Few and far between: Dutch luxury on the high street

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic

Abstract

This paper addresses the problem of consumer retention in high-street fashion retail by challenging the heterodoxy of traditional market regimes that tend to advocate clearly defined boundaries between the high-end, mid-market, and the lower segments. Based on a four-month period of ethnographic research on the Dutch high-street brand ¯CoraKemperman, this paper explores an alternative brand proposition that fastens on some the guiding principles of the luxury sector, including product scarcity, exclusivity, and in-store atmospherics. In an era of increasingly generic high-street fashion and fickle consumption behaviour the margins are tight to leverage loyalty and establish a strong position in the market. According to Stockert (2004), one main reason for this development is the continuously growing number of, on the one hand, multi-label corporations housing various brands under the same roof (e.g. LVMH, Kering, Richemont) and, on the other, chain stores with international market orientation (e.g. Inditex/Zara, MEXX, H&M, Mango) that have driven out of the market the vast majority of small-scale retailers with more particularised product ranges. The combination of these two forces is claimed to have led to evermore standardised production circuits and an increased level of uniformity in high-street products (Perna 1987; Stockert 2004; Jackson and Shaw 2006; Easey 2008). The luxury industry, by contrast, functions according to a set of different principles. Here, attributes such as quality, exclusivity, and individuality generate a large portion of the sales pitch (Teil 2004; So 2013; Willer and Mills 2011). Following Haupt (2004), the luxury goods industry relies on a mix of marketing strategies and individual consumer approach through personalised in-store performance in an attempt to establish emotional ties with the brand. As opposed to high-street retail, personal connections with salespeople constitute a key component in the relationship between consumer and company (Okonkwo 2007). Luxury retail, therefore, can be conceptualised according to principles of “emotional luxury”, i.e. a sense of uniqueness that constitutes an integral element of the value proposition (Lipovetsky 2007). Appealing to sensual and emotional values, luxury enterprises create bonds with their main audience groups by providing experiences that reach beyond their products’ functional and aesthetic properties (Hennigs et al. 2013; Ko and Megehee 2011). This paper argues that ¯CoraKemperman’s market success to a large extent depends on the implicit adoption of some of the guiding principles of the luxury sector. On the one hand, the brand capitalises on the in-store performance of staff that seek to create an emotional bond with consumers by catering to their every whim. On the other hand, the firm’s low market profile and the limited stock of its rather unique products represent an alternative definition of “luxury” that pairs moderation with a socialising rather status-differentiating function of fashion products (De Vries 2008; Jacobs 2010).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
Publication statusUnpublished - Oct 2014
EventFashion Thinking: International conference about the cross field between theory, history and practice in fashion research - Design School Kolding, Kolding, Denmark
Duration: 30 Oct 20141 Nov 2014
https://www.designskolenkolding.dk/en/calendar/fashion-thinking

Conference

ConferenceFashion Thinking
CountryDenmark
CityKolding
Period30/10/141/11/14
Internet address

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