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Luxury brands navigate inventory challenges for exclusive appeal

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Fashion |Opinion

A Gucci Marmont bag on shopping platform ShopHQ Credits: ShopHQ

In the business of luxury fashion, prudent management of excess inventory is imperative to safeguard the necessary aura of exclusivity.

Within the realm of fashion, the essence of luxury is intrinsically tied to scarcity, contrasting sharply with the conventional practice of discounting products. It is noteworthy that distinguished luxury houses, like Hermès and Chanel, refrain from discounting or operating outlet stores.

A recent observation by Forbes draws attention to a surprise development within Kering-owned Gucci. The brand is currently retailing handbags on ShopHQ, a multiplatform interactive network specialising in a mass-market television shopping environment.

At the time of writing this article, ShopHQ is offering current season handbags of its Marmont GG and 1955 horsebit styles from Gucci. Similar styles are available on Gucci's own online store. While these channels typically feature entry-level luxury items, such as sunglasses and perfumes, Forbes implies that Gucci's participation may indicate a potential inventory problem. These mass-market outlets, distinct from the refined ambiance of luxury boutiques, serve as platforms to quickly liquidate inventory.

Inventory crisis

The article also posits a looming crisis of excess inventory within the luxury sector, further exacerbated by a misjudgment of post-pandemic demand and a projected slowdown in luxury spending in the year 2023.

In the realm of luxury marketing, adherence to principles that eschew discounting is paramount. The downward spiral of price reductions is a fast fashion and premium fashion activity, underscoring the importance of sustaining heightened demand, meticulous distribution management, and an unwavering stance against off-price selling.

While the circumstances surrounding the availability of Gucci's handbags on the shopping platform are unknown, it underscores the challenge of inventory accumulation towards the end of the year, reminiscent of practices more commonly associated with mass-market brands.

According to Reuters, recent credit card data indicates a notable decline of 9.6 percent year-on-year in luxury fashion purchases in the United States during November, following an 11.4 percent decline in October.

Department stores and online platforms also experienced steep contractions, down 13 percent in November year-on-year. Concurrently, share prices of industry giants LVMH, Kering, and Burberry witnessed respective declines of 12, 23, and 33 percent since early August, as reported by Reuters.

2023 may prove to not have been such a great year for luxury after all.