Hermès & Cartier Do the Discount Dance Again


We have an interesting topic today, the appearance of very high-end luxury goods (yes, some things are more “luxurious” than others) on discount sites. Today’s Luxury Daily carries an interesting story about merchandise from Hermès, Cartier and Botkier being sold on discounter Bluefly’s site.

Below we see two Cartier scarves from Bluefly, “retail value $220, Bluefly price $154, you save 30%!”


Via Bluefly


This is not an entirely new phenomenon. In fact, a June 2009 post in this very space was titled “Tiffany & Cartier for Sale at…Bluefly?!” In most instances, these were limited-time and/or “invitation only’ events; the ad seen below is for one such promotion offering Cartier watches.  But from what we can gather, it seems this may become a standard practice moving forward.

Via Bluefly.com

Hermès has been offered previously at Bluefly, and just last week it was sold at Rue Lala.  Your trusty scribe finds the practice disconcerting, especially following month after month after month of record-breaking sales and profits for Hermès, landing this one in the “Help Me Understand” category.  Why do it? Are you introducing products to customers not previously exposed to the brand? If so, are they really customers you want to acquire?

Now, will you be able to purchase the custom scarf sold only at the remodeled flagship store on Bluefly (below)? Of course not.


But is this how Hermès wants its storied image to be marketed? From a Sale Bite post last week: “Hermés + Hanky Panky at Rue La La”:

Via SaleBite

From the story in Luxury Daily:

“… if consumers notice that a brand is lowering its standards so that more people can buy it, it could take away from the brand’s prestige.”

How would you prefer your image be perceived? Oozing the understated elegance and refined vision showcased in the Madison Avenue store?

Hermès Courtesy Image

Or as a bargain hawker at Bluefly?


The argument that prices for these goods are so high it can’t possibly hurt the brand are wrong.  From Rachel Lamb’s story:

““You can’t really go back to charging full price once you have a discount,” Ms. Ries said. “Sometimes, it’s as addictive for the company as much as for the consumer.”

Is this up there with discovering our Orrefors crystal or Movado watch at CostCo?  Hardly. It far transcends that little hissy fit disturbance, for we rank Cartier and Hermès in the upper tier of the luxury scale.  This seems like a bad idea all around.


One more tidbit today, also about a storied company, Haspel, the go-to brand for seersucker.

Haspel via Neiman Marcus

The Neiman Marcus blog recently had a story on the firm, and it makes for a good read, we liked this story about the founder demonstrating the value and wearability of the fabric:

“…wore his Haspel suit into the Atlantic Ocean during a trade show conference.  He then walked up onto the beach, took off his clothes (wearing his boxers, thank goodness), and hung up his suit to dry.  Later that evening, he took that same suit, put it on again, and wore it to the evening’s party.  Needless to say, he made his point.”

The other fascinating part of the post involved this:

Haspel via Neiman Marcus blog

We had nary a clue Haspel did madras. That is news we are happy to hear!

G’bye until next time. 🙂


Filed under Help Me Understand, Preppy Fashion, Sales & Savings

11 responses to “Hermès & Cartier Do the Discount Dance Again

  1. It’s an interesting question. Clearly if the brand and only the brand brought in revenue it would be a bad decision. But if Cartier et. al. can open up new markets, and then backfill the high end with a new, exclusive sub-brand, their bottom lines might look pretty dang good. Which brings the whole issue of brand responsibility. Some brands play a mythic role in our psyches, and when they decide to go for the bucks first and foremost I think it shakes our world, for the worse, just a little bit.

  2. The truth … there is no such thing as masstige. Many designers have smirched their brand up with collaborations that make neither money or prestige. Keeping the brand name pure was Pierre Berge’s mantra and it elevated fashion to aspirational, not banal.

  3. Amy

    I prefer some companies to stay luxury, and not come down to discount level. I’m not wealthy by any stretch of the imagination and trust me I love sales & discounts. I will never own any Hermes, but I like having something to dream about and wish for.

  4. Hermes is currently fighting for their life trying to remain independent. Perhaps they are willing to risk diluting the brand short term to raise the cash to buy out dissident share holders.

    It’s a poor strategy either way.

  5. EAS

    Woohoo…who wouldn’t love Hermes at a discount! xx

  6. As a customer I love bargains, I’m quite the frugal hunter, but as a business I think this may tarnish the high-endness….but if the company is willing to have a wider bottom line… I remember (and this is a long time ago) do you remember the brand MCM & Valentino… after a while it seemed (at least to me) they began to license out their name (at least here in Tokyo) and I found their scarf at a lower-end department store, and I didn’t even want to buy them because I felt like I was wearing a “cheat” if I did? I’m not sure if that even makes sense…. but it was swirling around up there in my mind.

  7. I could be wrong but Hermes may not have a choice in the matter. My hunch is that if they didn’t HAVE to resort to going to Bluefly or Ruelala they wouldn’t…pure and simple. But clearly the time has come that they have to be more, uh….”resourceful” with how they market themselves and perhaps their “core base” is not as strong as it was once was, I am only speculating but why else would they “sell out”, I mean it is a little shocking isn’t it that this uber exclusive brand that turns its nose at making its $6,000 dollar bag readily available is now suddenly pawning its wares on a heavily marketed discount site! Go figure….sign of the times? Yep, thats my guess.
    Love seersucker…funny story about hanging the suit to dry and going to the party, thats part of the beauty, love the lightweight nature….I own a little seersucker skirt from J Mclaughlin from years ago, just love it, its so light and easy to wear…always looks good.
    Happy weekened!!! ( I bet you are glad you have wordpress today..with all the blogger problems going on)!

  8. Kitty

    Personally, I think Hermes at a discount is a bad idea. It does cheapen the brand. Look at Coach. I have Coach purses I just don’t use anymore becaue of all the outlets they have, everyone has a Coach! It is just not ‘special’ anymore. Now, I am not someone who could ever afford Hermes, but man do I dream that if I ever won the lottery the first thing I would want would be a Birkin bag. But not if everyone at the grocery store has one. Then it isn’t special anymore.

  9. What Lisa said, as usual.

    Also, I agree with what Kitty mentioned about the Coach downfall – that’s how I feel both about trotting out my Coach veterans and the Hermes move. Lord knows I’d certainly love a Kelly at a deep, deep, DEEP discount, but I fear the Coach-ization of that beloved brand. There are still some, I believe (Goyard, VBH, Bottega Veneta – if I’m not mistaken?) I have yet to see take the mass market route, but nowadays it seems only a matter of time.

  10. Little Red

    I’m inclined to agree with toad. Hermes is trying to fight off a takeover by LVMH and they probably need the cold hard cash. If they have to temporarily sacrifice the high-endedness to survive then so be it and I don’t begrudge them.

  11. I do believe that all of the comments thus far about the reasons why are dead on. This recent article from Department Store Retailing News, tells of the trend.
    Sorry for the ugly looking link, but it will get you to the post.
    Always, Bumby

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