Fashion’s Night Out Creates a Hubbub

Discussion
Sep 14, 2009
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By Tom
Ryan

Fashion’s
Night Out proved that one way to get shoppers back into stores
is to throw a party. Coordinated events in stores across major
cities offered entertainment, plenty of champagne and hors d’oeuvres,
as well the chance to mingle with celebrities, models and designers.

The
publicity around the event naturally came from the celebrities.
In the New York region, Donna Karan and the Olsen twins were at
Bergdorf Goodman, Justin Timberlake at Saks, Gwen Stefani at Bloomingdale’s,
Charlize Theron at Dior and Kate Hudson at Stella McCartney.

But
the events, which marked
the start of Fashion Week, drew
the crowds.

At
Tiffany, a DJ and Vogue editors
offered styling assistance. At Henri Bendel, women lined up to
have red lips drawn on by Gucci Westman, Revlon’s global artistic
director. The
cast of the musical, Hair, performed at the Macy’s in Queens. Lord & Taylor
offered a chance to win tickets
to Fashion Week, VH1 Save The Music Diva Concert, a New York Yankees
or Giants game, Broadway show, shopping spree and spa package.

At
Barneys New York, t-shirts were being hand-painted by artists from
the denim label Loomstate on the first floor, hand massages were
being offered to women on the beauty floor, salsa lessons at Juan
Carlos Obando’s space on the third floor, and the designer Thom
Browne met fans on the fourth floor.

U.S.
Vogue
magazine
editor Anna Wintour, the brainchild of the event, herself made
an appearance at the Macy’s in Queens as a gesture to show that
holding shopping parties during a recession wasn’t “elitist.”

Ms.
Wintour told The
New York Times
, “It’s
bigger than our wildest dreams. We’re just hoping that our global
fashion stimulus package works.”

Robert
Burke, of Robert Burke Associates, a luxury consulting company,
told Reuters on
Friday that the event succeeded in its goal of bringing people
into stores.

“Whether
people bought last night or they didn’t, they are going to see
things they hadn’t seen in the past and go back and buy, so I think
the residual effects of last night will last for the whole season,” said
Burke.

To
some, however, the biggest accomplishment was that the night brought
back the “fun” of shopping.

“Fashion
has been so flat. The party element hasn’t been there,” said Terri
Coleman, partner in the brand Tuccia, told The
Associated Press
. “This
gives them a reason to have fun.”

The
event also featured a Fashion’s Night Out charity T-shirt to benefit
the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the New York
City AIDS Fund that could be autographed by celebrities. Terry
Lundgren chief executive of Macy’s, told the Times that
the chain had sold more than half its 6,000 T-shirts, for $30 apiece,
by 5 p.m.

The
impact on sales was undetermined with a percentage donated to charities.
But Mr. Lundgren felt that sales on Thursday night would at least
cover the expense of keeping eight Macy’s stores nationwide open
late for the promotion.

Discussion
Questions: What did you think of Fashion’s Night Out? What
impact might it have on consumers’ attitudes or on sales? Do you
agree that “the residual effects … will last for the whole
season”?

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14 Comments on "Fashion’s Night Out Creates a Hubbub"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

In the fashion business it’s all about the buzz. Promotion equals coverage. Coverage equals “cool factor.” “Cool factor” equals sales. Even in a recession folks love to be dazzled.

Max Goldberg
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Fashion’s Night Out is a great idea. It focused consumer attention on the fun of shopping. Whether it generates any meaningful sales will have to be seen. Also waiting to be seen is whether or not it had any impact beyond New York. With 80% of Americans believing that the economy is in poor shape, Fashion’s Night Out may bring a smile, but it will not have a big impact on consumer attitudes or sales.

Marge Laney
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I think Fashion’s Night Out was a resounding success. It took the doom and gloom out of the apparel retail headlines for a couple of days, which was a pleasant relief. I also think that it showed a change of focus for the fashion industry, which has traditionally been very self-absorbed.

FNO came at the beginning of NY Fashion Week which is a closed to the public affair where the fashion elite strut and frolic and decide what the rest of us will be wearing next season. I see this opening night party as an olive branch of sorts extended to us the consumer and signifying their realization that without us they are not only irrelevant, they will cease to exist.

Lee Peterson
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

I think we need to define fashion first. By the very nature of the term, the only “fashionable” thing right now is to show value, and sadly, mostly by lowering or having low prices. As I roam through public events around the country or even airports and other spaces where people gather, I’m not seeing fashionable clothing, accessories or, for that matter, fashionable ANYTHING. Part of this is due to the fact that the offerings from mass retailers are and have been poor but the main culprit is demand. People just don’t care about fashion right now. They’ve got much, much bigger fish to fry, like food on the table.

Fashion night is a valiant attempt to revive people’s interest in style and shopping for style, but unless you’re in a major metro area (let’s just say NYC or LA) that actually has a demand for it, it’s a waste of time right now.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Retail is shifting and in-store events will become more prevalent. This is, in part, due to the shopping habits on the internet. Engaging your customers on a personal level has never been more important.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Fashion’s Night Out generated a lot of publicity in New York City, but Fashion Week is always big in NYC. The real question is how far down the demographic chain did this promotion have an impact? Saks, Bergdorf Goodman, Dior, Stella McCartney, Barney’s. Those are not doors for mainstream buyers and not the retailers that the apparel industry lives and dies on.

Is Fashion’s Night Out merely serving its own constituency or is it generating a real fashion buzz that can be carried outside of the city limits? I don’t know the answer, but my bet would be that it has very short legs.

Sandy Miller
Guest
Sandy Miller
11 years 8 months ago

What a great idea! We coined a term for ideas such as this “In Retrospect, Blindingly Obvious” or IRBO.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

It’s all about the experience! It will be interesting to see if Loehmann’s and Kohl’s and other mainstream brands try something similar.

t.j. reid
Guest
t.j. reid
11 years 8 months ago
I am a retail consultant for small fashion retailers across the country. My clients are stores doing anywhere from $300,000 to a million a year, so certainly not in the league of the New Yorkers mentioned. BUT–This is nothing new. Special events have always been the mainstay of small businesses. It is their way to connect with and get to know, their customer. The stores I work with have special events planned EVERY week through the holidays. They include everything from basic trunk shows to “Wrap It Up” scarf demonstrations, Accessorizing seminars, Intro to Holiday Entertaining, Lingerie Photos with Santa, Purse and Pajama Parties, and gift-wrap workshops and the unending list of possibilities goes on. One store even has a car mechanic coming in to teach women how to change a tire. The primary goal for all these events is to get people in the store, make them comfortable and make them remember the store that did this for them…and it works! They eat, they drink, they smile, they buy. These events are fun–especially a… Read more »
Roger Saunders
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Some fashion buzz was generated in New York and L.A.

There were definitely folks out and about in Manhattan last week. (Didn’t see that happening, however on the Island or Connecticut)

And, In-store promotional events provide theatre that inspires Retailers and Consumers alike. How can fashion translate that soundstage to a broader cross-section of the country is the question that has to be asked when trying on an event like “Fashion’s Night Out”?

The message didn’t hit the country as a whole–with apologies to the Bard, “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Pamela Danziger
Guest
Pamela Danziger
11 years 8 months ago
Everybody loves a party, so it is no surprise that the Fashion’s Night Out event got people into the stores. But generating traffic–the window shopping crowd–isn’t the same as generating sales and I am skeptical that much was accomplished in getting shoppers to cough up cold hard cash. For people in the crowd, Fashion’s Night Out was cheap-thrills. It is going to take more than a party to fight shoppers’ reluctance to spend. Unity Marketing’s tracking study with affluent shoppers conducted every three months measures a new frugality among the previously spend-thrift luxury shoppers. They are across the board evaluating purchases based upon need vs. wants, and too often they are passing up buying another extraneous, desire-based item. Better to save and hold on impulse purchases for something that is more meaningful. Shoppers’ mind set has changed dramatically in this recession and it is going to be a long, long time before they come back with anywhere near the exuberance they once had. Kudos to the fashion crowd for giving people an excuse to come… Read more »
Kim Barrington
Guest
Kim Barrington
11 years 8 months ago
I think Ms. Wintour unwittingly hit on a problem in the industry overall, which is that how people shop has changed and retailers have to work harder at getting their money than throwing up a lot of expensive advertising which I think many have become numb to…. Using some of those ad dollars for retailing events for something other than charity (for the shopper instead) and on a level as large as Fashion’s Night Out (still elitist in that it catered to only a few areas)…but that’s why I say unwittingly, because Ms. Wintour was still trying to stimulate the obvious. I guess she thinks the rest of the country is taken care of by T.J. Maxx who needs no help from her and her gang of designers and stylists. It was a valiant attempt to revive interest in an industry that is flailing for dollars. If they had follow up events around the rest of the country all season long, the effect would be more lasting and widespread which I would think they would… Read more »
Carol Spieckerman
Guest
11 years 8 months ago

Tying into Gene’s point, I’d like to see these types of events and coordinated efforts brought to main street. I recently blogged about how retailers need to shift (or at least split) their focus away from error correction and toward generating excitement through events, happenings and gatherings. The retail environment is out of step with the increasingly more plugged in and exciting “outside world.” In terms of fashion: trend-less fashion sold in an echo chamber does little to motivate shoppers!

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
11 years 8 months ago

Fashion’s Night Out is important on one level to reconnect retailers with customers, and provide customers with a fun event. It reinforces the importance of engaging customers in a memorable way. It is major fashion retailers doing what the more dynamic independent boutiques have been doing all along

But on another level, it only connected with a small slice of consumers, and those consumers have not been as impacted as greatly by the downturn. On a more global scale, apparel retailers are still being significantly impacted by the economic fundamentals and the accompanying weakness in discretionary spending.

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