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10.26.2009

Buying Product or Buying into Their Confidence? +J and UNIQLO

Last Thursday, taking advantage of a small window of spare time, I did some retail - walked Ginza and spent a bit of time in H&M, Zara, and UNIQLO.
Of course I walked past the other boutiques while there and noted the 13-storey Abercrombie & Fitch building, quietly preparing for its opening and Lanvin readying to open as well.
But passersby with shopping bags were either carrying H&M or UNIQLO bags for the most part on that particular day.

In terms of visual merchandising, UNIQLO was by far the most colorful and was obviously enjoying the most robust trade.
H&M and Zara looked very monochrome - lots of black & white, grays, and graphic prints in black & white on the ground floors near the entrance.
UNIQLO on the other hand is full of color.
+J was tucked away at the very back of the store in both the men's store and the women's store.

I'm always impressed with their straight forward POS signage - you walk in and you immediately know what they are pushing. The time limited discounted price tags are a very powerful call for action that creates a sense of urgency.
It is tacky, less elegant, and so very in your face, but while H&M managed to get their RRP listed on their ads in glossies like VOGUE, blowing people away with their straight forwardness about being affordable, when it comes to pushing the hero product of the week on the shop floor, UNIQLO seems to have the upper hand.

Discussions among shoppers overheard during my short stay in the store made it obvious that they were visiting H&M and Zara, too.
"The quality of this (jacket) is much better than the floppy one you tried on in H&M" said one man to a woman who looked like his wife. Maybe he is from the trade, but the observation was noted.

"Oh, they are selling their cashmere again," said one older woman to her friend, "I bought some nice colors last year and it is so inexpensive, you can wear cashmere everyday! Can I see what colors they have this year?"

The announcement over the PA system was referring to the "now familiar UNIQLO cashmere line" as well as how another batch of heat tech products just arriving on the higher floor.

After reading headline after headline of how UNIQLO and Fast Retailing are outdoing the rest, I admit to being a bit sick and tired of it, but after visiting the store and seeing the energy among the shoppers and the staff, I can see how such energy creates a positive spiral and brings in more shoppers who get excited.

And the location being Ginza, there was an interesting mix of customers, too - very elegant, stylish types to more modest, simple, dressed in basics head to toe types. But they shared one thing in common - they were checking out the merchandise with an obvious intension to actually shop and spend money.

At the end of the day, when enough people do that, the hype has substance and enough energy to create the next hero product campaign, it seems.

In a way it was most refreshing to see a store pushing hero product so boldly.
So many other shops have so much of everything, wanting to be everything to everyone, that you end up feeling like they all look the same and nothing jumps out.
Walking in and seeing without doubt that UNIQLO wants you to buy their cashmere sweaters was a sign of their confidence and in these times of uncertainty, that confidence almost makes you want to buy their product to get a piece of that confidence more than anything else.

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