NEW YORK, United States — As we emerge from the ruins of a deep recession, where are wealthy consumers shopping most? An analysis of online traffic statistics for February 2009 to February 2010, gathered from Google Ad Planner, reveals some interesting traffic trends, although these are only based on estimates.
Macys.com attracts more visitors with an annual income of over $100,000 than the websites of upmarket department stores Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus combined. In fact, mid-range stores like Kohl’s and JCPenney are reaching more affluent shoppers online than their luxury counterparts like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s and Saks.
What’s more, amongst the top 20 US apparel sites attracting the largest number of wealthy online shoppers, 30 percent are flash sale sites like Gilt Groupe and Rue La La. If you include discounter Bluefly.com, sites dedicated to price reductions represent a full 35 percent of the top 20. Indeed, Gilt Groupe attracts more visitors earning $100,000 or more than any other online-only apparel site except Zappos, the 11-year-old company acquired by Amazon last year in a deal valued at $1.2 billion. Not bad for a company that’s barely 3 years old.
Even as the Dow edges over 11,000, a psychological mark that some market observers have been looking to as a sure sign of economic recovery, there is evidence that affluent shoppers are still looking for real value as they do the cost versus benefit calculation. At moderately priced stores, wealthy consumers are comfortable shopping at full price, but for luxury goods, these same high earners prefer to wait for seasonal sales or visit flash sale sites.
Make no mistake, fashion-focused consumers still lust after luxury labels, but getting the best deal has become far more important than being the first to buy. Given a choice between securing the right size or colour immediately, or securing the best price among reduced options later, even those who can afford to spend now have decided to take their chances at discounters or wait for trends to trickle down to mid-range retailers. Indeed, for recession-hardened shoppers who are accustomed to seeing heavy winter clothes marked down when it’s cold, and lighter summer clothes on sale when the weather is still warm, this “wait and save” mindset looks like it may be here for some time yet.
One thing is clear: for upmarket shopping sites, it would be foolish to disregard the success mid-range department stores and flash sale sites are having in attracting wealthy visitors. Indeed, it appears as though luxury retailers have ignored an opportunity that’s been sitting under their noses all along: their outlets.
Saks, Neiman Marcus and Barney’s all have outlet locations, but these have not been heavily promoted. Retail sites selling in-season stock have large zooomable photos, eye-catching banners, shipping promotions and affiliate programs that help them make their way into social shopping engines and online magazines promoting shopable content. But in sharp contrast, outlets like Off 5th, Nordstrom Rack and the Barney’s Outlet have nothing more than spartan webpages listing store locations. Last Call (Neiman Marcus) has its own website, but it’s a relatively uninteresting and shallow experience that also offers little more than a list of addresses.
With flash sale sites and discounters like Bluefly and Net-a-Porter’s The Outnet replicating the outlet model online to overwhelming success, one has to ask: why aren’t more high-end retailers promoting their outlet brands on the internet in a bigger way? A look at the numbers suggests this is an opportunity worth seizing.
YM Ousley is Publisher and Founding Editor of Signature9 and an internet marketing consultant.
The original “Where the Wealthy Shop” Infographic appears here.