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Luxury stores still limiting crowds post-COVID — and won’t admit why

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COVID-19 is waning, but looking for a Louis Vuitton bag, a Chanel suit or a pair of Gucci loafers increasingly means standing in line outside a boutique — and luxury brands have been conspicuously tight-lipped on why.

Most elite labels leaned into “appointment shopping” in the course of the height of the pandemic, citing the necessity for social distancing. But because the threat from the virus recedes, some including Cartier and Harry Winston proceed to impose the brand new policy.

Additionally they have didn’t persuade shoppers and experts alike of their reasoning — in the event that they trouble to clarify themselves in any respect. Major brands including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Cartier didn’t reply to calls and emails from The Post about their persistent use of stanchions in front of store entrances, where queued-up shoppers are quizzed by “greeters” about prospective purchases before entering.

Chanel said it can open “private” stores for its top customers next yr.Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We recommend booking an appointment prior to your boutique visit, as walk-ins may experience prolonged wait times,” Cartier’s website advises, without elaborating.

In line with experts, roped-off customers can mostly thank a relentless epidemic of smash-and-grab robberies relatively than social distancing for ramped-up crowd controls nationwide, including in Latest York, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco and Seattle. Theft got so bad last yr that Beverly Hills hired two private security firms to patrol Rodeo Drive.

Meanwhile, on the Westchester Mall in White Plains, NY, where robbers ransacked a Louis Vuitton store in February, the boutique’s doors were closed, with stanchions inviting shoppers to queue up outside.

A luxury boutique entrance with greeters and a guard.Some luxury boutiques query customers before they enter the shop, asking what they’re on the lookout for.Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal

A pair of greeters wearing headsets — flanked by a pair of beefy mall security guards — asked customers whether or not they were there to select up an order or to buy. Shoppers were let in just when an associate was able to accompany them inside.

“They don’t want customers looking across the store with no store worker with them,” a sales associate told The Post. 

Cops in Beverly Hills standing outside a jewelry store that was robbed.Beverly Hills hired private security firms to patrol after smash-and-grab crime surged this yr.MEGA

Luxury brands have managed to obscure the embarrassment of the situation partly because making it difficult to enter their stores “creates an aura of exclusivity,” says Steve Dennis, a Dallas-based retail consultant.

“Most of those stores aren’t crowded anyway,” and the lines are getting longer in states like Texas, “which didn’t particularly take COVID seriously,” said Dennis, creator of “Remarkable Retail: Win & Keep Customers within the Age of Disruption.”

“The brand new nightclub, in its own weird way, is stepping into a Dolce & Gabbana store on a Saturday,” adds luxury retail consultant Melanie Holland.

A Gucci store in San Francisco.Gucci is amongst the luxurious brands where customers are asked to attend in line before entering stores.Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Gucci store in Miami attracting a customer line.luxury boutiques across the country, including this Miami Gucci store, limit how many purchasers can enter at one time.Jeffrey Greenberg/UCG/Universal

Last week, a Chanel executive provoked chatter when he disclosed in an interview that the corporate plans to open “private” boutiques in Asia next yr for top clients. Chanel is hiring 3,500 recent employees for the initiative, which experts say may very well be adopted within the US.

“Our biggest preoccupation is to guard our customers and particularly our pre-existing customers,” Chanel’s chief financial officer Philippe Blondiaux told Business of Fashion. “We’re going to take a position in very protected boutiques to service clients in a really exclusive way.”

In response, fashion blog Highsnobiety questioned “What, exactly, do Blondiaux and Chanel need to ‘protect’ its customers from?”

Holland speculated that Chanel could also be seeking to keep its wealthy clients from becoming targets for thieves after they leave stores. But big spenders also aren’t typically walking in off the road, she adds.

“Individuals who need to spend $25,000 for a small dress don’t need to stand in line,” Holland said. “Those customers are probably making an appointment with their personal shopper — they know that line isn’t meant for them.”

A line outside a Louis Vuitton store.Some luxury stores are still requiring customers to make an appointment to buy.Bloomberg via Getty Images

As previously reported by The Post, Madison Avenue boutiques on the Upper East Side in Manhattan including Chanel, Prada and Carolina Herrera are dimming their lights, locking their doors, and opening by appointment only in a bid to discourage a wave of brazen daytime shoplifters which have terrorized the glitzy thoroughfare this yr.

In February, a team of seven thieves strolled out of The Real Real on Madison at 71st Street with nearly $500,000 price of purses and jewellery.

Within the wake of such heists, there’s simply a “recent lack of trust” on the part of shops “about who’s walking through their doors,” said Susan Scafidi, founder and director of the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School.

In practice, most luxury brands assign a sales associate to every customer or group. The times of walking into an exclusive boutique and “browsing” without an associate shadowing you might be largely over, said one sales rep.

Meanwhile, staffers at upscale boutiques including Chanel, Gucci and Burberry are being armed with talking points for inquisitive customers, a few of which sound plausible.

“We’re still coping with shipping delays from Paris and also you don’t want everyone to are available and to note that the shop doesn’t have the newest styles,” a sales associate at a boutique operated by a serious luxury label told The Post, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

“You wish to have the option to inform them one-on-one that the pieces are on the best way,” the associate added.

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