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Does it ever make sense for a retailer to try to make less money? The fashion label Sézane has proven that sometimes it does. Using a practice called “the drop” to increase demand, Sézane identifies certain pieces in each new collection as special, then intentionally offers only a limited run of those items. The quick turnover of the limited release designs helps keeps customers engaged; they know it is a “see now/buy now” situation, such that they must act quickly to score on the latest trend. Furthermore, the limited release policy helps the mid-priced brand portray a sense of luxury. Customers lucky enough to snag one of the limited release pieces can be confident that no one else will have the same piece and that they have something truly unique to wear.

The limited release approach represents a carryover from Sézane’s humble beginnings, when the designer Morgane Sézalory first started selling vintage pieces on eBay. Seeking to reduce the number of trips to the post office, Sézalory would release new items for sale only once a month, announcing the arrival of new stock in an email sent only to the most loyal, repeat customers. This personalized communization approach, along with the limited available stock, often resulted in her inventory selling out on the same day it was released. Sézalory built her brand and eventually graduated to designing custom pieces with expanded production, but the lessons she learned as she was getting started have stuck and continue to contribute to the success of the emerging brand.

In recent concessions to customer demand and in line with a more traditional retail experience, Sézane has started to shift slightly away from its practice of “the drop.” For example, the brand’s seasonal collections feature more available initial stock of most items and do not sell out as quickly. The brand also recently rolled out La Liste, its first permanent collection, which will continue to be restocked over several seasons. With a mix of exclusive, buy-now items and a more traditional approach to stockkeeping, this brand is hoping to help redefine the future of the omnichannel shopping experience.

 Discussion Questions:
  1. Evaluate “the drop” as a merchandise management strategy.
  2. In which other stores or types of stores do you believe “the drop” could be successful? Support your choices.

Source: Hayley Phelan, “Sézane Finds Success by Making Less,” The New York Times, October 17, 2017