Can Brands Go Upscale?

A recent post on a blog called “Branding Strategy Insider” argues that it’s impossible for companies to go “upscale” (and mentions Zale.)

This is becoming a big issue for our industry. Chains (yes, including Zale) are looking into going upscale to avoid getting in price wars with Wal Mart. And independents are trying to go upscale to avoid competing with chains, Blue Nile, and the rest.

I will agree that, as with most things in life, going uphill is harder than going down. But I think it can be done. I would consider Kay an example of a jeweler that has much better consumer and trade perception today than when I started in this business. 

I’ve also seen it happen. My old neighborhood — the East Village — used to have a number of very quaint Eastern European diners. As the neighborhood gradually gentrified, you began to see these diners get transformed. They got face-lifts to look more modern. They began adding “funkier” menus. They sent out a different message, to meet the changing clientele. Sometimes they would serve the same food, just charge extra for it. After all, they were now not just diners. They were coffee shops.

So I do think it is possible … however, it requires more than just putting better merchandise in the same cases. It involves giving stores face-lifts, sending out a different message — essentially re-branding yourself, letting people know “this isn’t your father’s jewelry store.” Which isn’t easy. But I’m not sure it can’t be done.

JCK News Director