Airports, Giorgio Armani and Jennifer Ohlsson

I travel quite a bit on business each year, and have noticed that although you can regularly find Hermes, Bulgari, and Gucci, there are pretty much no Giorgio Armani boutiques at airports around the world. Maybe I just haven’t spotted one yet, but if there isn’t one at Tokyo, London, Munich or Paris, I would be surprised if they were elsewhere.

You do often however see Emporio, as well as the cosmetics as a store-in-store. In fact it seems like there is a deliberate focus on opening these second-tier stores in airports, with new openings in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney, London and Paris, amongst several others.

I am drifting through the verdant English countryside today, wondering about why this would be a corporate policy. Why does it make more sense to offer the mid-level brands rather than the black label?

Is there a cost-effectiveness issue with airport stores? If so, why do the other brands – especially Hermes – find it profitable? Hermes must be choosing a high price/low volume strategy, but it seems like Armani, by focussing on EA, goes for a higher volume/lower price approach. That would be an interesting choice; most MBA courses will help you understand that lowering price has a disproportionate impact on volume required to hit the same profitability.

Maybe it is to protect exclusivity? This makes more sense for the Giorgio Armani brand – some airports are pretty utilitarian places. But again why doesn’t Hermes reach the same conclusion?

Perhaps it is a stock vs. time issue; they cannot keep enough stock on hand to satisfy the wide range of demands from impulse airport shoppers, who have just a few minutes to spend browsing. This could be possible, but does it sound plausible? Not really.

Or maybe they simple want to cluster their boutiques – all 75 of them – in high density repeat-business areas, rather than catching transient business.

I am still not sure. Given the intense airport investment in other sub-brands, it’s clearly a strategic choice by Armani management. But the core of the logic escapes me, as I have seen with my own eyes that there are potential customers passing through. Today I queued at immigration behind a supermodel called Jennifer Ohlsson, carrying a red Chanel wallet and wearing clothes that looked too well cut to be anything other than the best labels. Surely travelling clientele like that would be solid targets for the big brands?

Whatever the reason, sometimes with an hour to kill at an airport I would like to visit a GA boutique and cannot. It is a conundrum.

There is no Giorgio Armani in Mexico City

A short business trip to Mexico City, and a side visit to Avenida Presidente Masaryk in the Polanco district, home of Vuitton, Cartier, Gucci – but no Giorgio Armani.

I was a little surprised, as Mexico City is one of those places with plenty of rich and plenty of poor, and the rich are fairly visible. You would think Armani clothing would be ideal for these kind of climates and this kind of society, but sadly it seems only Emporio Armani can be found in Mexico City, and this project is not going to sink to that level.

After shortly popping in to a couple of the usual high-end shops clustered in this area, and feeling decidely uninspired by the jewel-encrusted timepieces and logo-ridden vulgarities, I was quite pleased to find a very understated, charcoal blue tie at Hermes, and for the first time since Christmas, I went off-brand and impulse-bought it.

While not Armani, Hermes make fine products, with similarly discreet logos, and I don’t feel that bad about this purchase.

I will be back in Mexico City before long; but perhaps I will find more luck in Geneva next week, or Paris in July.

UPDATE:

Some new information. Please read the comment below from Alex about a store-in-store in Sakes 5th Avenue, Santa Fe.