I wandered into a Van Heusen store in San Francisco yesterday because it was right across the street from a meeting I had. The signs in the window proclaimed, “Take an additional 30% off” their already reduced prices of 30 – 50% off. I had just retired a couple of shirts that were showing their wear, so I figured I’d take the opportunity to stop in.
Oh, boy. Here are my observations, from a branding standpoint:
First, the store’s signage is generic looking, with basic black sans-serif type on a white background. This may be their corporate graphic standard, but it just looks, well, generic. Cheap. (It was raining, so I didn’t take pictures).
Second, the store perpetually looks like it is going out of business because of the deep discounts it always advertises in the windows. I’ve been by there many times before, and there are constantly sale signs in the windows.
What does that do to the Van Heusen brand name? It dubs it a discount brand that may be hanging on by a thread (no pun intended). Combine that with my experience that their shirts are not the best quality — the customer’s experience is always of paramount importance in branding — and you wind up with a brand that the customer only buys at a discount.
Third, the “regular prices” on the shirts were in the $50′s and $60′s, a ludicrous price level for a so-so quality shirt. My impression was that the so-called regular prices are inflated so the deep discounts advertised still give them a profit margin. It’s a game people catch on to.
I also found Geoffrey Beene brand clothes, a brand I’ve seen and bought before, and one that made me laugh: Donald Trump brand. Did I miss something? When did The Donald become a fashion icon? Does anyone buy clothing because it carries his brand name? In my case, I might buy it in spite of it being a Donald Trump brand, not because of it.
In addition, these brands were discounted right along with the Van Heusen brand clothes. This leaves the impression that they are owned and made by Van Heusen, therefore these are discount brands as well.
Maybe this “discount king” marketing strategy works for them, I don’t know. But is it where they would really like to be? For most companies, this is a trap they can fall into when sales are down. One that it is extremely difficult to climb out of again. Once a brand becomes labeled a discount brand, it is usually stuck there for good.
Oh … I did buy one shirt I found on the clearance shelf, for $9.95.
Which brand was it? It didn’t matter at that point. I liked it, it was my size, mostly cotton, and 10 bucks.