Supply and demand works to get you a deal in the real estate market and the grocery store these days, but this specific luxury brand isn't tailoring its business to reflect the changing times.
"We don't grow as fast as we could," Hermès CEO Patrick Thomas told the Financial Times, "because we do not want to waste the image and the heritage that this company has developed in six generations just to make short term money. It would be a capital sin when you have an asset, a jewel like Hermès."
In the past 20 years the number of artisans Hermès employs to make its leather goods by hand has grown from 300 to 2,000 but, as Thomas points out, each artisan takes years to train, slowing the potential production time. Not to mention it takes 48 work hours to produce just one Birkin bag, translating into weeks of work.
Two years is the universally cited waiting time for a Birkin, which retail starting at at $5,000 and can climb into the six-figure range, depending on the skins and hardware.
However, a recent call to the brand's New York City flagship on Madison Avenue last Wednesday led to a very interesting conversation. When asked, the receptionist said there is no waiting list for the bag, that it had been done away with.
She added, "from time-to-time, we put Birkin bags on the floor," which means if you're in the market and stop by at the right time -- bingo.
What she didn't say is that when a customer wants a specific bag, say a red croc Birkin, they might have to wait until that particular bag is located or made, however for repeat or VIP customers the process can often be sped up. (Victoria Beckham, by chance?)
Thomas believes it is worth the wait. "If people buy an Hermès bag, they know it is going to last them for 40 years...it is very different from buying a bag that you are going to throw away at the end of the season."
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