This afternoon my wife and I ventured over to Ross Park Mall, on the north side of Pittsburgh. Now, living on the south side of town, we probably haven't been up to that mall in nearly four years. Well, in that time, the mall's management has been working to make the mall more upscale and leave the general shopping to the numerous strip malls and plazas that surround the main mall. They've added a Nordstrom, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and a number of other “high-end” stores.
Now, even in good economic times these are stores that I wouldn't normally venture into. They're “label” stores, which basically charge you an exorbitant amount for an inferior product because it's got their label on it. Unfortunately for them, I'm a functional person and usually will buy a product for quality over brand name (and I'll admit that there have been some exceptions).
But now that we are in less-than-stellar economic times, one has to wonder about the impact on these stores, and the mall as a whole, when their business is primarily aimed at expendable income. Will they be able remain profitable in this economic climate? Will mall foot traffic drop because the clientele they were targeting is no longer there in the same quantities?
At a more basic level, if you run a business that primarily caters to high-end customers with more disposable income, in poor economic times is it better to remain exclusivity to retain the value of your brand name, or is it better to branch out and offer a broader range of products to make your brand more available to all kinds of customers.
Not that I have any answers, because each solutions has it's place in certain situations. Just rambling some of my thoughts after seeing a “rich people's” mall in the midst of some pretty difficult economic times for our country…