In the early days of the internet, luxury handbag brands shared very little information about their collections online. Crucial handbag details like bag names, dimensions and even pricing were absent from luxury brand’s websites, and online stores weren’t even a thought. And while the tight-lipped, close to vest tactics worked for a while, forcing consumers to either look elsewhere for information (hello tPF) or head directly to a boutique for the scoop, most luxury brands eventually gave in and joined the world of e-commerce. Still, some brands have been hesitant to follow in the footsteps of their many competitors, but the current state of affairs may force them to change their tunes.
Fashion as a whole has been largely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Runway shows have been postponed, wholesale orders cancelled, sales have plummeted and of course, retail stores have shuttered as life is at a standstill. Despite this, some consumers are still shopping, and this unprecedented event has forced retailers of every kind to reassess how they communicate and market towards consumers.
Brands face a unique challenge of trying to acknowledge the tragedies that our world is facing all the while still attempting to drive sales at a time when they need them most. With retail stores closed around both the country, and the world as a whole, brands are relying on their e-commerce channels as a way to stay afloat.
Retailers at every level—luxury included—are sitting on a lot of product, and with brick and mortar stores closed for the foreseeable future, what does this mean for brands that do not offer online sales? While Chanel’s website is currently more informative than ever before, consumers are still unable to purchase a bag online. And don’t even think about trying to locate a price for an item on Goyard’s online home, whose website is antiquated and uninformative. Though Hermès does offer select items for sale on its website, its most coveted bags like the Birkin, Kelly and Constance are nowhere to be found.
While stores will eventually re-open (the big question remains when) it’s impossible to say how long it will take for customers to be comfortable frequenting them. This crisis has forced a lot of changes upon humanity in a very short amount of time and just as teachers have learned to teach from the comforts of their couch, these once digitally un-savvy brands should be willing and able to adapt.
Chanel’s website could easily be transformed into a fully-functioning e-commerce channel, but Goyard, and Hermès operate a bit differently as they pride themselves on the client-associate experience. Both brands could work to offer some sort of digital shopping experiences, at least in the interim. So much uncertainty lies in the future of fashion and the retail experience as a whole and brands that lack a strong online presence would be crass not to revisit their strategies given retail’s current climate.