April 22, 2013

"Coach is a good proxy for mid-to-upper-income and so-called aspirational spenders world-wide."

"Coach is 'a style that conveys a sense of treating oneself,' said Paul Swinand, retail analyst at Morningstar Inc. MORN -0.49% 'There are a lot of people that find it very compelling.'"

The link goes to a WSJ article that requires a subscription. I can give you a link that will work in case you want to do some aspirational spending. Or maybe you'd just like to talk about the concept of aspirational spending.

Is aspirational spending something we should be happy to see — a signifier of optimism — or something we should decry? Here's an article from 2010 declaring the "aspirational consumer" dead:
"Aspirational marketing is a technique in which the goal is to sell items to people who can’t afford it." Ouch.

"Marketers have long known that we have an aspirational society, and they've gone heavily after those consumers," observed Claire Ratushny, a brand-positioning consultant based in Eastford, Conn.

"Now, 'aspirational’ is a dirty word."
Should we buy a slightly expensive handbag as a way to say it's 2013 and we're feeling fine? The audacity of hope, baby! "Hope" is the thing with feathers... and handbags.

***
Do aspirationalistas leave the tag on?

50 comments:

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

All I know is that the last time I was in Hawaii, I saw a gaggle of about six hotel maids leaving work and each one had a large logo-bedecked Coach bag over her shoulder.

TML said...

I know Paul. He races here in Chicago.

Matthew Sablan said...

Is aspirational spending the same as lay-away? If not, maybe it should be.

edutcher said...

Hope - "a technique in which the goal is to sell items to people who can’t afford it".

Sure worked out that way.

St. George said...

My mother's mother kept a 'slop' jar by the kitchen sink to collect slivers of soap for re-use.

My father's mother darned the toes of socks to keep them going.

Of course, while Coach may make wonderful handbags, the company itself does not manufacture its watches. That work is licensed out, I think, to Fossil, which, of course, is just a brand name, and its work is doubtless done by some faceless Chinese company or companies.

The bands of many Coach watches are pieces of colored rubber. Other bands are fabric, which probably costs a dollar or so to produce. Wonder what the case and mechanism is worth...maybe $5. The rest of the cost? Shipping, marketing, mark-up.

And the pretty box. That's a major key to signify quality.

Warranty is only two years.

Pretty box!

Mitchell the Bat said...

My wife prefers Dooney and Bourke because she likes the duck.

wyo sis said...

I buy groceries. That's about as aspirational as it gets around here.

The Drill SGT said...

The wife only has pne hand bag at a time. Always Coach. Basicly the same sty;e for the last 30 years. a very conservative black leather and brass bag. I ha to order online last time. no local places stock it. She also has a semi-matching lawyer bag (whatever they call them). They last longer than the purses.

EMD said...

I suppose men are aspirational spenders, too ... but certainly not to the degree of women.

My wife has a Coach purse and wallet. It was a "reward" for saving the required amount to buy it.

Jim said...

This post screams out for a Veblen tag.

rhhardin said...

They sell coach repair kits for make-it-do New Englanders.

rehajm said...

To rephrase the question: Do we believe in personal freedom and the value of the individual or do we sacrifice the individual for the values of the collective?

Renee said...

In economicly depressed areas where young men will buy sneakers costing over 200 dollars...

They have nothing to save for, so spend in the now.

Peter said...

Somehow most of the luxury brands are becoming "just a brand name," selling often cheaply made stuff to "aspirationals."

What's happened is a huge expansion of what might be called "budget luxury." Which is to say, "luxury" stuff that middle-class people can afford at least a little bit of.

Because if it were truly luxury, it would be expensive enough so that only the rich could afford it.

The predictable result has been a flood of forgeries, fake stuff with accurately reproduced brand-names and logos to convince most, at least from a distance.

And why not? The fakes are much cheaper than the real thing, yet the things themselves are often not all that different. So why not just buy the fake? What's so "authentic" about "budget luxury" anyway (other than the brand names)?

robinintn said...

"leave the tags on?"

Like the awesome comedienne Sarah Cannon (Minnie Pearl)?

MadisonMan said...

My Mom, GRHS, loved Coach bags, and she passed that love on to my daughter. They last forever.

Nichevo said...

I wouldn't know about the Coach purses though I have coveted a Coach briefcase. Or watches, which seems silly. I've used their wallets for a very long time. Apparently back in the distant past their stuff was made not only in the United States, but actually in a factory in New York City! So there is a history there.

Are we allowed to take some pleasure in what we perceive as quality? Or is that not amenable to the Hive? If there is a better cheaper maker of leather goods than Coach, and I do watch for signs of encroachment on their quality, I would be happy to consider buying from that vendor instead. I certainly do wish that Coach had not removed their manufacturing operations from the USA.

But I am no more likely to buy their stuff because Celebrity X does so that I am to stop buying their stuff because it is popular with the hoi polloi.

Mary Beth said...

Mitchell the Bat said...

My wife prefers Dooney and Bourke because she likes the duck.

4/22/13, 8:05 AM


Me too!

Plus, they're better purses.

Rick Caird said...

This only works for Chrome. But, if you want to see the WSJ article, cut and paste the link Ann gave you, bring up Chrome, the go to the Google home page and paste the link. When you get the result, click on it and you will see the whole story. The same thing used to work with Firefox, but no longer does.

Æthelflæd said...

Aspirational spending for men usually involves a car, boat, or motorcycle. Maybe your wife's Coach bag is really a bargain, guys. But don't let her catch on or it will take all the fun out of it.

Æthelflæd said...

Mitchell the Bat said..." My wife prefers Dooney and Bourke because she likes the duck."

Coach is just so nouveau riche.

Æthelflæd said...

Even worse are things with the big DG label.

Shanna said...

The wife only has pne hand bag at a time. Always Coach

That's what I do, one bag at a time. When it gets too beat up I buy a new one. The thing about the coach bags is that at least they are well made. My last bag was not coach and the straps broke off. This time I bought another coach because I have never had that problem with their products.

I don't like the ones with C's all over them, though. I like the leather. Lots of pockets too.

Æthelflæd said...

I like my 29.99 Walmart special.

Balfegor said...

I'm surprised Michael Kors is their main competitor in their market segment. Isn't Michael Kors one of those brands that's always on deep discount at Marshal's? I'd never really thought about it, but now that I do, I realise my baseline impression was that there's a huge gap in prestige between Coach and Michael Kors. Or do I just not know my luxury brands (probably not).

Shanna said...

The fakes are much cheaper than the real thing, yet the things themselves are often not all that different.

They are hugely different if you care about quality and feel. A real coach (or whatever other brand) has better fabric.

Now if you're talking about the products made specifically for coach outlet that's a whole different story.

Æthelflæd said...

BTW, Shanna, I am one 'n' Shana. I changed my name so the non-spellers won't get confused anymore.

Pogo said...

Spending money you don't have to keep up with the Joneses.

Not really news, is it?

Pogo said...

Though the name might be novel.

New and Improved!
Old Wine in New Skin!
With more vim!

Balfegor said...

Re: Pogo:

Spending money you don't have to keep up with the Joneses.

Honestly, this is one of the nice things about America -- that you really don't have to keep up with the Joneses. Compare with a country like South Korea, where keeping up with the Joneses (or perhaps with the Cho's) has brought one of the highest rates of personal indebtedness in the world, the highest rate of plastic surgery in the world, the highest rate of suicide in the world. It's madness!

Shanna said...

BTW, Shanna, I am one 'n' Shana. I changed my name so the non-spellers won't get confused anymore.

Ha! Sorry.

Nice to see you.

traditionalguy said...

So purse snatchers are really after the purse.

The middle 1980s saw a similar reaction by people raised in poor times under the Dems and Carter who suddenly felt abundance of wealth for the first time as Reagan's policies kicked off a boom of happy days.

That had run its course by the end of Clinton's term, and we all felt wrong for having done it.

But baby it's back!

Jeff Teal said...

About as bad as spending three times as much for a cotton pique shirt because it has a little alligator on it.It used to be that the "aspirarional advertising " was kind of small.Now it is in your face huge.With men it is buying a huge badge on a car with the same engine and tranny as an econobox.

McTriumph said...

Anyone ever seen a Coach or Dooney Bourke or Ghurka etc. in a Goodwill store? If you have someone childless died.

Christy said...

The first Coach briefcase I bought had one of those push button clasps that broke regularly when I stuffed too much in. The store repaired it about every six months. Graciously.

My sisters (with teenagers) have begun carrying diaper bags. Padded waterproof pockets keep sports drinks safe and cold drinks cold. Those many padded pockets protect their electronic devices.

Best ever key chain and one I'm still using 15 years later (a miracle for me) is Coach. Never would have bought it if I'd realized how much it cost, bit I'm glad I did.

I don't see how, as a regular Walmart shopper, I could possibly be an aspirational shopper.

sydney said...

Do aspirationalistas leave the tag on?

Yes, they do. And they buy those bags with the big "C"'s all over them.

I buy Coach leather hand bags. I prefer the classic styles. I tried substitutes for a few years - not happy with them. They last long enough to be worth the expense. The one I have now nicely holds my iPad and some of my other technology without making me look like a nerd. Love it. Get lots of complements on it, too.

Chip Ahoy said...

I went purse shopping once with Toni

*hangs head*

and it was maddening. I am now a purse expert. That link did not seem very expensive at all.

Whatever Toni has now you can expect it to be the single most excellent purse on Earth, perfect in every aspect, down to the stitching, and the handle length, compartments, capacity, lining, zippers, accessibility, weight, color, durability, practicality, invisibleness, ease of use, style, etc. Whereas my mum has a closet full of purses and they're all crap by comparison. I made one of them. I drew the pictures on it, and carved and pounded stained and finished the leather, and somebody else stitched it. She paid someone to stitch it. The usual leather strap wrap through the holes kind of stitching. Whoever did that was quite good at it, but I was 14 yrs old and not about to sit there and stitch the whole thing. Still has it. Solid as a rock too. But it's ugly. It sticks out amongst all other purses in the closet for its clunky ugliness. Now that Toni made me an expert I can see that.

bagoh20 said...

The problem with "aspiration spending" is it insufficiently precise. The term should be "delusional spending".

The idea that you will become better off by spending like you already are is delusional. Us regular folk call it "stupid spending."

McTriumph said...

Coach has always been more "refined" and forward leaning than Dooney Bourke. D&B tends to be more indestructible.It's nice to see on their sites they still make the classics, although they don't call them "doctor's bags" or "feed bags" anymore.

traditionalguy said...

Speaking of aspirational spending tricks, all Apple Computer products are sold that way.

Sam L. said...

Keeping up with the Joneses is sooooooo passe. It's keeping up with the Burlington-Montfords that counts, now.

pbAndjFellowRepublican said...

Rich people consider Coach to be crap.

That dreck is made in China.

Even a quality and functional name like Louis has been sullied by ubiquitous fake and real items. And, of course there are the many high-end but latecomer brands w/o a historic background in leather goods. No thanks.

At least there is still Hermes, and Louis does do some limited stuff that surmounts the monotony brought to us by LVMH executives (and the impostors).

Mitch H. said...

My father's mother darned the toes of socks to keep them going.

I think of this and feel a little guilty for throwing out my torn socks, but frankly, the cost of replacement socks are such that the down-side of stumping around in lumpy, poorly-darned socks make it seriously overdetermined that I will never be that cheap.

I have never heard of Coach. Barring any other context, I would have thought the "Coach lifestyle" would have been the polar opposite of the "jet-set lifestyle", wherein one always flew coach in transportation and every other aspect of life - Walmart, dollar store, thrift-shopping, etc.

Balfegor said...

Re: Sam L:

Keeping up with the Joneses is sooooooo passe. It's keeping up with the Burlington-Montfords that counts, now.

I think the whole point of the name is that the Jones are middle class strivers just like you -- that's a Welsh name after all, so not particularly hoity-toity on its own. Unless you're the type to pronounce Bucket like Bouquet, I guess, in which maybe you can coax a little faux-gentility out of it.

Balfegor said...

Re: Mitch H:

I think of this and feel a little guilty for throwing out my torn socks, but frankly, the cost of replacement socks are such that the down-side of stumping around in lumpy, poorly-darned socks make it seriously overdetermined that I will never be that cheap.

The thing I hate is that in hotels, the cost of laundering one's undergarments (underwear, undershirt, socks) is frequently higher than the replacement cost of the garment. When I was staying at a hotel in Japan, for example, I had to pay something like 500 yen/pair of socks. Meanwhile, I could go out and buy socks for about 400 yen. More recently, I had to stay at a hotel in France, and was bowled over at the prices I had to pay to get my undergarments laundered. It makes me blush to remember (I also tried to categorise my undershirt as underwear, but they characterised it as a T-shirt instead, the bastards).

It's to the point that on extended stays, I have sometimes just purchased detergent and done my laundry in the bathtub. Hanging it up to dry in the bathroom where there's no breeze does tend to lead to stiffer clothing, unfortunately, but at least one isn't putting $200 for laundry on one's expense reports. That's just embarassing.

That's also one of the advantages of the cheaper Japanese hotels, which usually have a laundry room/corner with washer and dryer and sell detergent at the front desk. I don't think there's a similar market (or a similar market in hotels that are not disgustingly grotty) in the US.

Michael said...

I dont know about "aspirational" but I do know that quality leathergoods, while expensive, can last a very long time. I have a shoes I wear that I bought in the 1970s that were stupidly out of my price range then but I sprang for them anyway. Many times resoled, but still in rotation. Ditto a briefcase I bought at auction that was made in the 1920s.

Michael said...

Balfegor. Yep. On long trips I wear UnderArmour u derwear which washes in the sink and dries overnight. Other than that I refuse to use hotel drycleaning or laundry. Japanese hotels are horribly expensive but their packaging of the laundry on its return is worth seeing. Once

Scott said...

I bought a Coach wallet 35 years ago. Carry it daily. Looks better today than when I bought it. Quality pays for itself..

Amartel said...

You can take the tag off your Coach bag but you'll still be tagged as an "aspirational spender". Some sort of petit bourgeois striver. How shameful. How dare you have a nice handbag, car, golf club, whatever! Uppity much?! Get back to your cave, troll.

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