Stylish Swag for Cost-Conscious Consumers

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Mark your calendar for September 9. That's the day when customers nationwide will flock to their local Kohl's department store to buy clothing, shoes, and accessories by — Vera Wang?

While her name may be more commonly associated with Oscar gowns and fashion show runways in Milan, Wang is just the latest in a flurry of high-end designers who are marketing their wares to customers who want to be in style and out-of-debt.

Although the Simply Vera Wang collection will feature some of the priciest items at Kohl's, it should also land within most target consumers' budgets.

Michael Solomon, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia sees this as a trend which reflects the blurring of the line between wealthy customers and those on a budget.

"It's getting more difficult to clearly link certain brands or stores with a specific class," said Solomon. "Think of how many college women you know who buy pricey bags from Louis Vuitton or Coach, then eat Ramen noodles for dinner."

Although it is unclear whether the marketing of designer brands to more affordable venues will undermine the mystique of the brand name, this is not uncharted territory, with Isaac Mizrahi's line available at Target stores, which will also be carrying an Erin Fetherston line later this month.

The target consumers are a segment labeled "mass class" by analysts, according to Solomon.

"Mass class refers to the hundreds of millions of global consumers who now enjoy a level of purchasing power that's sufficient to let them afford high-quality products," he said.

So even though you are unlikely to find a Cartier watch at your local Costco in the near future, the trend of putting designer labels into more consumers' budgets might be on the rise.

Solomon is available for comment by e-mail at michael.solomon@sju.edu, or by contacting the Office of University Communications at 610-660-1222.



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