My Hermes bag shopping experience

hermes kelly 28 black silver bag

Ann Taylor trousers 00P, blazer 00P, heels 5, similar pearl studs, similar turtleneck, Celine sunglasses, Hermes Kelly 28 bag (outfit from this post)

As my handbag collection slowly evolved over the past decade, I’ve added a few classic pieces, plus a couple trendier styles…but there was always an elusive one that I was hoping would find its way into my closet. An iconic bag that should stay in style for my lifetime and become an heirloom that can be passed down (at least I hope so…because that’s partially how I rationalized my purchase). But part of what made it so elusive, was the mystique (and at times, downright confusion) around the finding and buying process. So now that I’ve had my Kelly for a while, I wanted to answer some common questions I’ve gotten from those looking to make a first Hermes bag purchase. This post only applies to certain handbags, as the process for buying accessories like belts, scarves, bracelets and shoes at their store or website is pretty straightforward.

Tourist vs Locally serving boutique

From my experience and research, each Hermes boutique operates fairly independently and orders their own handbag inventory up to a year in advance. The bag shopping experience can vary WIDELY from location to location. Certain locations cater more to tourist customers (such as the Paris flagship and Las Vegas boutiques – let me know any other major ones!), while others like the Boston boutique primarily serve the local customer base.

At the tourist-centric boutiques, they anticipate a lot of new customers coming in just asking to buy Birkins, Kellys, and Constance bags, and depending on luck and good timing, it IS possible for someone with no purchase history to be offered one of those bags for sale on the same day. At a boutique serving mostly local customers, having a relationship with a sales associate is much more key.

My experience at the Paris Flagship Store

There are many reasons for Hermes fans to plan a visit to the flagship 24 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honorè location while in Paris. The store is a trove of beautiful accessories, but also this is one of the main locations where a customer can walk in for the first time and potentially purchase a bag that same day. From my personal observations when I visited and from my friends’ experiences, the bag-buying process at this location seems more “equitable” and subject to random luck compared to the majority of other Hermes boutiques. And lastly, Hermes retail pricing in Europe is more favorable, especially with a VAT refund and the EUR to USD value in recent years.

1. Request an appointment online (via this site that works ONLY on mobile phones).
Appointments are required for those looking to buy certain leather bags, as you won’t see any on display for sale just by walking in. However, the number of appointments each day are limited so it might take a few tries over several days to get a slot. If you’re unable to get an appointment online, I’ve had friends had success by visiting the store anyways and finding a nice SA to ask whether there were any appointment cancellations that day.

When I went a few years ago, this picture below was the scene outside the store 30 minutes prior to opening – most people in line were purely waiting to make an appointment for later in the day to buy a leather bag. The online appointment process was implemented in recent years, so be sure to try and request one prior to visiting!

how to get a birkin or kelly at hermes flagship store fsh paris france
Hermes Paris flagship store, the year prior to the online appointment system being implemented.

2. Look out for appointment time updates.
If you’re able to get an appointment slot assigned to you, be aware that the slot can be pushed back or moved up several times due to how other appointments are going that day. I believe they send out email alerts with appointment updates.

3. Arrive at the store and check in
After a wait, your assigned sales associate comes out and asks what you’re looking for in terms of bag style, size, leather, hardware, and color then jots it down. So do your research ahead of time. The SA then disappears to see what they can “find” in the back room. They’ll say that deliveries of bags from the Hermes atelier / workshop are completely unpredictable, so they have no idea what bags they’ll receive or when. Some days there will be no bag deliveries, while on other days there might be a handful that’ll get offered to customers who made bag buying appointments.

hermes birkin kelly bag leather types color swatches
Booklets of Hermes leather swatches in the waiting area.

4. Rub your lucky duck but expect disappointment due to very limited inventory
At this point, the SA will likely return with an expressionless face and say “sorry, nothing today.” If instead you get presented with a big orange box, the contents will probably not be in the exact size, color, or material you wanted, but be warned that adrenaline may cause your eyesight to blur and it’ll morph into your “holy grail bag.” Most likely, though, it’ll just be the SA with a blank face. Before heading out however, you can ask to see and try on any sample handbags they have for size reference since this isn’t something you can do on your own around the store.

I’ve visited the flagship store with an appointment a few times and was never offered any handbag from my wishlist to purchase. Despite this, if you’re in the area I still do believe the Paris flagship store is one of the best bets for someone looking to buy a first Hermes bag. Two friends of mine each purchased a bag they love at this location under the same process. During my last visit, I also randomly met a reader ahead of me in the appointment process, who was glowing from a Birkin purchase in the color and size she had asked for – she said she had never bought anything from the brand before and got lucky.

petite tweed skirt hermes kelly 28 purse black

Outfit from this post

My experience at my local store

From what I understand, when a shipment of handbags arrive at an Hermes boutique that serves more local clientele, sales associates review their client profiles of customers who’d be interested in each bag. The inventory is then allocated with priority given to more top ranking sales associates and certain customers, rather than through a chronological waitlist system like some would imagine. Thus, consistent with what many of us have heard, having a personal relationship with an SA and a buying history of other Hermes products is usually important for getting a handbag at this type of store location.

I had purchased a belt at the Boston store a long time ago but didn’t really connect with the individual who helped me. Years later when I went in to get another belt, though, I met a kind sales associate who was very knowledgeable and easy to talk to. I told her about my bag wishlist and patiently waited without any expectations.

About half a year later, the phone rang and my SA had a Birkin that wasn’t from my wish list, but asked if I wanted to see it. I was just a little ecstatic, but reminded myself this was not going to be a drop in the bucket budget wise and to not sway from what I’ve been searching for. The bag was a Birkin 30 in Etain gray, which was gorgeous but not the right color or size for me.

Fast forward to a few days before Nori was due, Nick and I were enjoying one of our last solo meals for a while at our usual hole in the wall spot in Chinatown. I got a call from my SA and pretty much hop and skipped (well, waddled actually) right over to the Hermes Boston boutique with a couple bags of Chinatown takeout in tow. This color was not specifically one from my wishlist, but the size was one of two Kelly sizes I was hoping for, and black with gold is timeless so I knew I would have no regrets. This baby came home with me that day and is a piece that I treasure … after using it for a while I’ve only fallen more in love with the style and am holding out hope to add a smaller Kelly (to be worn more casually) to the collection one day!

Since my buying history at my local Hermes was not robust (compared to what I’ve heard from others), I know that I fell into the graces of a great SA who helped make this purchase happen. If you don’t have a friend who can recommend a good SA, I would try visiting your local store a few times if possible if you’re planning on making any non-handbag purchases. If a handbag is on your longer-term wishlist, maybe talk with a few SAs across your visits so you can start a relationship with someone whom you connect with (versus buying through the first person that assists you).

Leave a Comment

22 Comments

  1. Christi Beebe wrote:

    Did anyone see the Wall Street Journal article on this exact topic from about a week ago? It’s behind the paywall so I can’t link to it. So interesting! Essentially, Birkin and Kelly handbags are more expensive to buy secondhand than new, making it hard for the French luxury brand to take control of the growing resale market. And causing some to feel Hermes is leaving too much money on the table by making it so hard to get their bags.

    Posted 3.10.20 Reply
  2. Maureen wrote:

    Nice! I am so happy that you have finally found your Kelly bag. It’s such a timeless classic, it’s no wonder it took awhile. I love admiring your bag from your photos. Great choice Jean!

    Maureen

    Posted 3.3.20 Reply
  3. Stephanie wrote:

    I frequent the Boston store and I completely agree with your post! I find the SAs at the Boston location very unpretentious and friendly. I was offered a black K the other day, but I turned it down since I didn’t love it. I was worried to turn it down but the SA was very supportive and knows these purchases are an investment.

    Posted 2.29.20 Reply
  4. Noor wrote:

    That’s so interesting! I had no idea it worked like this!

    xo Noor

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  5. Janet wrote:

    Love, love, love everything about your bag 🙂 Still waiting for my first…

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  6. Tiffany wrote:

    The H shopping experience varies so greatly!

    My experience was lucky – likely because it was during the 2008/2009 recession. I made my first purchase, a scarf for my mom, and at that time the SA asked if I’d like to place a bag order. Slightly in shock at her offer, considering I’d only bought one thing, I politely declined but accepted her card.

    After deliberating a purchase and wish list for a few months (you bet I made multiple spreadsheet analyses!), I booked an appointment with her to discuss my wish list. I went in planning to request a special order (SO) but after trying on a few bags I realized the colour I planned for my SO didn’t actually make my heart sing so I didn’t place it. However another colour I tried on felt gorgeous and…yet another shock…she said I could buy it that day.

    I decided to not buy it then as (1) it wasn’t what I initially went in for, not a typical neutral color, and I wasn’t sure whether I truly loved it or was settling (2) there was a detail that differed from my preferences. The SA made note of the detail. She also pointedly asked if I’d be interested in purchasing a belt and I tried some on but honestly told her it was nice but I didn’t love it.

    I thought it might hinder my chances but at the same time I didn’t feel it was worth dropping $1K on something I didn’t need or love only to *potentially* get the opportunity to spend 5 figures on a bag I did love.

    Three weeks later I got the call that the exact, perfect, Bleu de Prusse Birkin was in. I went in, happily bought it that day and have loved it & never looked back since.

    I know my experience is extremely lucky and rare (and some might say I’m bananas for not getting the bag right away…actually I did get a lot of flack!), but my advice for those interested in purchasing at Hermes is to above all stay true to yourself and not feel pressured to do something or buy something that doesn’t sit well with you – either for the sake of owning the brand or to “earn points”. Only buy what you love.

    Having a gorgeous bag is great but, in my opinion, it’s not worth it if you feel mistreated or overly pressured in the process.

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  7. Sue wrote:

    I feel like ppl think that Hermes SAs are hiding an abundance of bags in the back rooms trying to torture potential customers. The bags are made by one person by hand from start to finish and they do not have that many employees making the bags. Compared to the demand … there is very little supply and each store distributes it differently.

    I agree about the process being very different at tourist and local stores. I was in Vegas for a business trip and met a very nice SA. It was winter and the area was pretty dead tourist wise. I left my info with her and was able to get a Kelly in navy ghw the next day before I headed home! Apparently they had a shipment come in the next morning.

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
    • soni tran wrote:

      Hi Sue-

      do you mind sharing the location in Vegas that you made the purchase?

      Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  8. Brady wrote:

    Okay but honestly… it just seems like so much bullsh*t to go through to spend a small fortune on a handbag… don’t they want your money? I don’t understand why anyone would let themselves be treated this way by a company. Nobody is that prestigious.

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
    • Elle wrote:

      I agree with Brady. No other company would make a customer jump through so many hoops just to spend $10k+ on a fashion accessory. And one that doesn’t even meet their color and size specifications. I get that the supply is lower than the demand for these bags. But the company is intentionally keeping the supply low.

      That said, I still admire Hermes and think their marketing strategy is genius.

      Posted 2.27.20 Reply
    • Jess E. wrote:

      I agree, I personally would spend the $10K toward my down payment/mortgage/retirement. My favorite bag is my white leather Hobo tote, got it at Nordstrom Rack. Score!

      Posted 2.28.20 Reply
  9. Brenda wrote:

    Enjoyed your experience. I am saving for a Hermes scarf and wonder if the experience will be the same. What should I know before I go about the scarves? Can you tell me anything about the Hermes scarves? Is there any place I can see what is on offer? Do I start out telling them the color or the size? Why do they say not to let the rain get on it? I have silk scarves that are ok in the rain…

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Brenda, the experience for buying a silk scarf is a lot more straightforward! There are so many sizes, styles, and prints though each season though, it’s good to browse their website first to see some of the options https://www.hermes.com/us/en/women/scarves-and-silk-accessories. If you go into a store someone can show you all the prints available and how to style each type of scarf. They say not to get rain on it just as a precaution, but I’ve hand washed my silk scarves from there before in cold water (see my silk washing blog post) with no issues.

      Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  10. Mireia wrote:

    Such an iconic bag!

    Mireia from TGL

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  11. Annaliese wrote:

    I had no idea there was such a process to purchase something from Hermes! I show enjoyed reading this and hearing more about your experience!

    xoxo A

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
    • Anonymous wrote:

      Hi Jean,
      What colors and bags are on your wishlist? Do you have a preference of a Kelly or a Birkin? 🙂

      Posted 2.29.20 Reply
  12. Ronnie C wrote:

    Having a go to SA is key at the local store! My gf introduced her SA to me two years ago and I have kept a friendly relationship eversince. He’s super nice and unpretentious (key!). When I finally was ready to make the big purchase, I went to him and 3 months later got my first Birkin. 🙂

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  13. Kristine wrote:

    Does the appointment system pertain only to the three bags (B, K, C) or does this go for all handbag purchases? I’m going to the Paris and was hoping to purchase an Evelyne, so I will make an appointment now even if I’m not going for months. Thanks for the insight!

    Posted 2.27.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Kristine, I think it pertains to all customers wanting to buy leather handbags at FSH including the Evelyne. While the appointment process is the same, I was told there is better inventory for that style compared to B,K,C. Hope you have a great time in Paris!

      Posted 2.27.20 Reply
  14. Holly D. wrote:

    Great story, thank you. Would you be willing to share the name of the Boston SA? I live in the area and haven’t found anyone I connect with at the Boston store. Thank you!

    Posted 2.26.20 Reply
    • Jean | Extra Petite wrote:

      Hi Holly, I will ask her if it’s okay to pass her info along. Is the email address in your comment form the best email to use after I hear back?

      Posted 2.27.20 Reply
      • soni tran wrote:

        Hi Jeanne-

        if its ok, would you mind sharing with me as well. Boston is my local store…

        Posted 2.27.20 Reply

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