Given the craftsmanship and the amount of hours required to create each bag, the production of a Birkin is entirely dependent on the number of adequately trained artisans in the company at any given time. As a result, each Hermès official store is given a limited supply. The Hermès official stores get deliveries on a sporadic basis, so inventory never builds up on shelves.
Hermès does not report how many Birkins are sold each year, or what percentage of leather sales is attributable to the line. Secrecy and success seem to be quite correlated when it comes to the Birkin.
Hermès also does not market the Birkin through traditional print or advertising. Instead, the company relies solely on the bag’s perceived exclusivity and prestige, allowing want-to-be customers to produce their own marketing.
“The only thing Hermès wants you know about the bag’s availability is that you probably can’t get one.” Thus, there are only a handful of people to receive a Birkin directly from Hermès each year. The people who receive priority treatment are celebrities and valued clients of Hermès who have made several high-value purchases from the company over an extended period of time.
Buying a Birkin bag is not as simple as going into an Hermès official store, making a purchase and walking out the door. Demand for the bag has grown exponentially since its inception. Associates first prioritize the customers with “relationships,” the remaining bags then open up to a wait list. However, this wait list can be as long as six years or even closed for new participants.
According to the the 2009 memoir, Bringing Home the Birkin: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World’s Most Coveted Handbag, personal shopper Michael Tonello’s says, “think of it like almost being interviewed, you have to have a purchase history at the store just to get started, then they meet with you, assess how serious you are about spending, and then you go on their list.” Given this restriction, there is no guarantee that prospective clients receive the exact bag they want. Typically, each customer is restricted to buying no more than two bags per year.
Hermès normally does not ask for your desired color or size; it’s dependent upon what is available. This type of marketing is very smart for Hermès because even if demand drops, sales will not. It also creates a surplus demand for the Birkin, which then overflows into demand for other Hermès products. This strategy helps the firm’s business selling consolation prizes such as wallets, belts, perfume, scarves, etc.. J.N. Kapferer of the Inseec Luxury Institute in Paris observes that the wait induces “impatient buyers to switch to other products of the brand, to calm their hunger until the much-awaited object of desire is achieved.”
So, what do you do if you’re an average woman wanting to invest in a Birkin?
Essentially, the only option is to use a trusted re-selling service through auction or a resale retailer that does not discriminate based on income or purchase history. Statistically, “for 99% of women and investors, the secondary market is the only way to get your hands on one of these bags.” The Birkin has operated on this system for quite some time, and the exclusivity of the bag brings a large draw to this market. Auction houses and resale retail services have emerged as an avenue for those who wish to buy the Birkin, without having a long-standing relationship with one of the associates.
If you have the money and want to skip the waitlist there is the option of the secondhand market. This option has created an entirely new market for the Birkin bag. The secondhand market has grown dramatically and has made a new industry for both auction houses and resale retail stores. Collectors and outside buyers are now able to turn to each other to swap and purchase the Birkin bags they want.
The leading auction houses that resell Birkin bags are Christie’s Auction House, Bonhams and online auction houses such as Heritage Auctions and Paddle.
The biggest supplier of the Birkin, and the most successful is Christie’s Auction House. With their record-breaking sales, Christie’s has solidified itself as the leader in the secondhand market, by considerable margins. Both their 2015 and recent 2016 Hong Kong auctions have set several world records that include a $222,000 Fuchsia diamond-studded Birkin, and a Himalayan diamond-studded Birkin for most expensive handbag ever which sold at $300,168. These sales were both reputable and important to the market which has enabled it to grow. According to Jeff Rabin, principal, and co-founder of art advisory firm Artvest Partners LLC. “Christie’s is working to expand their brand; this is good because luxury fashion seems to be a natural extension of art, which is the ultimate luxury item.”
Meanwhile, not far behind, Heritage Auctions in 2011, sold a Red Crocodile Birkin for $203,500.
However, with new technologies in the art and luxury world, other vendors have established themselves as options for the Birkin in the secondary market. Chat us to know more about how to get a Birkin in a special way.