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Kate Moss for Topshop gives luxury retailers access to aspirational consumers

Luxury retailers have jumped on the bandwagon for the Kate Moss for Topshop collection to reach outside their typical consumer base.

Nordstrom, Net-A-Porter and Galeries Lafayette will sell the off-price line, in stores April 30, and have been building buzz for the past weeks on social media and on their Web sites. Even though the collection may not fit with their usual price points, the luxury status of these retailers will remain intact as long as it is an isolated promotion.

“While this mass-market collection appears to be a stretch for these luxury retailers, leveraging the iconic British super model image of Kate Moss for a lower price point offering elevates the status of collection to a level that shouldn’t diminish the luxury retailers’ brand image,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.

“The new collection should be a positive addition for these luxury retailers and it will likely help them attract a new segment of millennial customers that are probably not frequent shoppers at these retailers,” he said.

Mr. Morris is not affiliated with Topshop, Nordstrom, Net-A-Porter or Galeries Lafayette but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

The retailers were unable to comment directly before press deadline.

Faster fashion
Model Kate Moss designed her first collection for Topshop in 2007, and designed for the fast fashion retailer until 2010.

Before the collection launched, LVMH-owned editorial Web site Nowness created a series of vignettes with friends of the model.

In the series directed by Leigh Johnson, model Cara Delevingne talks about growing up in Britain and saving pocket money to go to Topshop while in school and Net-A-Porter founder Natalie Massenet opens up about her favorite photos of Ms. Moss and how the retailer’s consumers often mention that the model influences their style choices.

Topshop x Kate Moss: The Vignettes

Nordstrom carries a Topshop collection regularly, and has created a special hub on its Web site for the Kate Moss line. On this page are the YouTube vignettes from Nowness along with a video of Ms. Moss talking about Nordstrom specifically.

In the video, the model explains that having the collection in 60 Nordstrom stores will expand the potential U.S. audience beyond Topshop’s stores in New York and Los Angeles.

Nordstrom also hosted a contest on Instagram surrounding the collection. Consumers who commented #Sweepsentry on a promotional photo for the line were entered to win a trip to London for the launch party April 29.

Galeries Lafayette is also carrying the collection, and featured it prominently on its content Web site.

On the retailer’s YouTube channel, it posted a video of the making of the collection. Consumers can virtually attend the launch party through the retailer’s Web site, YouTube channel and Facebook page.

Net-A-Porter will also sell Kate Moss for Topshop online. In addition to a couple social media posts, the retailer provided an email sign up on its Web site specifically for updates about the line, along with an article in its online magazine.

Reaching down
This is not Net-A-Porter’s first foray into discount designer goods.

Net-A-Porter carried select pieces from British fashion brand Peter Pilotto’s lower-priced line it created for Target.

The Peter Pilotto for Target line hit the site Feb. 9, 2013 and the retailer publicized the collection beforehand through social media. With this collection retailing for a fraction of the cost of other Net-A-Porter merchandise, the online retailer was able to reach a more aspirational consumer base, but the move may also have diluted the Web site in the eyes of its core customers (see story).

According to Vogue UK, the Peter Pilotto collaboration was Net-A-Porter’s fastest selling collaboration. For an hour after it went live, an order was placed every second.

Even though a lower-priced line might be good for a bottom line, to not ruin a reputation built on luxury, brands need to be careful when stretching into lower end lines.

As luxury brands look to tap into new consumer segments to gain greater market shares around the world in 2014, they should be wary of setting up too many diffusion lines.

Brands propelled by entry-level options such as Michael Kors had record-breaking sales in 2013, but instantaneous boosts that come from subsidiary lines are not always good for long-term development. Moreover, the rise of brands going public may increase the frequency of expedient moves that raise short-term revenue (see story).

When deciding whether to associate with a lower-priced line, retailers need to investigate whether it is a good fit for their target consumers and brand.

“An exclusive brand perception is imperative to maintain a luxury retailer’s premium status,” Mr. Morris said. “Extending product offerings with lower price-point brands is not a cavalier decision for luxury retailers as it has the potential risk of compromising the integrity of their premium brand perception.

“Obviously, great care should be taken to ensure the decision to offer a mass-market collection does not diminish the retailer’s luxury brand status,” he said. “Conducting market research to test the impact on the retailer’s brand would be prudent before launching any significant offerings that are outside the retailer’s traditional brand image categories.”

Final Take
Sarah Jones, editorial assistant on Luxury Daily, New York