Every now and then we put a post out there that quietly, but steadily attracts attention thanks to the miracle of Google. Almost exactly a year ago we wrote about Cleo & Patek, a chain of handbag stores throughout the city that were notorious for their constant deep discounting which suggested that they were selling expensive designer merchandise at a bargain price. In fact, the discount was a scam, and none of their bags were ever sold at the inflated "full retail" prices. In fact, from our observation of the bags' quality (or lack thereof) it was unlikely that they were even worth the discount prices. We decided to revisit them one year later.
A year ago, we noticed that the signs in the windows had suddenly grown larger, along with the discount which was now up to 90% with the tagline, "Everything must go", suggesting that the chain may have finally been done for. Perhaps the recession had finally done consumers a favor, or maybe they were just amplifying the scam, adding a cheap "Going out of business (but not really)" ploy. In the year since that post ran, we have gotten a comment every few weeks from Cleo & Patek customers whose reports ranged from chagrin at falling for the scam to satisfaction with their purchases whatever they paid for them. Comments tended to lean towards the former, and we are fairly sure a few of the latter were plants, but still, Cleo & Patek continues to elicit attention.
Obviously, the stores are still with us, but in not terribly clever disguise. Those locations didn't close, but most have been renamed with vaguely European sounding names like Le Bo Paris, Eebele Paris, Mito Milan, Bocci+Bi Italia and de Navi Italia. A cursory inspection shows that these are the same stores with the same merchandise, all of it stamped with Cleo & Patek logos. And, as you can see above, the huge discount signs remain in the windows, easily making the upscale neighborhoods like SoHo and 57th Street where one finds them (along with lots of tourists, not coincidentally) look that much sleazier. These shops have become the retail equivalent of the neighbor who refuses to trim the hedges and mow the lawn, lowering property values for everyone.
Last week, The Shophound visited one shop on West 57th street that had an actual "Store Closing" sign in the window, and the staff was quick to tell us they would be closing up "any day now". Crumpled up packaging paper strewn on the floor added to the air of impending shuttering, and yet we still wonder if the store has any actual plans to vacate. Overbearing staff aggressively made sure we were aware of the deep discounts. We had serious doubts that may of bags there were made of actual leather despite their "retail" prices of $500 and more. One style in a crocodile stamped material was actually priced over $1000, the gall of which still amazed us even though we knew it would probably only be sold for $100 or less. We hope this store really is closing, but we are not holding our breath. It will be one unit fewer of this shady chain.
You might ask, what's the big deal? Customers think they are getting a great deal, and they aren't ultimately paying very much. So what's wrong with that?
Basically it's the false advertising, the incredibly poor quality of the merchandise and the general sleaziness that we find so irksome. It's the same thing would annoy us about any chain of schlockhouses. Certainly, nobody who knows anything about accessories would be caught dead carrying one of those janky bags, but that doesn't excuse preying on the less sophisticated. We are pretty sure that it's illegal in some way or other to offer an impossibly deep "discount" on merchandise that was never legitimately offered at its wildly inflated full price, but who out there is actually going to monitor these things?
Allow us to issue an annual caveat: Stay away from Cleo & Patek and the stores that sell it. There are genuine bargains to be found in New York as well as great quality items at reasonable prices, just not at those places, no matter how stylish their neighbors may be. If it looks too good to be true, then it probably is.
Everything Must Go: Is Cleo & Patek Shutting Down, Or Are They Just Trying To Fake Us Out?