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Queuing Is Not A Luxury Experience

It’s time for executives to rethink the lines outside luxury stores, writes Imran Amed.
Queue outside Chanel on New Bond Street in London.
Queue outside Chanel on New Bond Street in London. (Getty Images)
BoF PROFESSIONAL

LONDON — One of the most frustrating things about shopping for luxury fashion in the post-pandemic era is queuing — or “lining up,” as North Americans say. The default experience at luxury brands is increasingly arriving at a store — be it Chanel, Dior or Balenciaga — and being told by someone with an iPad that you must wait outside, often behind scores of other people, before you’re allowed in to have a look around.

This is something I have encountered everywhere from Bond Street to Bicester Village, and what’s bizarre is that sometimes these stores seem to have massive queues outside while the store inside looks completely empty.

If you have a direct relationship with a sales associate and are able to make an appointment in advance, you might be able to circumvent the queue, but this makes it difficult to pop by spontaneously. And it’s not a particularly smart strategy if brands want to welcome new customers to explore their stores, something that is more important now that the post-pandemic luxury boom is waning.

When I’ve quizzed luxury executives about the thinking behind this system, they’ve said it’s to ensure they can assign one sales associate to each customer to deliver the best shopping experience while also helping to manage the higher levels of shoplifting that they’ve had to contend with in recent years.

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The thing is, these days one of the greatest luxuries of all is time. And sometimes I just want to efficiently pop into a store and have a look around. I don’t need a sales associate to assist me with that and I don’t want to wait in a line.

That’s why it was so refreshing to walk into a Celine store on London’s Bond Street over the weekend, and to be welcomed in without a hassle. Even though the store was very busy and a sales associate wasn’t available to help me right away, I was told I could have a look around on my own and they would send someone over when they became available. So simple, but so effective and as a customer, it made me feel like the brand valued my time.

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Uniqlo recently started using a “next-generation process powered by radio frequency identification readers inside the checkout machines. (Imran Amed)

At the other end of the fashion spectrum, I found myself at Uniqlo the other day to stock up on some socks. When I arrived at the till to pay, there was a short queue. A sales associate guided me to the self-checkout, and I cringed. (There is nothing I hate more than scanning my own groceries and then having to wait for the staff to help with the inevitable problems that arise.)

But there’s a twist! According to The Wall Street Journal, Uniqlo recently started using a “next-generation process powered by radio frequency identification readers inside the checkout machines, which automatically read hidden RFID chips embedded in price tags.” Using RFID also helps Uniqlo with stock keeping, managing inventory and loss prevention.

So, I was able to bypass the queue, put my socks into a checkout basket and, like magic, it calculated my bill in an instant, without having to scan each item individually. I tapped my credit card and I was off in less than a minute.

Now that’s a real luxury experience.

The BoF Podcast

Imran Amed and Pharrell Williams.Opens in new window
Imran Amed and Pharrell Williams. (Lea Colombo for BoF)
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Pharrell Williams has been part of the global cultural consciousness for the better part of two decades as a rapper, songwriter and music producer. But earlier this year, when he was named men’s creative director for Louis Vuitton, his career took on a whole new trajectory.

This week on The BoF Podcast, I’m happy to share the full conversation I had with Pharrell for a BoF 500 cover story, examining his journey into the luxury industry and his vision for Louis Vuitton.

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Imran Amed, Founder, CEO and Editor-in-Chief, The Business of Fashion

P.S. Join us on October 25 at 16.00 BST / 11:00 EDT for a Masterclass with The Business of Beauty’s Priya Rao and E.l.f’s chief executive Tarang Amin, unpacking BoF’s case study on how the upstart-turned-industry juggernaut brought its growth ambitions to life.

Here are my other top picks from our analysis on fashion, luxury and beauty:

1. The Party May Be Over, but LVMH Has Moves to Make. This week, softening sales growth at the French giant was the latest sign that the post-pandemic luxury boom is over, but chairman Bernard Arnault may be able to play the weak market to his advantage.

This week, LVMH reported softening sales growth, sending luxury shares tumbling, but chairman Bernard Arnault may be able to play a weak market to his advantage.Opens in new window
This week, LVMH reported softening sales growth, sending luxury shares tumbling, but chairman Bernard Arnault may be able to play a weak market to his advantage. (Getty Images)

2. Unpacking Birkenstock’s Underwhelming Public Debut. Shares of the L Catterton-owned sandal maker sank on their first day of trading, a bad sign for other brands that are thinking about going public.

Man wearing Birkenstock sandals in hammock.Opens in new window
Birkenstock has collaborated with the likes of Rick Owens, Stüssy and Dior, endlessly iterating on its hero products through partnerships, new materials and colourways. (Birkenstock)

3. Pharrell Williams: The Future of Luxury Is ‘Freedom’. With his first Louis Vuitton men’s show behind him, BoF 500 cover star Pharrell Williams shares his long-term vision for the future of Louis Vuitton, and luxury itself, with BoF’s Imran Amed.

Pharrell Williams.Opens in new window
Pharrell Williams with the leather Speedy bag from his first Louis Vuitton collection for Spring/Summer 2024. (Lea Colombo for BoF)

4. Thom Browne: The Five Hundred Million Dollar Man. Twenty years ago, people laughed at him in his shrunken grey suit. Now he’s showing haute couture in Paris, publishing a weighty monograph on his career, and chairing the CFDA. Who’s laughing now?

In 2018, Thom Browne sold 85 percent of his company to Zegna in a deal that valued the label at $500 million. Now, the designer is marking 20 years in business and planning his next chapter.Opens in new window
In 2018, Thom Browne sold 85 percent of his company to Zegna in a deal that valued the label at $500 million. Now, the designer is marking 20 years in business and planning his next chapter. (Kevin Trageser for BoF)

5. Inside the Big Business of Styling Athletes. NBA stars and footballers are leaning on a network of powerful style consultants to help shape their personal brands outside of their day jobs, laying the groundwork for lucrative brand deals.

London-based Algen Hamilton has gained a reputation for styling a group of the Premier League's most stylish footballers as they broke onto the scene, including Chelsea player Trevor Chalobah (pictured),  Reiss Nelson and Kai Havertz of Arsenal and Joe Willock of Newcastle United.Opens in new window
London-based Algen Hamilton has gained a reputation for styling a group of the Premier League's most stylish footballers as they broke onto the scene, including Chelsea player Trevor Chalobah (pictured), Reiss Nelson and Kai Havertz of Arsenal and Joe Willock of Newcastle United. (Agathe Breton)

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