Designers weren’t happy with the sales that hit before the holiday season. You know, when Saks was practically giving away designer merchandise for free (okay, $200 for Prada shoes, but still). Because once department stores like Barneys and Neiman’s mark things down, everyone has to mark that same merchandise down, otherwise angry customers come in and rudely declare that they can buy the same things at Saks for a tenth of the price. This screws over designers and boutique owners, who then have to mark things down to sell things. Designers especially, because not only do they have to mark things down in their own stores before they’d planned, but the value of their wares is cheapened in the eyes of the consumer. Designers have made it known to stores that they’re not happy with the out-of-control sales. And this season, as merchandise rots at full price on the racks, stores are afraid of angering designers again. So afraid, they’re holding what they think are secret sales.
Spring sales normally don’t hit hard until May, usually around Memorial Day. But under the guise of “promotions,” stores like Saks, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman’s are already taking around 20 percent off merchandise. For example, Saks held a “private” friends-and-family sale last week, which it promoted on its homepage. One specialty retailer justifies the markdowns in WWD:
“I don’t see friends and family as a markdown,” said a luxury retailer. “Saks’ friends and family offer is for 20 percent off. A sale is 40 percent off. To me, 20 percent is an hors d’oeuvre. It’s maybe an incentive. Everybody’s giving some type of incentive. They’re all doing something out the back door.”
Because there is no way designers will find out about so-called private premature markdowns advertised on homepages of major national chains. The scared anonymous retailer continued:
“Nobody wants to be the first [to break price] because they’re terrified of what happened with Saks [last holiday]. There’s such a backlash because of markdowns taken last November that people don’t want to go on sale …
“Would I love to go on sale now?” asked the retailer. “Yes. Everybody has too much inventory. Nothing’s selling right now.”
The backlash was so bad in the fall that spring sales won’t be as epic — retailers claim. But it sounds to us like we’re in for another season of practically free clothes. So we’ll just sit back and wait for one of the big chains to crack. We’re looking at you, Saks.