Not long ago, many Americans were flaunting their comfortable middle-classness with shopping bags in the left hand and frothy lattes in the right. Or perhaps it wasn’t flaunting; after all, no one was self-conscious about buying. Consumption was as American as apple pie.
Today, however, it seems almost selfish to indulge in life’s little luxuries. As a nod to the new discreet consumerism, the designer fashion site Net-A-Porter—which offers “unprecedented access to the hottest looks of the season from international cutting edge labels”—is now offering to send New York customers their purchases in plain brown bags rather than its signature black, branded bags. With the “discreet packaging” option, the online retailer assures customers that “Your secret is safe with us!”
In a downturn, when people are looking to tone down on ostentatious bling, how should luxury brands respond? Should they help their customers be more discrete—and if so, how can they do so without losing the luxe appeal of their brands?