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Luxury retailers add more amenities in push to compete in tougher market
NEW YORK -- With designer goods available online anytime, luxury retailers are adding more amenities and personal touches for in-person shopping. Stores overall are facing slower sales amid more restrained luxury spending, and some brands' flagship locations have seen a drop in shopping by international tourists because of the stronger U.S. dollar.
That makes it even more important for retailers to keep their customers feeling valued and pampered.
The Ralph Lauren store in Manhattan earlier this year began picking up and dropping off customers in a BMW sporting a small company logo. It's expected to serve as a model for the kind of service the company wants to offer at its top stores. At the soon-to-open Beverly Hills store, a full-time concierge will offer services beyond shopping, such as making dinner reservations or recommending art galleries.
Lafayette 148 New York, a clothing brand that sells to Saks, Neiman Marcus and other upscale retailers, also offers a pick-up and drop-off service for customers at two Manhattan stores. Neiman Marcus Group's Bergdorf Goodman has expanded the number of translators at its New York store for international shoppers. Credit-card holders for both retailers can access a 24-hour concierge service to book travel or theater tickets.
And the Americana Manhasset Mall on Long Island, which offers a free personal shopping service for the open-air center that includes stores such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel, is working to provide more service. The personal shoppers, who used to work just with the stores at the mall, go for training at the corporate offices or meet with the brand's corporate staff at the mall.
Saks Fifth Avenue, under new President Marc Metrick, is offering what he calls "more high-touch" experiences. At the lower Manhattan store, that can be "power lunch" packages for wardrobe styling and makeup application in less than 60 minutes.
A "Saks Save Me" service lets shoppers call a dedicated number to resolve fashion emergencies within 24 hours. And in 15 U.S. markets, it can send the wardrobe van.
Metrick said it's about building a better relationship.
"Saks is transforming because the customer is changing," he said. "If people want to buy and transact, they can do it in so many ways."