By Kelli B. Grant
Lining up in the wee hours waiting for a store to open isn’t just a Black Friday phenomenon anymore. Retailers are increasingly leveraging limited-edition designer merchandise to get shoppers spending.
It seems to be working: Gap’s line of kids’ clothing with Diane von Furstenberg, which debuted at 206 stores in the U.S. and Canada last week, sold out in many locations within hours. Target’s recent capsule collections from Missoni and Jason Wu sold out just as fast — and the Missoni demand was so frenzied that it crashed the retailer’s web site. And last month, shoppers in pursuit of Nike’s $225 Foamposite One Galaxy sneakers rioted outside malls in Florida and Maryland over limited availability. Much of this sold-out gear ended up in one place: eBay, where a small number of buyers resell the merchandise for inflated prices.
Experts say retailers have been turning to such exclusive collections to bring more shoppers into stores. “With so much choice, people need incentive to pull the trigger and make a purchase,” says Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University. That’s usually a discount, but scarcity works just as well. “Half of it is the consumer wants the item and half of it is they don’t want to miss out on getting the item,” she says. Unlike discounts, fast-selling exclusives can help retailers improve both their image and revenues. “I’m not sure that it moves the needle that much,” says Jaime Katz, an industry analyst for Morningstar, since many exclusive collections number only a few items. But shoppers may still spend hundreds of dollars at the store that they wouldn’t have otherwise..
Deals can be had without buying into the frenzy — or over-paying on eBay, says Michelle Madhok, the founder of sale-tracking site SheFinds.com. Gap’s line, for example, was quickly replenished and is still readily available online in advance of its March 28 global launch. Missoni and Jason Wu pieces trickled back into stores over Target’s 90-day return window. Many Toys R Us exclusive toys show up at mom-n-pop stores on Amazon’s marketplace, for example, while Madhok says she spotted Gap DVF Kids clothing at Diane von Furstenberg’s own stores.