Sunday, February 1, 2015

Manhattan Flagship Stores Are Not For Me

Manhattan shopping.  In the story below, I'm NOT saying the brand or the name of the store.  I don't want to throw rage at one tiny example of something that exists throughout Manhattan, especially at the brand-name stores that call themselves A Flagship Store.
There are multiple stores in Manhattan that are not externally identified as Flagship but are.  They are usually identified by the area of the city.  I didn't realize that that area of downtown was a Flagship area.

Flagship : n.  :  the finest, largest, or most important one of a chain of stores

That's the book definition.  However, what it has come to mean, it my experience is that this is the version of a store that is meant to be 100% camera ready all of the time.  In New York's flagship areas, this also means that only the trendiest representations for that brand will be present, and that a limited size selection will be available.

Some entire brands, of course, are like this.  Abercrombie and Fitch has long been infamous for their brand exclusiveness in this area.  I've never stepped foot into one, because I have never been their target demographic (even when I was a teenager).

At least the guy in my story below let me know that I had accidentally stepped into a Flagship store.  Now I know to steer clear of that area for anything where I might want to spend money.  The way he told me, though, rubbed me the wrong way.  Here's my story:

I went to a store near Broadway and Prince Street.  This section of Manhattan, just North of Chinatown, has become a shopping district.  Many of the stores I'd be used to seeing in a nice mall have started to show up here.

This particular shop is for a shoe brand that I've been buying consistently for five years.  I want new shoes (two pairs - black and brown - as is my habit), so I looked up the an address, and I happened to find this store was about 30 minutes closer to me than the one I went to last time.

I went in, and it felt wrong. This place didn't feel like a place where I shop, it felt a little more like a museum.  But... I'm wearing that store's own brand on my feet as I walk in, and I figure maybe they can help me.

I find a few shoes that are similar to what has been comfortable for me in the past, and get the attention of one of the trendy and youthful sales staff.                

I start by pointing out my own shoes.  I explain how these are the most comfortable shoes I've ever had, and I wore the previous version of the same shoe, with a different name, and different features.  I point to a shoe in a different line, and say, those look similar.

I expect him to tell me that the model I'm wearing is no longer made, and then offer to show me some other things that might be similar.  Maybe even the shoes that I just pointed at.

Instead, things went sideways.  Paraphrased:  That shoe line you are wearing isn't available in this store, though we have some of that line on the Women's side.  So, what you can do is go to one of our other stores, and they might be able to find your discontinued model, or maybe we can find something for you here.

At this point, I'm getting this vibe that I'm being told that I don't belong here.  But, I realize, too, he's also just telling me that the whole line that I am used to just isn't available.  It's a Sunday night, the other stores won't have a long period of being open by the time I take the next half-hour of ride to get there.  I made the trip, but I'm also annoyed.  I say, "So, I made a mistake coming here, and I should go to your other store?"  Had he said, "Yeah, sorry."  I wouldn't have had the time to really get pissed off.  Instead he keeps yammering.

Paraphrasing again: See, we're a flagship store, so we only have the newest models.  As soon as something new is announced, we ship the old stuff off to another store.

Now I have a VERY strong feeling that he doesn't want me shopping here.  He's done nothing at all to steer me back into a sale.  Okay, he's young, I give him another chance.  "Do you have wide sizes here?"

The guy scoffs.  He tells me that this store has very limited wide sizes.  Any wide that they might have would be in the most expensive premium line.  Then he backpedals, and explains that even in that line, the selection would be limited.

Instead of helping me find what they do have, he explained to me all the reasons that they won't have anything I'm looking for.  Maybe, maybe I read the whole situation wrong, but I honestly felt like I was being pushed out the door, like some sort of Pretty Woman moment.  Anyway, I was pissed off, and I said, "I get it, I'm not young enough or skinny enough to shop here."

The guy, to his credit, blurted a confused version of I'm sorry.  I said, "No problem." and walked out the door, but I was angry.

Somewhere in here there's probably a lesson about customer service.  There's probably also a lesson in how I view Manhattan flagship stores.  These are stores that I feel, despite my affinity to a brand, make me feel unwelcome.  Thing is, one of the best things about being a grown-up with a desk-job is that I am usually exactly the demographic that most companies want.  I get it, fashion is different.  I can deal with some parts of that.  Maybe it's just that I've never gotten this attitude from a shoe store before.

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