Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Closing Shop

I’m not talking about closing down a store for good, even though this kind of thing still happens all too much, in Taiwan as well. I’m talking about closing down the store to the general public for just one night, to allow the elite to have more freedom in walking around.
The practice is becoming more common at Taipei’s glitzy malls and flagship stores, and the Breeze Center mall has been the leading proponent of this kind of promotional action. Last week, the center closed down for one evening as its elite customers enjoyed a night of shopping in luxury with its popular leading couple. The “closure” also generated the expected media coverage, with Taiwan’s numerous cable news stations and fashion & style shows dutifully doing their bit. And that’s where the main question lies. Does the closure really generate as much sales as the hype suggests? I haven’t seen any figures, but I wonder if the manic shoppers who populated the mall that night really spent more than they would’ve done during any other visit. Malls and department stores still live off the mass public, and in Asian countries like Taiwan more so than in conservative Europe.
I can understand management’s marketing urge to create an event, but I wonder if “closed door” is really the concept you want to project when you’re into retailing. There are still moments enough when malls are not crowded, so there’s no need to close your doors to the general public. Their New Taiwan dollars are as valuable as the average Chou’s.
Talking about closing stores at malls, two occupants of the Taipei 101 mall must be sweating about their future. The Aquascutum and Missoni Sports boutiques at the world’s tallest buildings found employees suspecting of taking part in a scam using customers’ credit cards. The media reported that in Missoni’s case, the female manager of the store was even one of the ring leaders. Let’s hope the two brands can salvage their damaged reputation and save their honest employees from being victimized along with the crooked ones.
And staying on the topic of closing stores, a couple of weeks ago I thought the Coneco shop in the alley next to the Grand Formosa Regent Hotel – one of Taipei’s toniest brand boutique areas – had closed down. But it turned out to be just a reconstruction job, and Coneco is back on track selling the brightly colored pleats they were good at before.


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