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(Left) Pre-Fall 2020 Men’s collection. (Right) The newly launched LV Pont 9 shoulder bags in calf leather.

(Left) Louis Vuitton Ngee Ann City Boutique 2nd level. (Right) Pre-Fall 2020 Women’s collection.

Fashion: Trial Run

Achieving a new normal in luxury fashion shopping is proving to be a very challenging experience.
Jun 26, 2020 5:50 AM

LAST FRIDAY, I scheduled my appointment at Louis Vuitton through their online in-store appointment service. On the way to the store in Ngee Ann City at 10.12am, the Chanel boutique on the same floor was already filled with customers even though it had just opened at 10am. It was the first day of Phase 2 - were revenge shoppers out in force already?

Apparently, yes. At Celine, Fendi and Dior, the scenario was the same. They were not crowded with around five to 10 customers, but it turned out that there is a cap of 21 people (including the staff) allowed in some boutiques, like Louis Vuitton.

When you make an appointment online at Louis Vuitton, you will receive a text as to where you will be greeted by your client services advisor. Those who are apprehensive about crowds will be relieved to know that you can skip the queue downstairs and enter through the more discreet second storey entrance.

The safe entry protocols when you enter the boutique are standard. Temperature checks, hand sanitisers and, in Vuitton’s case, disposable latex gloves. It is recommended to wear the gloves especially if you’re purchasing leather goods. For every leather item you touch, you need to sanitise your hands and let it dry for a few minutes before you’re allowed to touch a new one.

Of course, all the client services advisors now wear black washable fabric gloves as part of their uniform. The hosts, who have more interactions with the clients outside of the boutique also wear face shields for added protection. Given the maximum in-store capacity of 21, Vuitton’s staff are on a nine-person rotating basis at one time, which means only 12 customers are allowed in the store.

In the Covid-19 shopping era, the customers will need to adapt to many new protocols, like longer waiting times as sections of the store need to be sanitised once a customer leaves. And, due to strict social distancing measures, physical contact is strictly prohibited. The brand takes the safety of their staff and clients as the utmost priority.

One of the perks when you shop at a luxury boutique is the level of personal interaction between the customer and the salesperson. Previously, when you would like to try a scarf, the salesperson will tie the scarf on you to demonstrate different styling options or assist you in extending the handle, or open the clasp on a four-figure handbag.

With the new protocols however, the client is expected to do it on their own by mirroring what the salesperson is doing. This may pose to be one of the biggest challenges in luxury retail because it may put a very expensive product at risk, through no fault of the client. Explaining or giving out directions through a mask may not be heard quite so clearly and mistakes may occur. There will be difficult clients and complicated situations. What if a zip gets stuck on a S$25,000 dress and the customer needs help? Will social distancing protocols
be slightly relaxed? If not, extra costs may be incurred to fix faulty items.

Reopening the doors of luxury retail may pose more problems than solutions if brands aren’t open minded and adaptable to the anxious reality of this pandemic.