Last year a Birkin bag broke records and became the most expensive handbag in the world.
The rare Himalayan crocodile Birkin with white gold detailing and 245 diamonds was bought for $300,168 by an anonymous buyer at Christie’s Hong Kong.
No sea salt included.
Birkin have form for this.
Their boring old regular bags sell for $9000.
How do they do this when designer brands like Prada and Chanel are commoditised and ubiquitous in shopping malls across the globe?
Your average woman can’t just walk into Hermes and buy one. You’d have to have a long-standing relationship with one of their sales associates.
This exclusivity and the subsequent mystique that surrounds the Birkin has proved to be a phenomenally successful marketing tactic.
Observe the experience of trying to get one.
Certainly, these bags are elusive – as I discover at the Sloane Street store, a haven of luxurious soft furnishings, gleaming glass cabinets and polished surfaces.
The customers are mainly Arab or Asian, the women dripping with diamonds, men dressed in cashmere weekend wear.
After I’ve stated my intention to buy a Birkin, a male assistant wordlessly ushers me towards a leather-covered desk and asks me to sit down.
‘We do not have any in the shop,’ he explains. ‘There will be none until next month. And I cannot tell you when the next delivery will arrive. For security reasons, we don’t even know what will arrive in the delivery.’
Perhaps I could buy a Kelly bag, then? ‘The Kelly is even less available,’ he says sternly.
But there is a ray of hope.
Would I like to see the leather samples? He opens a book of butter-soft leather and I am allowed to flick through. I pause when I reach an electric blue leather.
Could I perhaps order a bag, then – in this? His eyebrow arches again.
‘No, madam. We do not take orders. It is not possible to order a colour. We get orange or red sometimes, and the odd time an off-white grey. Everyone assumes that you can simply order these bags – but it is not like that. It is a waiting game.’
There’s a lot to learn from this experience.
Even though they have nothing to sell the customer they give her a taste of what it would be like to own one. They let her touch the leather. Reinforce how rare they are multiple times and how special she would be should she ever be lucky enough to get her hands on one.
It leaves the customer salivating for more.
He takes my details, I thank him profusely and spill out onto the street, back among the ordinary people with their cheap single-stitched handbags. Momentarily, I have been seduced into feeling that I am extraordinarily lucky indeed to be given the opportunity to spend £7,000 on a handbag.
Even if you don’t have ultra rare products you can create this experience for your customers.
VIP club with special benefits.
One off editions of your regular products.
Limit your client roster to 10 and make customers qualify.
The more you gently push customers away from these while giving them a taste of life behind the velvet rope the more they will go crazy for them.