Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Henri Bendel Open See - Report from the Sidewalk

I got there at 8am, and the line was just about to wrap around the building. There were eventually around 500 people, I would guess. Everyone mainly kept to themselves, unless some had experience from the last Open See, and could enlighten hungry designers of how dismissive or patient the buyers would be. Promptly at 9am, the side doors at Henri Bendel on E.56th and Fifth opened and the line jumped forward. Everyone got off their cell phones to catch up and get prepared. At 9am, the sun was just beginning to steal down the side streets, so those who got stuck in it when the line stopped were very lucky. It was chilly, but not too bad. However, some women chose not to wear socks with their flats, and that was a mistake.

After a bit, a girl came out asking for lingerie, implying they were short (note for next time!). She came out a few more times, asking for different things, like handbags and gifts. My place in line had advanced quite a lot, and I was standing in front of a blow vent from the building, a normally probably disgusting thing to stand in front of, but I was just peachy. A stylish woman in flowing, frizzy curls came around with what seemed to be her daughter, and asked if anyone wanted to show her anything. Everyone hugged their bags closer to them. The woman stated she was a stylist and sometimes wrote for magazines. A couple behind me who were holding a curious jet black box sniffed and blinked at her, not budging. I offered my card, which she hungrily took (hope she finds something she likes!), and figured that if she was going to copy me, she could do it after she bought a jewelry pouch.

The Bendels girl came out again, this time in a jacket (her arms were so bear in her short-sleeved office attire) and called for handbags and accessories. At this point, I didn't know what category my things (jewelry pouch and checkbook cover) fell into, so I stuck my hand up and was instructed to stand in line to the right of the main door. After a big, a bouncer/janitor guy let in the group who had formed, and I led the way down winding back stairs to the basement of Bendels, which was where the employees apparently keep lockers and have breakfast in florescent lit white rooms. I waited in another line and eventually signed in, only to be ushered into another room down the hall to sit and wait.

I waited for a while, and many girls around me were called in. Sweaters were popular, knits were wanted, gifts and handbags. I had been told to sign in on the jewelry sheet, so I waited for jewelry. There were many jewelry designers, so that market was flooded. Again, you would have had more of a shot if you had sweaters or lingerie. Designers who had been waiting debated bugging the girl calling our names off the sheet. I had already bugged her three times, and she seemed to know where my place was each time. However, after more than an hour, I checked the sheet myself, and discovered that I had been crossed off (grr).

Still not knowing what category I was, I was told to stand in the jewelry line. I asked the little name caller girl, Olga, who had previously mistakenly crossed me off, what constituted as a "gift" (I think this category is really stupid, as anything can be a gift). She asked what I had (although I'd told her 3 times before), and she okayed me showing my pouch to the gift buyer.

I waited in another line, and when it was my turn, was ushered to a buyer on the far left of a U-shaped table full of about 15 buyers in different categories. Designers were displaying their garments before the buyers, others were in an out in 60 seconds. My buyer was busy talking when I was guided to her, and after a while, she finished her conversation and was ready for me. I showed her my jewelry pouch, explained the details inside, asked if she'd like to see other colors, pulled those out, and was told that "You know, we are currently developing this product with another vendor. We have all we need in this area."

And that was that! I left, got a mid-morning half-caff-one-pump-vanilla-latte (which was not good for my nerves) and went home to try and drum up sales and fix copy in my Google ads in order to get more targeted visitors. I will go again, and will feel much better having a clear picture of what to expect. Putting the products into vague categories threw me, so that next time, if I do bring products that cross categories, I will be prepared.

Henri Bendel Open See success story
Henri Bendel Open See website
UPS and IMG Fashion Announce World Wide Open Call

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Anonymous said...

Good on you for taking it to the streets! I know the pouch is your big ticket item, but I am extra fond of the check book cover and chow chow- maybe next time show those off first! They can be "gifts"!

fab miss t said...

oops, that last was me!

Anonymous said...

I know that I tell you this all of the time, but, now, I think it's time that everyone knows how I feel.....LOVE your products, but what I love best is your writing...maybe Marie Claire or Cosmo will have an open see!!!!!

Mista said...

Thanks, guys!!!

Yes, the poor checkbook cover did not get a full presentation, and the chow chow never even made it out of my bag! I fumbled, thinking I could read her better, but those darn categories! I figured the chow chow was not appropriate here, and second guessed the checkbook cover. Boo hoo!

However, I did make a chow chow sale today at another dog boutique, so that is good!

tarik said...

Great blog, great story for reading!