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Still Standing in Line? Why?

March 12, 2020

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Every so often history repeats itself. That happened to me when I read a piece in the Weekend Financial Times that appeared in December of last year and was written by Lou Stoppard. He discusses the question of “Why do people still stand in line when shopping on Amazon and other sites has never been more instant and accessible?”

Artwork is courtesy of the Financial Times

Then he relates how, in 2011, he reported on a giant queue outside H&M on Oxford Street in London, where hundreds of people waited to get their hands on the retailer’s copies of luxury brand Versace. H&M was one of the first retailers to use the idea of “THE QUEUE” as an event.

WHEN I READ THIS IT BROUGHT BACK MEMORIES of the year 2015 when Olivier Rousteing of Balmain did the same thing at H&M’s big, flashy store located directly across from Macy’s on 34th Street in Manhattan. Slightly over 100 pieces from Balmain’s designer collection were recreated and priced much lower for this event. I was told that eager buyers lined up at H&M the night before. Of course, when I showed up in the afternoon I wasn’t even allowed to go in the store.

“NOW PEOPLE QUEUE UP FOR ALL MANNER OF THINGS,” says Stoppard. Yes, he’s absolutely right. We were stunned when we saw the crowd that lined up for the Met’s Savage Beauty show in 2011 that celebrated Alexander McQueen. As far as the eye could see up Fifth Avenue there were folks waiting to get in. Luckily my friend had a Met pass because when I arrived at work on Monday one art director told me that, “we waited at least an hour.” Now let’s move on to the retail scene in NYC.

SHOPPING AT DSM AND WHAT IT OFFERS THE CUSTOMER is quite unique. One of the affable salespeople informed me that the Dover Street Market has a rapid turnover of its stock. “If you see an item you want, buy it. Next week it won’t be here.” A week or so later I went back – both items were gone. He also added, “Don’t come on a Friday morning. That’s when there’s a line for the new merchandise.”

THE LABEL “SUPREME” STARTED “COMPETITIVE SHOPPING” by giving plenty of play on social media. In 2017 the Louis Vuitton x Supreme collaboration was released via pop-up shops. This drew thousands of fans who dutifully lined up outside. In some cases they weren’t even queuing to buy an expensive item, but a raffle ticket that would grant them access to the goods in the first place.  

Now, here’s a story for you. I have a 12-year-old great nephew who lives in Prince George, B.C., Canada – a city of 78,675 residents. Apparently, the SUPREME label (valued at $1 billion overall, an eye-popping number for a brand with only 11 brick-and-mortar retail locations worldwide) is a big hit with Generation Z (ages four to 24). I live just blocks away from DSM/Supreme and had never even heard of either one until I was informed by a smart Gen Z relative.

Brett, a 12-year-old Canadian who loves his Supreme hat

DO WE CONCLUDE THAT LINES OR QUEUES CAN’T BE DEFINED?

Oh, yes they can! Stoppard writes and I agree that, “to queue is to prove one’s allegiance; to truly be a Supreme person, a Gucci person or a sneaker head. A style leader: Someone. It’s a combination of tribes, trends and tapping into a social media craze.”

THIS IS A BIG SUBJECT SO LET’S END ON THIS NOTE: A queue is a little community. And in these times, small feels smart. We hear that big tech is destroying our society. Big business is ruining the environment. We queue to feel that what we bought matters.

UPDATE IN THE NY POST OF 12/30/19: Under a headline that reads, “Haute Streetwear” there is copy about Supreme that reads: “Streetwear officially went high-fashion in January 2017, during the Louis Vuitton menswear show in Paris. There, artistic director, Kim Jones unveiled the most highly anticipated fashion collaboration, well, EVER: Louis Vuitton x Supreme, the iconic Soho skate shop whose tomato-red logo turns any object into an objet d’art. CLICK HERE to read “How Supreme Went From a Small NYC Skateboard Shop to a $1 Billion Global Phenomenon.”

Shaun Nelson-Henrick



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