These letters aren’t really coming out how I imagined. First of all, I thought they’d be funny. There is nothing funny about pop sociology, like in the last letter when I offered a very pedestrian post-modern critique of authenticity.
Second, I had promised to tell the story of your brand in these letters and that hasn’t happened. When I was drawing parallels between Disneyland and your ranch it would have easily to say that the Double RL Ranch, located in Ridgway, Colorado, had been bought in 1982 and inspired a high-end, high-concept workwear line that takes some of my favourite aspects of Polo and pumps them full of crack cocaine and steroids.
But I’ve been getting sidetracked. So, I’ll take a break from second-rate pop sociology for a little bit and we can talk about sales, discounts and the current state of your brand, because they all happen to be related. And because maybe I can make you laugh by talking about all the bathrobes I own.
According to most of what I read online, the brand is in trouble. Profits are down. There have been some high-profile shake ups with staff. Worse, there is the demographic question – your demographic is getting older and older and those damned millennials just aren’t getting on board. Another big problem is that due to the department store model and some delivery problems, the people who love Polo have come to expect heavy discounts and will not pay full retail for your stuff.
Ralph, I hate to tell you, but I’ve never paid full retail for anything of yours. Take for example the bathrobe mentioned above, number four in what has unexpectedly become a collection. A normal person may own one bathrobe at best. I guess my “core” bathrobe is my white terry cloth one, monogrammed from LL Bean. I told myself that I needed a second robe for the hotter months and bought a lightweight cotton one, on sale.
The third robe was an accident. It’s a flannel robe in Brooks Brothers’ signature tartan. I was at the outlets and it was deeply discounted. What can I say? I am a weak, weak man. Plus, I told myself, there are more than two seasons. Why wouldn’t I want to own a transitional robe to get me through those awkward moments when it’s too warm for terry cloth and too cool for lightweight cotton?
But this one? With all the ponies on it? Ralph, during Boxing Day sales week I’m like a recovered alcoholic at Oktoberfest. The Polo boutique at my local department store was like something from a John Carpenter film, a post-apocalyptic retail universe where the only sizes are Big & Tall and the only colour available is orange. I had tried really hard to stay away, but my partner is going through a period where she is sale-obsessed, so during that precious week between Christmas and New Year, when people try to fill the void left by the consumerist disappointment of the holiday with a flurry of discount shopping, we found ourselves in a department store. And I found myself frantically pushing through rack after rack of shirts and jogging pants, looking for something to buy. Anything. Something with a fucking pony on it!
It is a real sickness with me. I could go for years without even thinking about buying clothes (this is an outright lie), but get me near a Polo boutique and a sales rack and I have to buy something. Have to. It is why I own so many belts that don’t fit. But that is for another letter.
I prowled the gloves and hat section. I looked through racks of shoes. I had to buy something. I had stumbled backwards into sleepwear when I saw it. The price was cut off the tag. The signs indicating just how deep the additional sales were was confusing at best. I took the robe to the counter to find out just how much it was. I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead.
It was $22, and even though I didn’t know what the original price was, it seemed like such an incredible deal that I had to buy it. I am a weak, weak man.
So there you have it. A little bit about the brand, the history, the state it is in today and maybe a little bit of a smile. I know this probably doesn’t help, but you aren’t the only one who is all fucked up about your sale items and discounting.