High-end retail marketing: does it differ from conventional methods?

Jeans are folded neatly at the entrance of the W Boutique (Photo by: Marissa Einck).

What do champagne flutes, sweets and one-on-one personalized attention have in common? Selling to the high-end clientele of Tucson.

In 2017, the U.S market for luxury goods reached about $179 billion.

But when high-end retailers don’t have low prices to advertise, how do they attract clientele? Through an authentic experience.

According to Kathleen Kennedy, a professor in Retailing and Consumer Science at the University of Arizona, “The most significant differences are that luxury retail shoppers tend to want personalized, one-to-one service,” she said, “They want to be relaxed and enjoy the experience. They need assurance that the merchandise is authentic.”

The (W) Boutique does just that.

Ever since Sydney Duncan started (W) Boutique 23 years ago, she has been the owner, buyer, manager, event coordinator and salesperson.

The merchandise in store isn’t at all what you would find in a shopping mall. From brands like Michael Stars, Alice & Olivia and Dianne von Furstenberg, her one of a kind collection is not only high-end, but trendy too.

“We target a more fashionable, hip customer,” said Duncan.

Targeting this clientele includes frequent events such as champagne Sundays, Valentine’s Day roses and a plant with purchase on Mother’s Day. The shop even offers personal styling in-store and in your own closet—something you won’t find elsewhere.

(W) Boutique keeps in constant contact with their customers through direct mail, ads in Tucson Lifestyle and even through social media. They even contact customers when new merchandise arrives.

The W Boutique provides a full length mirror, perfect for admiring outfits. (Photo by: Marissa Einck).

“We know what’s in our customer’s closets,” she said, “We know what they like.”

As for brands that understand the importance of creating an experience in high-end retail, Kate Spade hits the mark.

“We take pride in treating our guests like a friend that we would invite into our home,” said Nancy Neal, store manager at the La Encantada Kate Spade.

The whimsical store, who’s motto is “Live Colorfully,” is filled with handbags of every color, clothing in a variety of silhouettes, and some unexpected surprises.

According to Kennedy, it is important that the marketing strategy corresponds with the authenticity of the product.

“We offer our guests candy and confetti before they leave—just a little something unexpected to brighten their day.” Neal said, “You won’t find this anywhere else.”

Kate Spade offers a sweet treat and confetti for all guests. (Photo by: Marissa Einck).

Similar to (W) Boutique, they hold events on the weekends which include “sips and snacks.” Some locations even offer champagne.

“The desire for a personalized, relaxed and enjoyable shopping experience is usually considered in crafting a luxury retailers’ marketing messages along with the customer experience,” she said.

The shop keeps in constant contact with their customers, sending out emails and making phone calls to inform them of new items that come into the store.

“We offer to pull aside items for our guests even before we put them on the floor.” Neal said, “Our customers really appreciate it because they feel like they are getting an inside look before anyone else.”

With retail shopping still as relevant as ever, it is important for high-end retailers to not only understand their customer, but give them an in-store experience that sets them apart from everyone else.


Click here for a Word version of this story and high resolution photos.

Marissa Einck is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at marissaeinck@email.arizona.edu.




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