Strolling, shopping, eating… learning


Kalakaua Ave., Waikiki. A block north from the Sheraton. Luxury Row, where some of the world’s greatest brands reside. Fendi, Bulgari, Coach, Ferrari, Tiffany & Co. and Yves Saint Laurent.

I broke away from my chaise lounge during our vacation last month to stroll through this gallery of greatness with my two older kids, who wondered why, despite the poor economy, an almost neverending display of designer shopping bags were parading through the lobby of our hotel.

Since they are budding entrepreneurs, I thought a face-to-face encounter with these brands would reveal some of the reasons people trade up to high priced designer brands rather than the cheaper trinkets offered at the local ABC stores and in the International Market.

What impressed them immediately was each store’s stringent attention to retail design standards as well as flawless product arrangement. These brands found ways to make each item seem special. That impressed them.

My son felt as if no expense was spared in presenting their goods, making them seem even more expensive than they actually were.

Both kids commented on the sales people. My daughter, who has already shown a considerable talent for fashion and design, commented on how each salesperson seemed to belong in the store they worked for. In her words, “the Gucci sales rep was not interchangeable with the kid from Diesel. Not even by a long shot.”

For my son, the attention he received from the sales people made him feel special. He joked how rich they think we must be just being in the store. A few shops offered us bottles of designer water while browsing. After a while, he felt compelled to buy something, anything, in return for how he was made to feel.

We passed the Ferrari store, which my daughter displayed no desire to enter. I followed my son inside. He was immediately drawn by a rack of shirts. Then noticed the price tag. “This is crazy,” he said. You’re just paying for the brand.”

When a brand delivers on its promise and delivers something that is so stunning, so proud of its perfection, so recognized world-over as fabulous… yes, that is exactly what people pay for — the association with the brand.

He considered that explanation.
The mathematics of which rang up dollar-sign realities.
And no, I did not buy him that shirt.

But my son is dedicated to one day owning this Breitlingwatch. Nothing less will do. And my daughter… well, fact is, she just needs to marry an heir to a throne.

We lasted til 6:30.
Hunger struck at the same time.
Time to get some grub.

Not all brands have to be luxury

We ate at Giovanni Pastrami, a corny but accurate name for this combination of Italian and Jewish fare based on NYC delis. We enjoyed a delightfully inexpensive, yet comforting, meal. I returned five times during our stay.

Great brands don’t always have to come from Italy or France. They don’t always have to have seductive names, or price merchandise too high. Their employees don’t all have to graduate from finishing school or use synchronized hand gestures to point out where things are.

Great brands come in all sizes and shapes. They know who they are and they take pride in that. They don’t try to fool anyone into thinking they are something else. Great brands make sure all their touchpoints are consistent, including their salespeople, who need to walk, talk, live and breathe the brand.

Great brands might even sing happy birthday to their patrons amid clanging flatware and lit up sparklers if that is consistent with who they are.

But the most important thing is how great brands deliver on their promise. In fact, at times, great brands over-deliver. Even if that promise is the offering of simple, NYC-style comfort food. And nailing it.


The vacation ended three weeks ago. Seems like a year ago. I’ve decided, in the spirit of the vacation, to not create a clear tie-in to real estate. I’m cool with letting this one linger like a South Sea breeze and give you guys a chance to draw your own conclusions.