Chanel may have taken its Spring/Summer 2016 show guests to its airport (read: an airport-themed set built inside the Grand Palais), but Hermès is taking it a step further. The Paris-based design house, which staged a far less theatrical S/S 2016 show under the new creative direction of Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski, has opened a pop-up shop in New York’s JFK Airport in Terminal 4. Modeled after the house’s Paris flagship, the pop-up is stocking scarves, perfumes, and home goods (nope, there aren’t any Birkin bags on hand here) and it is slated to remain open until the end of November, joining the permanent Hermès store in Terminal 1.
Hardly Hermès’s first foray into the pop-up shop game, the JFK shop joins past projects including the brand’s 2013 Columbus Circle shop and one at Grand Central Terminal the following year. In 2013, the “Silk Bar”-entitled shop was presented in the form of a classic Manhattan diner, and was also complete with mini-golf and other games, as well as a photo booth directly upstairs of the diner. The hot item on its menu (there was, in fact, a “Silk Bar Menu”): the Maxi Twilly collection, which was introduced just ahead of the opening of the pop-up. Interestingly, that collection’s wares retailed for about $290, a rather noteworthy price drop from Hermès’ signature scarves.
So, pop-up shops, huh? At first, the concept seems a bit unusual, unnatural, an odd fit(?) for Hermès. The iconic design house, which was founded in 1837, was built on a rich history of unmistakably high quality materials and craftsmanship and that boasts a legion of longtime and loyal customers. Your typical Hermès devotee does not tend to pop-up shop hop. However, if we consider the manner in which these pop-ups are carefully tailored, they make a lot of sense and shed quite a bit of light on how the house, known primarily for its pricey Birkin and Kelly bags, is managing to consistently report positive growth, while other similarly situated houses have struggled and in some cases, continue to struggle.
There are several elements to consider when it comes to the brand’s pop-up shops. There is the nature (and thus, the price points) of the goods that are being offered. While Hermès may be able to sustain itself on revenue from its coveted bags, chances are, it probably needs an additional source of funds (most houses do!): Enter its ready-to-wear collection, and also its non-handbag accessories, such as scarves and ties, and its fragrances. These goods operate somewhat (and I repeat, somewhat) like licensed goods – ones that are lower in price than a house’s main fashion offerings, that are typically produced and marketed by an outside brand, and that serve as a significant source of income for the fashion house. Licensing is a popular practice for high fashion brands because it infuses them with additional revenue, which is necessary given the fact that so many runway looks simply are not produced and sold. With this in mind, these lower-priced goods – the scarves, ties, belts, fragrances, etc. – are sort of Hermès’s version of licensed goods. Except that this is Hermès and so, they are produced in-house and by “lower-priced,” we are talking about $120+ fragrances and $290+ scarves.
Anyway, this is where the pop-up shops come in. They offer these lower-priced goods exclusively. There aren’t any Birkins or Kellys or ready-to-wear garments for sale at the Hermès pop-up shops. And thus, they are geared towards younger shoppers – ones that tend to have lower budgets for shopping – another key reason for the pop-up shop. It enables Hermès to sell goods and lure young shoppers, thereby, introducing itself to a different generation of shoppers, some of which may become full blown Hermès customers in the future. And even still, allows Hermès, which given its age could have easily become one of those dusty old design houses, to evolve and remain modern.
When we put it this way, the pop-up shop, which initially seemed so off-brand for a truly iconic design house like Hermès, actually makes a lot of sense, no?