Chanel discontinuing a popular, classic bag: the Medallion Tote ceased production a couple of years ago. If the GST is discontinued, that doesn’t mean Chanel won’t bring it back in a few years once nostalgia for it has built, of course.

The only rumor we’ve heard about the date when the discontinuation might happen is around the Cruise 2016 launch, which happens in the last quarter of 2015.

2. Chanel’s Wallet On Chain bags are getting a re-design.

Chanel-Boy-Wallet-on-Chain-Bag

Not long ago, Katherine posed a bag dilemma for you guys, and many of you echoed her concerns about the Chanel WOC: compared to other Chanel bags, certain parts of its construction felt a bit cheap. From what a couple of our members have been told by their SAs, it looks like the brand will be making some changes to this popular entry-level mini bag, although there’s no word on what they might be. (Hopefully there will at least be a magnetic rather than manual snap closure.)

Other members have reported more difficulty than normal in finding the WOCs that they’re looking for, which often happens when old products are phased out for new ones and could be seen as evidence to bolster the idea that new bags are on their way. At least one tPFer was told by her Chanel SA that the brand plans to constrict the supply of the relatively affordable WOCs so that they don’t become over-saturated in the mass market, which is in line with a lot of what the brand is rumored to be doing with the GST, Chanel’s entry-level tote.

3. Chanel is closing some of its department store boutiques to focus on its standalone stores.

Image via Bergdorf Goodman

Image via Bergdorf Goodman

Brands like Louis Vuitton and Prada haves suffered from their ubiquity in recent seasons, and with the popularity of Chanel’s bags, it makes sense for the brand to take steps to avoid the same fate. Chanel has long sold its bags almost entirely through its own avenues, but in order to compete with brands that wholesale to luxury department stores, Chanel also sets up mini-boutiques in places like Neiman Marcus and Saks. In the luxury business, though, there are both advantages and disadvantages to physical accessibility.

A tPFer in Boston reports that her SAs at both her local Bloomingdale’s and Neiman Marcus stores told her that their Chanel store-within-a-store locations would be closing because Chanel wants to encourage customers to shop at their boutiques. Usually moves like that are made because a brand wants to be able to more effectively control customer experience, service and merchandising, which is right in line with the idea that Chanel wants to ensure its longevity as purveyors of rare luxury. The more variables a brand can control, the more finely tuned its communication with its customers can be.

Although details are scarce, it seems unlikely that the brand will shutter all of the third party locations, such as those in areas that aren’t served by a full brand boutique or in markets like New York City, where demand generally exceeds supply, even when you factor in the department store outposts. Like all of this, though, that’s just our best guess.

4. Chanel is shifting its focus away from classic bags in order to focus on more runway and special pieces.

Chanel-No.-5-Perfume-Bottle-Clutch

This rumor is the most general of those we’ve come across, which is probably why it passes the sniff test the easiest of all. Chanel has slowly built a ravenous market for short-supply seasonal bags, runway pieces and limited editions, all of which can be priced somewhat arbitrarily and still easily sell out because customers feel like they’re buying something genuinely rare and collectible. That’s an enviable spot to be in, and that means that Chanel may avoid becoming the next Louis Vuitton.

Vuitton saw its sales falter when high-dollar customers were turned off by the mass appeal of the brand’s lower-cost monogram bags, and although the brand is doing an admirable job righting the ship as we speak, it’s a position that is best avoided if possible. Because Chanel doesn’t need to rely on the sales of entry-level bags to keep themselves afloat, it’s smart to pull back a bit on big sellers like the Classic Flap and Boy Bags in order to retain a sense of scarcity and exclusivity.

In fashion, it’s ideal to have more consumer interest than you have product to fulfill it, and that’s what all of these rumors boil down to: Chanel taking the subtle steps necessary to ensure the structural integrity of the brand’s accessories business, which are its financial bread and butter.

We’d like to reiterate, of course, that these are simply rumors that we were unable to confirm but that have been surprisingly persistent among our Forum members, many of whom have close working relationships with the staffs at their local boutiques. While they might not all come true, they’re definitely worth considering as you make your Chanel shopping decisions over the next few months.

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PJGambler
PJGambler
7 years ago

Thank you for writing this and summarizing the salient points.
On a side note, it kind of tickles me when I am reminded how much elitism exists in the designer handbag world like the term “entry level” totes” or Woc’s, meaning they categorize their pedestrian level buyers as such!

Amanda Mull
7 years ago
Reply to  PJGambler

I think any brand that makes consumer products thinks about things that way–price-wise, it’s important to have a point of entry for new customers who might be more price-conscious than those who have been spending money on very high-end stuff for a long time. Luxury car-makers, for instance, use the same terminology.

PJGambler
PJGambler
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda Mull

Absolutely!
(Just thinking about those who believe they have arrived because they bought a GST for example, only to realize they are still looked down upon by those who can afford the top priced bags.)

Amanda Mull
7 years ago
Reply to  PJGambler

Ahh yes. A reminder that your holy grail bag is the one that some people take to the beach is definitely always waiting to jump out at you in this industry.

laura
laura
7 years ago
Reply to  Amanda Mull

Very true but let’s not forget that even an entry level Chanel is still something that not everyone can afford.

Aliza Zibkoff
Aliza Zibkoff
7 years ago

Very interesting article. I guess Chanel is shifting its luxury business model and it seems the best way to get the outrageous prices they seek is to encourage snobbery! What a world we live in. WIth that said I’d like to see what they are gonna do with that Wallet On a Chain.

anon
anon
7 years ago
Reply to  Aliza Zibkoff

Elitism at its best. Ugh.

Katrina
7 years ago
Reply to  Aliza Zibkoff

That’s the luxury goods business for you. And human nature, I guess.

I don’t take it against Chanel, though. They are doing the right thing for their brand and their business.

Winn
Winn
7 years ago
Reply to  Aliza Zibkoff

Trying to prevent over saturation and ubiquity isn’t snobbery. It’s knowing the target market and protecting the brand.

Aliza Zibkoff
Aliza Zibkoff
7 years ago
Reply to  Winn

Okay…So I guess customers that don’t want anyone else to G-d forbid have a Chanel bag like theirs aren’t snobs…they are just infantile?

Amanda Mull
7 years ago
Reply to  Aliza Zibkoff

Good or bad, this attitude is what basically every marketing tactic in modern fashion is designed to create.

Finem Lauda
Finem Lauda
7 years ago
Reply to  Aliza Zibkoff

Oooooh this, this, THIS! Thank you! I am so sick of the elitism. Fuck ’em, fuck their ~exclusivity~.

Jerri R
Jerri R
7 years ago
Reply to  Finem Lauda

LOLOL

Katrina
7 years ago
Reply to  Aliza Zibkoff

I don’t necessarily agree with those customers, but I do understand where they are coming from. There is some (illogical?) satisfaction that we get from exclusivity, whether it be loving a song that no one has heard of yet, eating at a great new undiscovered restaurant, vacationing in a secluded island. When everyone loves the same song, eats at the same restaurant, or that island is suddenly teeming with people; the luster of the song/restaurant/island does fade a bit.

John
John
7 years ago

Chanel is discontinuing the GST for two years. I just got the last one at a major department store in California.

I actually think its a great idea. They can focus on the boy bag for two years and ride that out then reintroduce the grande-dame herself.

It’s really a win-win because those who buy them now are making a total solid investment and Chanel can gain tons of new customers when they re-launch.

britney
britney
7 years ago
Reply to  John

I going to buy a chanle purse they are my favorite

Sandy
Sandy
7 years ago

My GST is one of the most useful bags I own. The flap bags are beautiful but they hold less and are more difficult to access. I certainly hope the GST is here to stay, this is my go to bag, lovely and useful, the perfect bag.

Terrie Talisman
7 years ago

Interesting, especially the move toward more exclusivity in bags. Those who can afford, get; those who cannot afford, go without.

Ellejays11
Ellejays11
7 years ago

I do feel like there is something to the GST rumours. What that is, precisely, will play out eventually I am sure. I think it could be genius marketing though. People who hadn’t previously considered the GST are now talking about snagging one before it goes away. Perhaps counter intuitive to not wanting to saturate the market, but sales are sales.

Amanda Mull
7 years ago
Reply to  Ellejays11

At first I thought they were probably just rumors, but now they’ve been around for so long that it feels like there’s something to it. Even the woman who started the thread that I linked to in the post came back later to say that her friend at Chanel had reversed course and told her that they WOULD be discontinued.

And I agree that it’s quite smart; artificially straining supply, when done correctly, definitely works to manipulate luxury consumers.

ami
ami
7 years ago

At the direction that Chanel is going to, I think my flap bag is the one and only chanel that I will own.

anon
anon
7 years ago

So, Chanel is trying to be Hermes?

Jess
Jess
7 years ago
Reply to  anon

Haha, I was thinking the same. I really love the classic flap and got my first ever only 4 weeks ago. Sadly, it will most certainly remain my one and only Chanel as I won’t be able (and also not willing) to afford any higher price tags.

anon
anon
7 years ago
Reply to  Jess

I totally get what you mean. Now, I’m staying away from buying other designer handbags so I can just get a Chanel bag, but it feels like such a hassle and keeps your options limited you know? Tbh, their effort to be “exclusive” is coming off snobbish to me and therefore makes me kinda unwilling to pay a higher price tag too. I guess Hermes’ exclusivity is understandable, but Chanel? Jeez.

Jade
Jade
7 years ago

It’s not just a rumor that they are closing locations. The Cincinnati store closed Feb. 1. It was located on Saks. Sad reality.

Amanda Mull
7 years ago
Reply to  Jade

Thanks for the confirmation! I couldn’t find anyone in our Chanel forum whose store had already closed.

abigail
abigail
7 years ago

Rumor #3 is what my SA in Columbus Ohio has told me as well! I’ve already stopped in to make my last purchase before they close next month 🙁

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