Welcome to our brand new series of articles on retailers that are operating in ways that provide some interesting and valuable lessons to the wider industry.
Location: Mount Street, Mayfair, London
In a nutshell: Forcing people to come to come to the high street and queue to buy their goods as they are not on sale anywhere else is proving irresistible to luxury-focused consumers hungry for elite goods with scarcity value.
Nothing makes people want to enter somewhere more than being told they can’t enter. Produce a small length of red rope and people will automatically start queueing behind it. It’s perverse but it’s true and this simple psychological trick has been used by leisure venues since time immemorial.
However, it is far less common for retailers to use the same trick as it seems so counter intuitive. Most shops would rather keep the doors open in freezing cold conditions than provide a barrier to people entering. And for an industry where until recently energy-saving fridge doors were considered unusable as it was feared customers would not even open them to get their purchases, it is frequently a bridge way too far to close the entrance doors.
Consequently queuing, although considered a very British pastime, is not often seen outside shop entrances. And particularly now when people are time-poor and there are more convenient ways to shop – what retailer in their right mind would dare to ask prospective customers to wait outside their premises?
What to make then of the regular queues outside the small Mayfair store of luxury heritage French trunk and leather goods maker, Goyard. The key is its policy of planned scarcity – which basically means that it makes it so hard to come by its products that people are happy to wait outside the shop for an unlimited time just to get time with a store assistant who may or may not be happy to sell them something.
There are only 19 Goyard stores scattered about the luxury high streets of the entire world and the company does not sell anything online. Additionally as the website points out “we do not provide any price or availability information on our products by email or telephone” also noting “our philosophy is to address the needs of our clients visiting the boutiques, hence we do not offer any shopping services online”.
So it really is standing outside the shop or nothing. The company does offer something it cryptically refers to as “a distant sale” but given the prices involved the core client would be aswell to just fly to the nearest shop. And this extraordinary way of working, which would normally result in customers leaving a brand en masse, only seem to drive more people to it.
To add deterrent onto deterrent, according to the Financial Times, the company has a one-in-one-out standard of retail service in its boutiques. You do not go in and browse on your own, an assistant will show you around and provide bespoke advice. The number of clients in the shop cannot exceed the number of assistants – and it’s not because they are worried about shoplifting.
This scarcity of supply is, of course, partly explainable by the fact that the items are all handmade by traditional artisanal methods in France but such is the scarcity of retail location and product supply that even when items come up on second hand (genuinely used) sites they are perilously close to original retail prices.
There is a definite sense that the company is to an extent mindful of who is buying its goods, giving the queue outside Goyard in London’s Mount Street almost a sense of taking an entrance test to see if you are deemed the sort of person the client wants to see holding its bags or travelling with its very famous trunks – no wheels of course – the core clientele here will still have people to carry luggage for them. And what a clientele it is. A favourite of royalty down the decades, rap stars and presidents, it is probably the status symbol most favoured by the super-rich precisely because of its elusiveness.
It should come as no surprise that Goyard does no form of advertising and never gives interviews hence no-one from the company is quoted in this piece. It is alleged in some media reports that it has even been known to refuse bespoke orders for its legendary travelling trunks or requests for its customisation (marquage) service if it feels that it is detrimental to the brand. And still the people queue outside Mount Street.
Goyard, which has been around as long as Louis Vuitton but has pursued a radically different sales model, is an example of how silence and a less is more approach can be a winning retail strategy. One might not look twice at its small shop window but the queues outside are certainly noticeable for any retailer and if experiences are going to be key for the survival of the high street then Goyard’s very bespoke form of retail theatre is a trick worth learning.