Gucci has been a fashion phenomenon over the last few years. It’s quirky, geek-chic and eccentric aesthetic has caught the world’s imagination and the sales have reflected that.
When creative director, Alessandro Michele, arrived in January 2015 yearly sales were around the €4 billion mark. In 2017, they had grown to €6.2 billion, and last year topped €8 billion. It is forecast to smash the €10 billion threshold in 2020 and is the star amongst Kering’s stable of brands.
But, growth is slowing, and while the Gucci look has been a barn-storming success, the reality of the product and its quality issues could be the reason for turning off many consumers. People talk, especially when things go wrong.
Though Gucci’s revenue was still up a healthy 16.3% to €4.61 billion in the first half of this year, it is far below the 30%-plus growth levels the market had become used to. Gucci now accounts for 40% of Kering’s revenue and has ambitious aims to overtake Chanel and Louis Vuitton as the world’s number one luxury house in terms of turnover.
This huge growth has seen queues outside stores on streets like Bond Street and GG belts all over social media, but many consumers have been disappointed by the quality of the product and won’t be burnt twice.
Speak to buyers or sales assistants at luxury stores about their thoughts on Gucci’s quality issues and they simply nod and shrug their shoulders, acknowledging what growing numbers of consumers are realising. Gucci’s product is complicated and in order to make it at a price they can sell it at, they have, arguably, lowered the quality. Though the margins must also be huge.
When a brand is hot and hyped the quality isn’t questioned as much. But the minute it starts to peak, these issues quickly become more noticeable and people aren’t afraid to tell their friends. This feels where Gucci is right now. While this isn’t particularly scientific, here are a few examples of Gucci’s quality issues from recent customers which could be slowing their growth.
Richard, 36, from London, says: “Like a mug I purchased the fluffy horsebit slippers when they first came out, they were lovely! Super cool, I was floating around fashion week in Milan like I owned the place! But I was defo sucked in.
“After seven wears, the fur started to fall out, so I took them back to Gucci to get a replacement or repaired and they said they wouldn’t and couldn’t. So, I now have half furry slippers that are just discarded as they look like they have mange…,” he says.
These famous “Princetown” loafers were one of Gucci’s first hit products and continue to retail for around £750. “I haven’t shopped there since, not even for the mega tailoring they do now. The quality for price just isn’t there for me. Yes it’s cool, as it’s Gucci, but you have to draw the line somewhere!” says Richard.
Jess, 38, from London, says, “The runway pieces and handbags look as good as ever but the high volume, lower entry price point items look and feel cheaper.
“I bought a scarf about two years ago. The print is amazing but it’s paper thin – the wool is virtually transparent. Initially, I wanted to purchase a GG logo belt, but I could see the leather wasn’t good quality and wouldn’t last. I have an Hermes belt that’s over 10 years old and going strong – the Gucci one wouldn’t last a year in my opinion,” she says. “They seem to be using lower quality materials in some instances, I’m assuming this is to increase profits,” says Jess.
There was a story of a well-known London department not being able to add security tags on to those white Gucci logo T-shirts because they were so thin it was putting holes in the fabric. They were retailing for well over £300.
One respondent, wishing to remain anonymous, says: “I mean the quality of their product is pretty much on a level with the high street. They produce those flimsy t-shirts that you can’t actually wash as the fabric is too delicate and you certainly can’t put a security tag or pin in it as it will mark/leave a hole.”
“The embroidery work on those sweatshirts they were pumping out at the start of the resurgence were hit and miss (they looked like a machine had done them to make it look like it was crafted by hand but obviously wasn’t). And threads just looked loose and unkept,” the respondent says.
“But maybe the most disappointing scenario is their loafers. I’ve got a few pairs and all of them, after the first wear, the insoles become loose and start to peel away exposing a sticky glue-like substance that you have to stand in if you want to wear them… there is nothing luxury about that at all.”
Lois Spencer-Tracey, 36, blogger, www.bunnipunch.co.uk says, “The quality of Gucci could definitely be better. Some brands that are seen as on par produce products that are quality, but for the same price.”
“I have bought a couple of pieces from Gucci,” she says. “I have bought one of their statement tees which was definitely not worth the £375 mark and I decided not to purchase one of their trademark trainers as the quality of the shoe was so bad for £600.
“I opted out of buying some Gucci trainers and bought the Balenciaga Triple S which I love and have worn so much. A lot better quality,” she says.
“Gucci has gone down the more fashionable/trend route over the last five years and with that I think the quality has sadly taken a backseat. The collection has grown vastly too,” says Lois. “It has definitely made me rethink shopping there in the future,” she says.
While nobody is questioning Gucci’s creativity and design, it is disappointing that its ideas aren’t up to the standards many expect, especially when there is enough margin within the pricing to produce a decent product while keeping margins high.
Many consumers have been sucked in by the hype, but have been left with a bitter taste in their mouth due to the quality. This is something they could rectify, but could their race to become the number one luxury goods house in the world mean too many quality corners are being cut and is their recent slowing growth a sign of this quality backlash from consumers?