Luxury stores continue to limit crowds after COVID – and they won’t admit why

COVID-19 is waning, but buying a Louis Vuitton handbag, Chanel dress, or pair of Gucci loafers increasingly means queuing outside a boutique, and luxury brands have been blatantly gasping as to why.

Most elite labels leaned on “shopping by appointment” during the height of the pandemic, citing the need for social distancing. But as the virus threat recedes, some including Cartier and Harry Winston continue to impose the new policy.

They also failed to convince buyers and pundits of their reasoning alike, if they bothered to explain themselves. Major brands including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Cartier have not responded to calls and emails from The Post about their persistent use of stanchions in front of store entrances, where queued shoppers are questioned by “cheers” about potential purchases before entering.

Chanel said it will open “private” stores for its best customers next year.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We recommend that you book an appointment prior to your boutique visit, as walk-ins may experience prolonged waiting times,” advises the Cartier website, without further details.

According to experts, kidnapped customers can primarily thank a relentless smash-and-grab robbery epidemic rather than social distancing for intensified nationwide crowd controls, including New York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. The theft got so bad last year that Beverly Hills hired two private security companies to patrol Rodeo Drive.

Meanwhile, at the Westchester Mall in White Plains, New York, where robbers ransacked a Louis Vuitton store in February, the doors of the boutique were closed, with posts inviting shoppers to queue outside.

A luxury boutique entrance with greetings and a guard.
Some luxury boutiques interrogate customers before they enter the store, asking what they are looking for.
Jeffrey Greenberg / UCG / Universal

A pair of receptionists wearing headphones – flanked by a pair of sturdy mall security guards – asked customers if they were there to collect an order or to shop. Shoppers were only allowed in when an attendant was ready to escort them inside.

“They don’t want customers looking around the store without a store employee with them,” a sales employee told The Post.

Cops in Beverly Hills standing outside a jewelry store that was robbed.
Beverly Hills has hired private security companies to patrol after the rise in crimes of mass destruction this year.

Luxury brands have managed to hide the awkwardness of the situation in part because making it difficult to enter their stores “creates an aura of exclusivity,” says Steve Dennis, a Dallas-based retail consultant.

“Most of these stores aren’t crowded anyway,” and the lines are getting longer in states like Texas, “which haven’t taken COVID particularly seriously,” said Dennis, author of “Remarkable Retail: How to Win. & Keep Customers in “. the era of destruction “.

“The new nightclub, in its strange way, will enter a Dolce & Gabbana store on Saturdays,” adds Melanie Holland, luxury retail consultant.

A Gucci store in San Francisco.
Gucci is among the luxury brands where customers are asked to wait in line before entering the stores.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Gucci store in Miami that attracts a line of customers.
luxury boutiques across the country, including this Miami Gucci store, limit the number of customers that can enter at the same time.
Jeffrey Greenberg / UCG / Universal

Last week, a Chanel executive sparked chatter when he revealed in an interview that the company plans to open “private” boutiques in Asia next year for top customers. Chanel is hiring 3,500 new employees for the initiative, which experts say could be adopted in the United States.

“Our greatest concern is to protect our customers and especially our existing customers,” Chanel Chief Financial Officer Philippe Blondiaux told Business of Fashion. “We will invest in highly protected boutiques to serve customers in a very exclusive way.”

In response, fashion blog Highsnobiety asked “What exactly do Blondiaux and Chanel want to ‘protect’ their customers from?”

Holland speculated that Chanel might try to stop its wealthy customers from becoming the target of thieves after they leave the stores. But even big spenders don’t usually walk in the street, she adds.

“People who want to spend $ 25,000 on a dress don’t want to queue,” Holland said. “Those customers are probably making an appointment with their personal shopper: they know that line is not meant for them.”

A line outside a Louis Vuitton store.
Some luxury stores still require customers to make an appointment to shop.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

As previously reported by The Post, Madison Avenue boutiques on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, including Chanel, Prada and Carolina Herrera, are dimming their lights, locking doors, and opening by appointment only in an effort to discourage a wave of cheeky daytime shoplifters terrorizing the glittering artery this year.

In February, a team of seven thieves walked out of The Real Real on Madison on 71st Street with bags and jewelry worth nearly $ 500,000.

In the wake of such robberies, there is simply a “new lack of confidence” on the part of retailers “in who is walking through their doors,” said Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School.

In practice, most luxury brands assign a salesperson to each customer or group. The days of walking into an upscale boutique and “browsing” without an associate following you are largely over, a sales rep said.

Meanwhile, staff at luxury boutiques, including Chanel, Gucci, and Burberry, are provided with talking points for curious customers, some of which seem plausible.

“We’re still facing shipping delays from Paris and you don’t want everyone walking in and noticing that the store doesn’t have the latest styles,” a salesperson at a boutique run by a major luxury label told The Post. speaking on condition of anonymity.

“You want to be able to tell them one-on-one that the pieces are on the way,” the partner added.