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Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Gucci Icon-Temporary Collection Tour

On October 24th, Gucci opened a temporary store in Soho to showcase their Icon-Temporary collection. The collection is made up of 18 Gucci designed sneakers (16 for men, 2 for woman). Not your your average sneaks. An entry-level pair starts at $520 and ranges upward to $1,400 for the black alligator trimmed kicks. You do get unique Gucci packaging if the price tag makes you hesitant. Each pair also comes with either silver or gold Gucci dog tags. It's safe to say you would be the only kid in the neighborhood sporting a pair of these sneakers and they do scream for attention in a wild array of colors and materials. Speaking with the Gucci people, many buyers are planning to keep them as collectors items, so the special Gucci packaging could be even more invaluable.

For Gucci, as for many other luxury brands, it's not entirely unusual to bring a line to market that is out-of-the-box. What makes this different are the details. Exclusive these are! Only four pairs in each size are available. Temporary stores first in New York, then on December 1 they will be opening a temporary store in Miami before moving on to London and Tokyo. Each location is slated to be open for two weeks!

Upon the move overseas, the entire collection will be switched out for different models.  Never to be offered for sale again. New York got a break; they extended it for three weeks. Location. The present store is located on Crosby Street, which runs parallel to and east of Broadway between Spring and Broome. Not a high traffic area, nor in what would be considered the heart of Soho near other luxury boutiques.

The New York Sartorialist loves Gucci as much as the next fashionista for their high quality and stylish wares; however, this is puzzling. I'm clearly missing something in this initiative and how they're going about it. Branding and exclusivity is important for any luxury brand. Understood. Why keep it a virtual secret? Why put it on a backstreet in Soho where few will see it instead of near other luxury stores and boutiques where other luxury buyers are likely to be?

The New York Daily News reported several days ago that Gucci is about to have "some major layoffs". Even prior to this news, the business side of the NY Sartorialist scratched his head as to the economics of this flash-tour. Retail rent in Soho, even on Crosby Street is not cheap. In preparation, the store was gutted and the interior was molded to fit the Gucci image. Special lighting put in place, walls, fixtures, computers, special cases, etc.. Neon Gucci signage on the exterior, a full-time immacuately dressed security guard, staff used from the 5th Avenue store. Furthermore, it must be costly to design and fabricate a pair of shoes that perhaps only 50 will be made. Multiply that by 18. Then double it for an entire new collection overseas.

The pure economics, even at an average of $700 a pair, must be horrible. If few know about it, is the branding benefit/brand equity of the venture worth it? If nothing else, the Gucci employees facing layoffs may not feel so.

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