Service of Interpretation: Cartier, the One Percent vs. Everyone Else

January 12th, 2017

Categories: Jewelry, Marketing, Retail

Cartier window January 2017 turned

Funny how one image can cause two people to come to such different conclusions.

I was walking by Cartier’s windows on a recent Sunday and after I’d passed by I backed up to take the photo [above] because something was so clearly missing: Jewelry.

I showed the shot to my husband Homer Byington and said “How sad. Look where we’ve come. The jeweler can’t display a thing in its windows on a Sunday when it’s closed for fear that someone will steal rings, necklaces and pins. Imagine the rent paid yet the store can’t take advantage of this marketing tool to showcase its wares.”

Homer replied “I think Cartier didn’t display its jewelry to signify to the one percent how valuable and expensive their pieces are—far too precious and priceless for a window display. The store isn’t interested in whether the 99 percent can see what it can’t afford to buy anyway.”

What do you think? In addition, should a brand with this stature think of a clever way to decorate its windows for the times it doesn’t show product for whatever reason?

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10 Responses to “Service of Interpretation: Cartier, the One Percent vs. Everyone Else”

  1. ASK Said:

    If they want to show off their wares, why don’t they just make up paste pieces? Do their styles change that much?…

  2. Deborah Brown Said:

    Curious…did you call Cartier to ask if this was intentional?

  3. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Good idea…they must have some classic pieces. Or remove those empty white plastic plates which I think is what caught my eye. They may have been doing this for YEARS…I simply haven’t been by.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    I could, but didn’t…….and would for sure if my business was window display! In addition, before posting I wanted to see what Tiffany does, but didn’t between 1) the hullabaloo around 57th Street and Mr. DJT’s home/office which I avoid at all costs and 2) Not being in the city on Sunday afternoons much.

  5. hb Said:

    I still that I think that empty store window is a subtitle and graphic way for Cartier to broadcast elitism, but then I’ll admit that I never studied marketing.

    In the mid-1970’s, I worked in a large bank that had recently opened an office in Teheran, Iran, then headed by the late Shah. Iran then was an elitist, hierarchical country if there was one. Fifty people at the most, controlled everything, especially the money. They were, almost to the man, tightfisted, arrogant, smart and not easy to make a buck off. I figured if we wanted to make a profit from being there we were going to have to pare our margins, control our expenses and focus on reaching them.

    My boss, a by-the-book, business school type, saw it differently. He wanted to make a big splash, cornerstoned by a Doyle Dane Birnbach creative advertising campaign, with full page ads in everything from Business Week and Fortune to Euromoney and the Economist. The more enthusiastic he became, the more anxious I became about how we were ever going to earn enough to pay for his extravagance.

    As often happens in classic corporate warfare, I procrastinated by having my staff have endless meetings with the ad agency at which nothing, like what the ads should promote and how, was decided. When they did decide something, I’d think up all sorts of questions and objections and tell them to have more meetings. Finally, a year or two later, the boss gave up prodding me, intervened himself, and decided that we should go with an ugly semi-abstract painting that Doyle Dane had some artist paint for us representing 5000 years of Persian civilization and an innocuous message, the wording of which I don’t remember.

    Two weeks later the Iranian revolution started, and, of course, we killed the ad. We were lucky. All we lost on this was a few $hundred thousand in time and wasted effort. But supposing the revolution had come three months later? We would have been caught extoling the “civilization” of a bunch of fundamentalist religious zealots.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    What a story! The dragging of feet part to discourage a move you know is wrong without going into full blown warfare is brilliant and what I hope folks in Washington DC do when the president elect wants to do something nutty.

    I am sorry that the ad agency chose to reach 50 people with a bunch of ads in expensive places to enrich themselves rather than the bank. Your team would have thought of many more effective ways to attract the attention of so few which, no doubt, you were doing meanwhile.

  7. Lucrezia Said:

    Cartier is doubtless happy to sell to anyone regardless of societal percentage. There may be no motive behind the empty windows other than window dresser carelessness which may have been rewarded with unemployment the following day. Lack of an attractive display is a frightful embarrassment to so tony an establishment.

    Years ago there were two successful and costly hits on Tiffany windows. The store solved the problem by installing window alarms so as to discourage thefts, and has since displayed pretty paste jewelry for benefit of passerby. It’s hard to believe that Cartier hasn’t profited by this lesson and acted accordingly.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I took a few photos as Cartier has many windows on the side street–where the shot I posted is. The others didn’t make the point this clearly but each window was equally empty.

    I’m with you–one never knows who is walking by and it may be the grandchild of a wealthy person who encourages gramps to buy Mom a trinket.

    I can’t believe the empty windows were a mistake. Maybe they were about to change the theme but then most high profile stores indicate this with a note and/or they pull down a shade until the project is done!

  9. DManzaluni Said:

    I wonder why at night they dont put some of their cheaper gold plated junk designed by the slightly untalented Les Must? There cant be any problems with insurance on quartz watches with his name on them, which have a landed price of a few bucks?

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I have always thought that Les Must was Franglais for things you must have, not the name of a fellow named Les[ter] Must! Live and learn.

    You bring up a brilliant point: Insurance. However those who suggested paste and a good alarm system would surely help keep down insurance costs.

    I also imagine that a topnotch video person could create something to tempt while the real thing rested in a safe. And creative window dressers and merchandising gurus–who often are interior designers–perform miracles. I saw some turn tired product donated by manufacturers to a holiday auction into appealing displays so imagine what could be done with fabulous jewelry, watches and other goodies!

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