Fifty dollars a bottle and priced just right. Now, I’m not talking about a delightful little bottle of burgundy that goes nicely with braised lamb shanks for autumn dinners. The burgundy, after all, would be 25 ounces worth. I’m talking about a bottle of nail polish, all 0.4 fluid ounces of it.
The nail polish comes from shoe designer Christian Louboutin and was just introduced at New York fashion week. Really, it is a work of art. The bottle, with its long, dagger-like cap, is evocative of the designer’s skyscraper heels. The thirty one colors are vibrant and bright. The New York Times quotes Mr. Louboutin as saying that he wants to create something that ‘assumes pride of place on a woman’s dressing table’. He knows he is selling more than paint, and in that he is correct.
To be sure it does not cost $50 for color to slash on your nails. A basic drugstore brand of nail polish such as Cover Girl sells for around $6, and a department store brand like MAC goes for $14. MAC does have a premium brand for closer to $20, and other higher end companies sell in that range as well. But $50 is something else.
At the high price point, Mr. Louboutin is unashamedly going after the high end of the market, with good reason. Since the global recession of 2008/09, the mid-market has sagged for many product areas – but the highest end of the market has not. From Louis Vuitton to Hermes, there are a host of luxury brands that have thrived, despite the recession’s aftermath. The success of such brands has been in unapologetically going after the money’s-no-object crowd. In fact, for those specific consumers, the higher price point is likely to be draw rather than a detraction, given that the status that it bestows.
I would wager that Mr. Louboutin’s nail polish does well with a slightly less moneyed crowd as well. The $50 price tag is hefty for nail polish, but it is not out of reach for the aspiring fashionista who sees it as a piece of art or a collectible, or who just wants a taste of the feeling that goes with being a Louboutin customer. Luxury brands have lately gone wrong trying to design merchandise specifically for the middle market (think Coach) but allowing the middle market in to buy a small luxury good will no doubt work better.
Oh, and if you’re making your Christmas list, a $50 bottle of nail polish would make a great present for the ladies in your life.