Michael Kors is one of a handful of American designers who is a household name.
Those of us who don’t even consider ourselves true-blue fashionistas own something stamped with the Kors label. Chances are it’s a roomy pocketbook we got from Macy’s or Lord & Taylor.
But it’s that ubiquitousness, that true democratization of fashion, that is the root of the designer brand’s financial woes.
Michael Kors announced Wednesday plans to close 125 of its standalone stores. No word yet if the Walnut Street location is on the list.
The reason for the closures? Sales are slumping, big time. According the company’s earnings, sales dropped 11.2 percent in the fiscal quarter ending April. 1. Comparable store sales fell 14.1 percent.
But even before Kors’ sales numbers plummeted so, purists were loudly criticizing the Michael Kors brand, especially the bags, for being so basic. Re: Everybody had one. That should have been taken as a bad sign. Because in the world of high-end fashion, if everyone has it, eventually nobody wants it — at least not without a serious retool.
Coach suffered a similar malaise and is still digging itself out of that over-saturated market mess.
Here is the unfortunate irony. Kors soared in popularity not only because his belted trench coats were divine or his shirt dresses boasted a sumptuous cut and a marvelous fit, but because the 57-year-old designer spoke to every woman. At the end of each of his New York Fashion Week shows Kors would gush and smile as he walked his runway. We loved Kors, who also once charmed us as a judge on the long-running reality TV show, Runway, because we all felt like we were good enough to wear his clothing. And if the clothes didn’t fit, there were a pair of sunglasses that did.
I don’t fault Kors for opening stores. He expanded, like any good American businessman should. Some call it greed. I say he was simply opportunistic.
And then the shopping world changed. Department store shoppers — Kors’ bread and butter — stopped shopping. Those who continued to invest in high-end brands began to eschew labels. We also began to value experiences over things. The few label-conscious shoppers left didn’t think that Kors was exclusive enough anymore.
It was a recipe for retail disaster.
Michael Kors the man will be OK. But Michael Kors the brand will have to rebuild. I just hope the everyday woman who loved him in his prime and abandoned him toward the end will be a part of the brand’s next chapter.