Fashion's Night Out: Don't guilt me into shopping
For the third year in a row, various shops from coast to coast and online retailers will be participating in Fashion's Night Out on Sept. 8. Timed to coincide with the kickoff of Fashion Week in New York -- the presentation of designers' collections for next spring and summer -- it is the fashion industry's equivalent of the fall county fair. FNO, as it's called, is a moving carnival of events to beckon recreational shoppers into stores or onto websites to spend at the height of the fall retail season, when nothing is on sale yet.
FNO was started in 2009 by retailers and their boosters to coax customers to spend in the wake of the battering that the fashion industry took during the recession. But with the luxury goods business and fashion retailers bounding back, there's been some criticism that FNO has outlived its purpose. (Cathy Horyn of the New York Times said as much.)
I'm not against the stores holding a big gala night and creatively competing to lure me in, even if their business has been great this year. My inbox is full of emails from stores across Los Angeles offering libations, late-night hours, DJ's, special gifts, modest discounts on current merchandise, even complimentary photo sessions. Works for me.
But what I do find annoying is the plea to guilt me into shopping by saying the retailer will donate a percentage of what I spend that night to a good cause. If retailers are interested in being civic-minded, then they should already be donating to charities a percentage of the money they make on their (marked-up) goods.
"Help us give back," declares an email from Barneys, which states the retailer will give 10% of its proceeds on Sept. 8 from the Madison Avenue store in New York and from online sales to the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
I have helped Barneys give back -- all year long! And though Barneys does not publicly report profits, analysts believe that, along with my shopping brethren, I have helped out just fine.
Of course, Barneys chose an admirable cause -- and the retailer may already be making charitable contributions throughout the year. And it's not alone in this marketing ploy. There are other stores advertising FNO events that say they will donate a percentage of the proceeds from that night to a specific charity. As long as they are offering other incentives, like gifts or discounts, to get shoppers in the door, that's fine. Retailers' charitable giving -- in their name, no less -- should not be their customers' responsibility. Give me another reason to shop -- yet again -- that night.
Photo: A scene from Fashion's Night Out at the Beverly Center in September 2010. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times