"Frenzy occurs with the fear of someone having more than you," Lewis observed. The prospect of a limited supply adds to "that kind of panic," the author-psychologist pointed out.
"I just came to check it out, but I got totally sucked in," related a 22-year-old woman shopping the H&M Cavalli launch at the brand's Knightsbridge store in November. "Before I knew where I was, I was grabbing armfuls of stuff."
Different strategies seem to work best for different brands.
For H&M, each of its designer collections was marketed with an intensive print, TV and billboard advertising campaign, combined with a flurry of editorial features. "We start it very close to the launch. We are always crystal clear [in communicating] the launch date and the stores it will be at. Like with a film or releasing concert tickets," said Andersson.
However, in the case of Kate Moss' line for Topshop, Andrew Leahy, Topshop's public relations chief, said the retailer tried to temper the frenzy with its limits on time allocated for each shopper and the limited number of items available for each person to try on and purchase.
"We found the frenzy thing a turn-off," said Leahy. "We wanted the opposite of those shots of people fighting over a dress. We wanted it to be a pleasurable experience for the customer."
There's another consideration as well. Consumers at high-profile launches buying in bulk — often indiscriminately without trying on the clothes — can result in increased product returns. As a result, Topshop included a number of fitting rooms in the Kate Moss concession to help ensure consumers were happy with their eventual purchases. "It doesn't look good for the designer involved to have scattered pieces of a collection lingering on a shop's floor," Leahy said.
Other retailers pointed out the drawbacks in the climate of retail frenzy, not least the invitation for negative press. "It's a double-edged sword. Look at Lily Allen for New Look," said one public relations manager at a fashion brand, referring to photos in newspapers of a distinct lack of crowds at the launch of the singer's collection for the high street chain. "There's so much media anticipation that if you don't get a crowd, it's a failure. Brands have started to be judged by the public and the press by the lines at these events."