Fashion’s Night Out Draw Critics

Discussion
Sep 12, 2011
Tom Ryan

Marking its third year in the U.S. last Thursday, Fashion’s Night Out drew a horde of people, lots of media attention and not many shoppers. But was the spectacle enough?

Some think so.  

“What I love is to see youngsters,” Dior CEO Sidney Toledano told Reuters in Paris. “All (these young people) will not become clients, but we need to seduce them today to have them tomorrow.”

Indeed, most stores reportedly broke even at best or more likely lost money for the night, paying for the booze, hors d’oeuvres, giveaways, DJ’s, models, musicians, celebrities and other entertainment. Some on the record said they believe that was enough if the one-night event celebrated fashion for existing customers and reached some old or potential new ones.

Australia Vogue’s editor-in-chief Kirstie Clements told The Australian that with the rise of online shopping, stores have to be more experiential. She said, “It’s really about sales, not celebrity.”

The fashion fiesta, spearheaded by Anna Wintour, Vogue’s worldwide editor-in-chief, has spread to 250 cities in the U.S., and 17 countries around the globe.

But Bud Konheim, CEO of Nicole Miller, lamented that no purchases were being made.

“FNO is a hype where anybody can go and get a free drink in any store in New York,” he told Women’s Wear Daily. “What does it do for business? Nothing. FNO doesn’t move the needle, but it adds to the perception that fashion is fun. We have to make people feel good or else we’re out of business. In terms of the money we spent on FNO, we didn’t get it back.”

A particularly vocal critic has been New York Times fashion critic Cathy Horyn, who in 2010 called for an end to the event. She wrote at the time, “What are you really celebrating? Not art or great books. You’re celebrating shopping.”

This year, she wrote that the event made sense in 2009 when traffic was sparse and small stores were closing, but “now it’s become a party, an institutionalized kickoff to Fashion Week, and though it apparently raises money for some causes, I have to believe that the costs of security, crowd control and entertainment, not to mention the traffic headaches, outweigh the actual benefits.”

She further noted that major stores are now thriving and “smart and fashionable, not safe” merchandise is drawing traffic to stores across the city. Concluded Ms. Horyn, “You really don’t need outside influences to shop these days.”

Discussion Questions: What is your assessment of Fashion’s Night Out? Would you advise retailers to participate? What would you do to improve it?

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10 Comments on "Fashion’s Night Out Draw Critics"


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Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
9 years 7 months ago

I’m not a big fan of this, especially since we are trying to make sales today, not court the customers of the future. Free booze and food is great, but how does it translate to the bottom line? Taking that money and offering an explosive sale or BOGO to your customers is a better way to spend money. Marketing needs to filter down to sales and many apparel retailers have forgotten that.

Lee Peterson
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

If retailers were actually good at fashion, would we need a “fashion night”? Shouldn’t every night be fashion night? I agree with the NYTimes writer; the whole thing just seems to be more of a promotion than anything else (20% off in SF). Shop ’till you drop.

Perhaps the initiative could be a rating/ranking by consumers and experts on who’s actually a fashion retailer and how they’re doing at it — high scores would then mean more traffic and subsequently sales. Take the discount out and promote the core of what fashion is all about; meaningful expression and overwhelmingly desirable product.

Dick Seesel
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

I can only assess what I observed last Thursday evening at the Crystals shopping center in Las Vegas. (This is the ultra-high-end collection of designer stores that is part of the new CityCenter complex.) FNO succeeded in drawing more traffic into the mall than at any other time I walked through it last week, but I did not see a lot of purchases being made. (The Fashion Show mall in Las Vegas contains a much larger assortment of moderate-to-better stores and looks to be thriving better than Crystals.) And the biggest traffic draw appeared to be the free samples being offered outside several restaurants in the mall. At the same time, there was a live band playing so loudly that a lot of potential customers (like me) were fleeing for the nearest door.

It’s hard to judge the efficacy of FNO without knowing what the numbers look like, and it’s probably valid as a long-term branding tool. But what I witnessed did not look like a lot of incremental activity.

Al McClain
Guest
Al McClain
9 years 7 months ago

Come on everyone, lighten up! Does everything have to have a short-term ROI attached to it? Just like you throw a party so the neighbors can get to know you, this is a party to get people out and about, and thinking about shopping and fashion. People have fun, get free makeovers, see fashion shows and celebs, have some free food and drink, and raise money for charity. It’s PR — not ROI.

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

It’s sort of like a private party not intended for us common folk, just like the major fashion shows with the models wearing absurd get-ups none of us would be caught dead in. Hey, if they want to spend their money and party, let ’em. I see more ego involved, than PR or ROI. But no biggie. Party on. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go mend my bib overalls.

Doug Fleener
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

We had a number of clients who actively participated, and they couldn’t have cared less if they made a sale. They were smartly looking to make new customers…and over time we believe they’ll turn into a lot more revenue than one night’s sales.

These are absolutely the type of things that retailers and malls need to do to differentiate themselves and connect with the customer. Not only do I like FNO, I’d like to see it done more often.

Bill Emerson
Guest
Bill Emerson
9 years 7 months ago

Fashion Night accomplishes two things. First, with all due deference to Anna Wintour, it allows the fashion media to feel really important. Second, it allows fashion retailers to whistle by the grave and have a big party. The high fashion business, formerly known as the carriage trade, is a very small, very exclusive, market of very well-off people, none of whom would be caught dead mingling with the kind of folks that come out for free food and drinks.

Julie Them
Guest
Julie Them
9 years 7 months ago

Shopping is both therapeutic and fun. If you do it right you also have a good exercise routine. It is arrogant to decry “shopping” as meaningless. Chill out! Fashion Night Out is a great marketing idea. You might not sell that night (which is a shame); but, you have created a social activity for those of us who enjoy the “stroll” around your shops.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
9 years 7 months ago

This is an investment by the participants to create awareness in the market and we needn’t expect huge lift in sales for the promotion.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
9 years 7 months ago

The critics need to chill. This is like a Saturday downtown art walk or music festival. Not meant for immediate sales, but rather to increase awareness and passion. Fashion, my friends, is art. The Vogue Fashion Night Out allows the industry to celebrate the art and fun that is fashion, as well as raise money and awareness for various supported causes. The long-term viability of the fashion industry is helped by bringing in more aficionados and aspirational fashionistas. Yes, many will just enjoy the giveaways but as Dior’s Toledano astutely declares, “All (these young people) will not become clients, but we need to seduce them today to have them tomorrow.”

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