Lessons from Major Retailers

With the holiday season now over, it is safe to say that we have all recently spent some time browsing the stores of leading mainstream retailers, such as Williams Sonoma and Restoration Hardware, for example. Love them or hate them, I always make a point of spending some time observing the merchandising and marketing efforts of the large retailers who seem to dominate their niche. You have to admit, the most successful are very impressive in their efforts, and the results are played out in their sales numbers. You may feel neutral about or even dislike their product, but you can’t fault them on their marketing and merchandise mix, and there is alot to learn from them. After all, if they can sell a newly made piece of furniture comprised of some, as of yet, unidentifiable form of wood pulp for $2,000, and their clientele can turn a blind eye to the longevity of the piece, you have to admit there is some very effective promotion of “lifestyle” going on here. Whatever one’s political, ethical or social beliefs regarding the mass production of such types of homegoods, it’s a good idea to take a good look at their ability to market well. They do sell to the same audience as us, the upper middle class. The antiques trade cringes and we likely believe that we can never compete with their professional and deep-pocketed marketing efforts, but I believe that with some adaptation of presentation and message, we can.

I have always wondered how retail antiques dealers could benefit from bringing in a merchandising expert from the home decorative market for just one week. They would likely be hard on us and many of the genres of antiques we have sold for years would be brutally cast aside into the discount bin. Harsh, perhaps. Adaptive to modern times and tastes? Sure.

Tastes, as well as definitions of  “luxury” have changed over recent years, and we could all do well to pay more attention to what is available in the marketplace, what is in demand, and most importantly, how to present it. I recently poked around the web to research marketing related to the luxury market and found afew good reads. If there is one effort which a dealer makes in their sales efforts this year, a change in presentation might be a good first priority. Doing some homework in terms of modern marketing techniques will pay backten-fold in learning to speak the correct language to today’s buyer.

In Let Them Eat Cake: Marketing Luxury to the Masses – As well as the Classes by Pamela Danzinger, readers see the first research-based study of the 15 million truly affluent households that make up the leading edge of the new luxury market.

Author, Pamela Danzigernotes that the luxury market is changing radically from the conspicuous-consumption consumers of the 1990’s. Danziger conducted a two-year research study of luxury consumers and discovered a totally new type of “luxury consumer.”

Designed to givemarketing practitioners an insight into what luxury means to the consumer, Let Them Eat Cake covers the naturalevolution as today’s luxuries become tomorrow’s necessities, as products move “from the classes to the masses.” Marketing topics include:

  • “How to “get it right for the masses” and how to “get it right for the classes” with profiles of companies that exhibit best practices in luxury marketing.
  • Why luxury isn’t about material things or how much something costs: it’s how the product or service connects with the dreams, desires, and passions of the consumer.
  • The different drivers and motivators for luxury consumers.

Danziger outlines the purchase behavior and preferences in the nine categories of home luxury products (e.g., furniture, art, antiques), four personal luxuries (e.g.,automobiles, fashion), and six experiential luxuries (e.g., luxury travel, spa/beauty treatments).

As businesses compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace, Danziger also describes the six key consumer trends in luxury marketing and strategies that marketers can implement to build their luxury brands.

The last decade has taught retailers several key things: 1) Product and its desirability changes quickly. 2) It is crucial to attract a younger audience and, 3) Adaptability in presentation is critical. It simply wasn’t a good decade to rest on one’s laurels.

A recent article in theWall Street Journal, Two Dowdy Clothing Brands Go for Vogue, discusses the upcoming launch of more “fashionable” clothing lines and marketingefforts by two long-standing traditionalists in the clothing industry: L.L.Bean and Land’s End.

My first thoughts were, “But, I’ll miss those dowdy L.L. Bean comfortable sweaters AND their dowdypresentation. They’re both so familiar? like antiques? But then again, I acknowledged that L.L. Bean is in the same boat as antique dealers. Consumer tastes have become highly fluid overthe last decade as well as highly malleable to good visual and marketing efforts. It’s a great time for dealers to be a bit more malleable as well.

More from this author at: www.adiscourseontheartsandsciences.net

About Art After X

With the death of President Kennedy in 1963, America changed. As hard as it is to minimize that sentiment, the effect of Dallas was even greater. The same year saw the merging of the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts, which had been central to the art scene, and the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Douglas MacAgy, then the director of DMCA, not only opposed the merger, but also declined to directorship of the combined museum. The regionalist movement which had been strong for decades, was giving way to more of an interest in what was going on nationally, and internationally. Like it or not, Dallas was on the national stage.

When the Kennedy’s arrived in Fort Worth, local collectors had decorated a hotel room with internationally-renowned works. While the president and his wife learned a great deal about the ability of Texans to collect major art, there was little they could glean about the local scene in this era-defining city.

With this in mind, we have begun a project to look not back at the art scene in Dallas, but foreword from 1963. We are interviewing gallery owners, curators and others involved in the art scene then, but this will be a story told mostly through interviews with artists active in the city from that point into the 1980s.

The result will be a book with a video component.

We hope you will join us in our journey. The hashtag for the project is #artafterx and the url artafterx.com will point to the latest updates on this weblog.


I am the VP of LLBean Signature and just wanted you to know that Signature is a new collection that will provide some options with an updated fit and style but the popular Bean products that customers know us for will continue to be offered. Signature is just a new option.

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