Crowds shopping in Kingston. Courtesy of The Jamaica Observer.
Other people’s incessant use of mobile phones during dinner and long queues annoy me. But not as much as hours of sitting in traffic. And that’s just what Fashion’s Night Out in Kingston promised. However, with all the online and offline chatter, my interest was piqued.
Four Lane Traffic by @marciaforbes
So I came home as soon as I could, listened to some music and watched the twitter, facebook and BlackBerry updates. So in the stylee of Annie Paul’s vicarious Reggae SumFest review, here is my Fashion’s Night Out overview. From afar.
Fashion’s Night Out (FNO) is a global event conceived by Vogue’s Anna Wintour to inject life into a faltering fashion industry. As usual, the online chatter increased significantly in the days leading to the event. Some of the most interesting bloggers really got into it. YardEdge provided their excellent picks early, while Corve offered fashion advice (after all it is fashion’s night out).
TVJ’s nightly news report of September 10th questioned whether people would or could spend so soon after the back to school rush. They also interviewed a Vogue rep who said FNO is important as it gets people out to events to see fashion. I found the utterance odd. And as usual, the reporter did not interrogate the statement. Jamaicans already know wi fashionable and wi have designa, what I am hoping is that Vogue will showcase some of our talent.
Some people commented that it is odd than unlike the FNO elsewhere, a great many businesses which have nothing to do with fashion are offering discounts and retweeting #fnoja like it going out of fashion. I have no problem with this. Why not throw in some hardware, furniture and banking to go with the fashion? This may provide the seed for our own Jamaicanised version of Black Friday, complete with different name and date.
There was some amount of positive sentiment with some people expressing content with their experience. There were a boatload of pictures. Importantly too, some stores got a good deal of praise. Ammars, Bookophilia and Stanley & Empress were among the most praised. YardEdge’s rundown made we wish I had ventured out.
There was a huge differential in the level and terms on discounts offered. This frustrated many shoppers (or as it turned out non-shoppers). Might it not have been easier to have a set sale percentage such as 35 or 40% for all the sale items in participating stores? Some tweeted that the 20% off at Lee’s Shoes does not cut it. Only 10% with a minimum purchase amount of $2,500 being spent did not endear customers to Rapid/True Value. Shoppers were also not impressed by the discounts offered by Go West. Best comment for the night? @endzoftheearth tweeted that ‘Jcan stores need 2 understand sale 20% in a country with 17.5% tax is not a sale.’ Win.
Speaking of which was there a certification programme for the participating stores?
Did they have a designated posted like the one above?
I was also unimpressed by how the event occupied virtual space. Many Jamaican businesses know the internet exists. But in most cases the net is not strategically used. For instance, @top5jamaica noted that ‘Aint that something. both fashionnightoutjamaica.com & fashionsnightoutjamaica.com are unregistered. More cluelessness about brand protection.’ It not just cluelessness, they just don’t think it important. I am sure in researching the event The Jamaica Observer visited the dedicated webpages of some of the other participating cities. Why didn’t the Observer set up a separate website for the event, where you could download guides, advice ect? This would be a one stop place for accessing who is offering what and at what discount. Many people want to participate, but simply don’ want to wade through many, many bargains.
Another thing I was confused about was the role of discounts. Consider the quote below from the the parent event’s website:
Q: Can I offer discounts as incentives to shoppers?
A: The goal of Fashion’s Night Out is to celebrate and support the fashion and retail industries with full-price shopping. If you do, however, choose to discount your merchandise, the FNO team will not promote it through any of its communication channels.
All we could hear was discount, but what local businesses consider the heart of FNO is categorically frowned upon by the people who did it first. Interesting.
The Just Plain Ugly
Our staging of a FNO should be considered a national effort. So I was really saddened that some media houses simply ignored the event. Why? Coverage of the event was noticeably absent from CVM’s nightly newscasts of September 10th and 11th. Coverage was also non existent in The Jamaica Gleaner of September 11th. Petty and short sighted. What was also unforgivable is the day after the event, TVJ’s Newscaster giving the event less than a minutes coverage. You had technical difficulties? Come back to the story nuh? Poor effort guys.
When will Jamaican businesses learn? No amount of sale or promotion through new media will help you to be profitable, if your customer service is nonexistent.
While most people I talked to had a good experience, most of the online updates were negative. There were quite a few saying that the event was either a waste of time, or that the retailers were hiding the good stuff. Parking was the nightmare I thought it would be. And traffic was like you were parked in the streets. Our lack of efficient mass transit generally, but also for events, is really hurting us. Relatedly, I should not have to wade through an interesting but lengthy interview to find out that hotels were offering discounts so you could stay over (see comment above regarding the need for a central website).
If you got a great discount great. That is the most important thing. But I can’t help but thinking this event, like so much else in Jamaica, could have been so much better with only a little bit more planning and stronger execution.
Was Jamaica’s Fashion’s Night Out fake jeans? You tell me.