Hermès is changing the way we shop. Whether it is rumor or fact, shopping at Hermès just feels different.
New protocols, guidelines, secrets, rumors and conflicting information. There are reports of variation depending upon store and/or locale. Changing what is and is not a quota bag. Limits on purchases beyond quota bags, reserve lists, made to order items, low inventory, and few choices.
On the other hand, there is one constant. With Hermès remaining at the pinnacle of the luxury market, it continues to change the rules and keep us guessing. And hoping for that special bag.
So, let’s start clearing this up. Or at least as best we (and anyone else) can.
Some changes are pretty obvious. Gone are the days of casually waltzing into your favorite boutique to browse, spontaneously chit chatting with your SA, and purchasing any number of items in RTW, shoes, or home goods. Since the pandemic, an appointment with your SA is practically required (and often limited in time). Otherwise, you risk waiting in line to enter and being assigned a random SA.
Although non quota bag inventory was never plentiful, items generally were available. Dedicated shoppers rarely left without an orange bag. Lately, for some of us, though, that has become the norm. And not by choice, but rather by lack of product.
Perhaps contributing to this, is that there may be more shoppers in your preferred Hermès boutique. The global shut down, limited vacation travel, weddings, fundraisers, or special events resulted in more disposable income . . . for some.
Even before the pandemic, Hermès sought to expand its client base and attract new customers. The staggered launch of a make-up and skincare line beginning in March 2020 opened the Hermès luxury experience to a broader consumer base. With a lower price point, Hermès could attract shoppers not previously able or comfortable to buy at the boutique. More people in the door translates to higher revenue. But perhaps also, less for the rest of us.
Additionally, to the chagrin of many, Hermès is closer to implementing a global quota system. Once fully in place, limits on quota bags will apply worldwide. In other words, no extra Birkins and Kellys picked up on vacation or travel abroad. Indeed, customers in some geographic areas have found it already operational, further restricting their access to multiple quota bags.
CHANGING THE RULES
Now we get to the more nuanced and challenging changes in Hermès shopping. This is where the rumor mill really heats up . . . and where rules and procedures can vary by geographical location and/or store.
Who Gets Offered a Special Order
Our sources report that the Hermès Special Order system has changed in several major U.S. cities. Traditionally, long-time seasoned customers with established SA relationships benefitted from repeated opportunities to place a SO. Newer customers were largely out of luck.
Now, however, we hear that in some locales SAs are required to offer the opportunity to newer customers. Specifically, Hermès seems to be giving first timers – those who have never placed a Special Order – their chance. In another city, at least this season, Store Managers (SMs) are limiting the number of SOs overall, as well as determining who gets the opportunity.
All Kellys are Quota Bags
Typically, when we say “quota bag” we think Birkin and Kelly. Recently, however, customers at one flagship boutique in the United States, learned that Kelly Pochettes are now considered quota bags.
SAs at another boutique in the United States told clients that any bag with Kelly in the name is a quota bag. If accurate, this means that in addition to the standard Kelly Sellier, Kelly Retourne and mini Kelly, the Kelly Danse, Kelly Lakis, Kelly Pochette, Kelly Cut, and Kelly To Go all may be considered quota bags.
Again, this is a local rule reported from one or more boutiques in the U.S. It is not a confirmed U.S. or global rule at this time to our knowledge.
Of course, discretion always rests with individual SMs to make and break Hermès rules. That’s nothing new. However, expanding the definition of a quota bag seems extreme and certainly shocking.
Reserve Lists for Everything?
Is the infamous “Reserve List” back? Recall the days when folks clamored to get their names on the list for a Birkin or Kelly. Now it seems that for nearly anything not presently in stock, you end up on a list. Provided, however, that list is not too long already. Or, in the old vernacular, that list isn’t closed.
Of course, even if you are on the list, you have no idea if or when your item will arrive and whether it will be offered to you. One saving grace is that you do not (yet) have to put down a deposit or pay upfront for most items. Although there may be exceptions.
One SA suggested that everything is now being made to order. While this precise comment was not fully explained, it could hint that Hermès intends to adjust its production to meet specific demand. Put differently, if 100 people reserve a black Evelyne 29, Hermès will make some quantity of black, but not another color. Don’t panic, it’s just an example.
To some extent, long-standing buyers of Birkins and Kellys are used to this. It bears some resemblance to the Special Order system for quota bags.
What is unfamiliar is the requirement of reserving non-quota bags. Consider if every Roulis, Lindy, 24/24 bag, Garden Party, Bolide, Herbag, Evelyne, Jypsiere, and Jige clutch must be reserved in the color of choice, assuming your boutique is scheduled to receive the bag. It can take a year or more to arrive. You are not told the specifics, just that “you are on the list.”
One Bag Style Per Customer
But wait, there’s more. Apparently at least one U.S. SA says there’s a limit on the number of non quota bags you can reserve and purchase in a single style. We’re not talking about the impossible (for some) to get Birkins and Kellys. We are referring to the supposedly accessible handbags.
According to this source, once on the reserve list you cannot buy this bag in a different fabrication even if it is in the store. In other words, you get one. Or more accurately, you get the possibility of getting one!
Playing this out, let’s say you are put on the reserve list for a mini Evelyne in Rose Shocking. While in the boutique on that same day, your SA displays a mini Evelyne in another color you also like. Assume no one has reserved it. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Not so fast. By this rule, you cannot purchase the bag sitting in the store because you have “reserved” it in Rose Shocking.
On the surface, it makes no sense. A bag is in store with a ready, willing, and able buyer. You’d think that was good for Hermès.
So, why the restriction? Apparently, the rationale is to allow each Hermès customer the opportunity to purchase one bag (but not more) of each non-quota style.
As a customer, however, this is quite frustrating. There is no guarantee that you will get this bag. Put another way, you can’t buy because you might get what you want in the future!
Non Handbag Items
Taking this further, customers also are being placed on reserve lists for non-handbag items out of stock. Want that beige Avalon blanket? If your boutique is out of it . . . you better get on the list for when they come in. Same for RTW, tableware, and pretty much anything else. And again, there’s no assurance if and when you can purchase it.
Impact of Reserve Lists on Shopping
How are you supposed to shop if there’s nothing available for purchase? For example, another SA in a major U.S. city shared that the store received 200 items recently but only 10 pieces made it to the boutique floor! Ten! The rest were pre-reserved.
It makes us wonder whether the days of spontaneous (or semi-spontaneous with an appointment) shopping are over. Moreover, what exactly are people buying? And how?
If you are not a new Hermès customer, your closet is full of orange boxes of all sizes. Your taste has evolved, you know what you want, and you do not want to buy “just anything.” As a result, the items on order are growing while your actual spend is not. This may be good for your credit card, but it does not satisfy your shopping “urges”. When there is low inventory, few choices, and no size options, you walk out empty handed.
For a brand that wants customers to show loyalty and commitment through (among other things) expenditure, it creates a quandary. How do you spend when there’s nothing to buy? Or when Hermès forbids you from purchasing.
Flexibility is Key
Although the situation has improved, you still may not be able to satisfy your shopping desires. Perhaps the bag you want arrived in the ‘wrong’ color. Or the sweater and shoes on your list are in store but in the wrong size.
When it comes to home goods, limited items are available depending upon color, design, and quantity. The rest must be ordered. The same is true of fashion and jewelry. Again, you can’t always get what you want.
On the bright side, you probably can buy something. A lipstick or nail polish, perhaps a scarf… These items are easier to obtain.
If, however, your choices are flexible, your desires varied, your budget is open, and you’re just trying to satisfy a shopping itch… you can find “something.” For example, there is a gorgeous barenia leather saddle on display for purchase even if you don’t own a horse. It could be a conversation piece in your home or a new toy for your unborn child. The possibilities are endless as are our farfetched ideas.
Or perhaps Hermès’ continued investment in creating new leather production facilities will save us. Just recently it announced the creation of two new sites in France, due to open in 2025 and 2026. These are in addition to the three sites already under construction.
What have you seen and heard? Share your recent shopping experiences, purchasing restrictions, or other information.
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Updated: March 22nd, 2022