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The crowd squeezing into Bergdorf Goodman’s restaurant to glimpse the Olsen twins tending bar, knocking a door off its hinges in the melee, said it all: Fashion’s Night Out brought out celebrity-crazed hordes and masses of fashion fans like the rush before Christmas — even if the level of business didn’t quite match.
Between Bette Midler singing at Oscar de la Renta; the cast of “Hair” performing at Macy’s in Queens, and Victoria Beckham and the Olsens triggering bedlam at Bergdorf’s, to cite just a few of the night’s highlights, the mood was like Mardi Gras — entertaining and often frenetic. And that was only in New York; similar crowds were seen in Milan, Paris and London.
Some consumers sought to connect, if not transact, with the designers making store appearances; others came to socialize and grab a drink, while a minority did actually shop. Several retailers told WWD that Fashion’s Night Out, during which more than 700 stores stayed open until 11 p.m. and offered events, celebrities and designers, did lift the day’s business. However, most emphasized the main purpose was to bring fun to the stores; elevate the industry’s image as important to the economy; support the NYC AIDS Fund and the National September 11 Memorial Fund, and put people in a shopping mind-set, if not for the evening then for the weeks ahead.
As the dust settles, retailers will examine the evening’s impact, look for a residual sales effect and think about whether they want to duplicate the affair next year. Nothing has been decided.
“It was worth doing,” said Claudio Del Vecchio, chairman and chief executive officer of Brooks Brothers. “We do a lot of events, and we generally don’t get a lot of business from them. It’s more to show people what we do and who we are, rather than sales that night. There is always a certain percent that comes back to shop. The best thing about Fashion’s Night Out is that a lot of people came out and are still looking at shopping in a positive way, even if they didn’t shop.”
Del Vecchio said Brooks Bros.’ Black Fleece shop on Bleecker Street did generate good sales, with designer Thom Browne there to launch the Black Fleece fragrance.
“I don’t think I got off my feet for five hours,” said Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and ceo of Saks Inc. “Vendors were terrific. They stayed for hours, interacting with customers. People enjoyed the evening. It wasn’t about shopping. It was about getting excited about fashion and having fun.”
“It felt like Saturday before Christmas and Halloween rolled together, and then some,” said Bergdorf’s president and ceo Jim Gold. “It also felt like a celebration that the city has been waiting a year to have. It’s been a rough year. People were just bursting at the seams. We were extremely pleased with the sales results,” though he didn’t specify what they were.
“There was a lot of energy in our stores,” said Bloomingdale’s chairman and ceo Michael Gould. “We had a positive impact. Bloomingdale’s added no discounts to the evening.
“What it really reflects is that whether it’s a special night out or any time Bloomingdale’s does events, the customer comes. And so we need to do more and more of that as best we can to try to get as many things going on in the store to create excitement.”
Stores could, though, try to capitalize on the momentum by adding price promotions in the days ahead, some experts noted.
ShopperTrak reported Fashion’s Night Out spurred a 3.4 percent nationwide traffic increase in apparel and accessories stores, with nearly a 50 percent rise in Manhattan. ShopperTrak also determined that on the four Thursdays prior to Sept. 10, there was an average decline in the segment of 10.5 percent compared with last year. “Our traffic data proves Fashion’s Night Out was a very successful event for those retailers in the apparel and accessories segment,” said Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak.