Chanel's private boutiques ensure rich clients won't mingle with the plebs

Because babying the elite is always a good marketing tactic.

HONG KONG, CHINA - 2021/08/07: Shoppers queue at the entrance of the French multinational Chanel clo...
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If you thought owning Chanel couldn’t possibly get more exclusive after multiple recent price hikes, you probably don’t fall into its top-spending category. Starting in 2023, the luxury label is launching a new private shopping experience that will cater to its elite 1 percent of spenders.

How rich is too rich? — Waiting in line? Stores overcrowded with tourists? Unattentive shopping attendants? All are peasant issues that the new private boutiques aim to solve, at least for the super-wealthy. In a statement from Chanel CFO Philippe Blondiaux to Business of Fashion, Chanel’s “biggest preoccupation is to protect [its] customers and in particular [its] pre-existing customers.”

Protection from what (or whom) is never fully specified, but Blondiaux adds that the label is “going to invest in very protected boutiques to service clients in a very special way.” Chanel doesn’t specify how much money clients will need to spend to have access to the private boutiques, but it must be a hefty amount considering the bags are already a major investment.

Smaller flap bags have increased by 60 percent since the start of the pandemic.Jeremy Moeller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

A Maxi 2.55 flap bag priced at $7,000 in 2019 has since increased to $10,000, while the smaller Classic flap bag saw a 60 percent increase since 2019, according to a Bloomberg report from December. Although Chanel saw an 18 percent dip in revenue during 2020 because of the pandemic, its 2021 revenue jumped 50 percent year-on-year to $15.6 billion — putting it just behind Louis Vuitton.

The company has about 250 brick-and-mortar boutiques around the country; about half the locations for other luxury giants like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. During the shift, it also plans to hire 3,500 employees and sales associates to improve customer service for the average shopper.

In the digital realm, Chanel is stubborn about keeping its handbags and fashion pieces off the e-commerce landscape. Access to smaller items like fragrances, accessories, and wacky advent calendars is available on its website, but if you want a handbag that’s not resold from TheRealReal or Vestiaire Collective online, you’re limited to the physical boutiques.

Lines to get into the stores can stretch blocks, even with its appointment system.VCG/Visual China Group/Getty Images

Blondiaux cites the lack of online presence and limited store locations as causes for the “overcrowded” boutiques, leading to the decision for a more private experience. If the price of its handbags wasn’t enough to deter average consumers from buying, apparently there’s nothing more embarrassing than having a millionaire shopper mingle with the upper-middle class in the same store.

The private boutiques are set to launch in 2023 in key Asian cities. So, even if you did want to buy your way into the private experience (a difficult feat considering the label has new quota rules that limit two bags per customer per year), you’ll have to take a flight to get there.

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