Luxury Institute News

April 21, 2016

The Future of Luxury Is Now, as Heritage Brands Meet New Demands

Robb Report
By: Booth Moore
April 19, 2016

The world’s most exclusive brands—many of which cling to tradition—are reshaping their long-standing practices to provide smarter, more immediate, more sustainable, and healthier products and services. Yet technological advances and innovative new business models are not the only forces driving the rapid evolution of the luxury marketplace. At the heart of these changes are dramatic shifts in the values, attitudes, priorities, and expectations of you—the consumer.

It was one of the most exclusive fashion shows of all time. When Tom Ford debuted his comeback women’s collection in September 2010, he invited only 100 people to watch Lauren Hutton, Julianne Moore, Daphne Guinness, Beyoncé, and his other famous muses model sexy python-print gowns and fringed coats on the runway. The event took place months before the clothes would arrive in stores, and no photographs were allowed.

When Ford introduces his latest fall/winter collection this September, by contrast, anyone will be able to view the pieces online, and those with sufficient means will be able to purchase items as soon as they come down the runway. This is part of a new see-now-buy-now approach that Ford is testing. Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, and several other fashion brands have launched similar programs.

“In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to customers is an antiquated idea,” said Ford in a press release. “Our customers today want a collection that is immediately available.”

Ford’s about-face is telling. New technology, market trends, and changing social attitudes have brands and companies catering to customer demands in an unprecedented manner. Now you can acquire nearly any item (a new Zenith watch from Mr. Porter, for example) the same day or engage any service, even a private jet charter, immediately, with the swipe of a finger, and have practically anything customized to your preferences. Even so, we want more than that.

“People still buy luxury products,” says Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner at the management-consulting firm Bain & Company, which reports that the global luxury industry grew by 5 percent from 2014 to 2015 and surpassed $1 trillion in retail sales. “But they value the experience around them more than the products themselves, since the experience is more shareable.”

More of us, in other words, seek meaning from our means. “We have gone from ‘extra’ values to ‘intra’ values,” says Olivier Abtan, a partner and managing director at the Boston Consulting Group, another management-consulting firm. “That means spending good time, sustainability, health, and family.”

Thus, luxury could be a private meeting at the base of the Himalayas with an oracle ordained by the Dalai Lama, arranged by the travel company Cox & Kings; or waking up to sunrise yoga on the rooftop helipad of the Four Seasons Beverly Hills. It could be a Ralph Lauren necktie that warns you when your heart rate accelerates too rapidly, a Bentley whose interior is lined with a material made from non-animal protein leather, or your own mouse avatar, on which doctors can test cancer treatments to determine which would be most effective for you.

Technical Support

As Ford notes, you want immediate access to items, and digital platforms provide that. They also enable you to make informed purchases more easily and to engage conveniently with brands on a personal level. “Technology is a driver of shopping and customer experience,” says D’Arpizio.

According to Joshua Schulman, president of Bergdorf Goodman and NMG International at the Neiman Marcus Group, 75 percent of his company’s customers do research online before buying an item. Saks Fifth Avenue recently launched a service through which associates are available online around the clock, and they can curate personalized virtual boutiques for you on the company’s website.

E-commerce, once thought to be only for mass-market brands, is becoming critical to the luxury sector. “In the U.S., some fashion brands have 20 to 30 percent of their sales online,” says Abtan. He predicts that within the next year or two every luxury brand will be selling online, including such holdouts as Chanel and Harry Winston. Regardless of the nature of the purchase, it seems everyone enjoys the convenience of shopping online.

But as larger luxury brands proliferate on the web and open stores in every city, smaller boutique brands are filling a niche by providing individualized experiences and access. Human contact, when it’s on your terms, can be the height of luxury.

In February, just hours after his fall/winter-collection runway show in New York, the women’s-wear designer Joseph Altuzarra spent an entire afternoon at Bergdorf Goodman greeting clients as part of the store’s Right from the Runway initiative. He explained his inspiration for the collection (Jim Jarmusch’s vampire film Only Lovers Left Alive), described the work involved in the soutache braided embroidery on the back of a coat, and offered suggestions on how to style different looks. One woman, who was visiting from Europe, planned to buy a green ombré tie-dyed dress from the collection. After chatting with the designer, she purchased several additional pieces. “Women love having a relationship with the product they buy, and part of that is having a relationship with the designer,” says Altuzarra. “Some designers are able to do that through digital and Instagram, but usually that’s a relationship with a younger, more aspirational client. At the price point we’re selling at, with $5,000 dresses, our customers are digitally aware, but they are not influenced by it. They are not on Instagram 24/7 looking at runway shows.”

At his showroom in Manhattan, jeweler James de Givenchy works with each of his clients to create a one-of-a-kind piece. The average wait time for completion is eight weeks, and no one complains. “We have 12 manufacturers downstairs, and we serve a small market of people who want to have things made especially for them,” de Givenchy says. “It’s the experience of meeting and discussing what their needs are.”

Have It Your Way

The travel industry also recognizes the value of individual attention. Companies understand that you want to personalize trips and experience your passions. This could mean attending a sold-out baseball game in Osaka, Japan, or shopping for a Ferrari at the automaker’s headquarters in Maranello, Italy, according to Scott Wiseman, president for the Americas at Cox & Kings. “It used to be that luxury had to do with being first to a new property or destination,” he says. “Now people want to be part of something instead of watching it.” Wiseman says his clients can overnight in a Maasai mud hut, for example, and learn something of the local culture.

Neil Jacobs, CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, sees a demand for nontraditional travel experiences from his company’s clients. “We never talk about exclusivity,” he says, “we talk about inclusivity.” He cites the appeal of the organic free-range chicken farm at the brand’s Yao Noi property in Thailand, where you can collect your own eggs for breakfast. “It’s about experience and community engagement,” says Jacobs. “Customers who are spending north of $1,000 a night want more than just good service and a great bed.”

Community engagement can extend to guest rooms. Gone is cookie-cutter hotel design: “People are preoccupied with the personality of spaces,” says Ian Carr, co-CEO of the hospitality and residential design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates. “They don’t want generic or transient. They want curated, personal, locally connected.”

Hospitality companies also recognize guests’ desires for seamless service and freedom from awkward, time-consuming social interactions. Technology can help address those demands. “More and more, people don’t want to talk to anyone,” says Herve Humler, president and COO of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which has a GPS-enabled service in the works. It is expected to allow guests at the brand’s resorts to use their mobile devices to order lunch from the beach, for example, and have a server locate their chaise longue on the sand.

Sustainable Efforts

That lunch likely will not arrive in Styrofoam, and it could well include meat from animals that have been responsibly raised or produce that has been sustainably farmed. Cited in 2010 by the Harvard Business Review as a corporate mega-trend that would rival the impacts of mass production and electrification, sustainability is making its way into the luxury world. The luxury-industry conglomerate Kering’s first Environmental Profit and Loss report, published last year, set targets for reducing emissions and waste from its production and supply chain. Jewelry brands Chopard and Tiffany & Co. have begun using ethically mined gems and recycling gold, silver, and platinum, because an increasing number of customers demanded that they do so.

In the luxury-auto market, the SUV, with its relatively low mileage rating, has remained popular enough for Jaguar, Maserati, and Bentley to launch, or prepare to launch, their first models. However, according to a March report by Donatas Bimba of the market-research firm Euromonitor International, sales of plug-in electric vehicles are set to bounce back in 2016 and record solid growth from 2017 onward thanks to upgraded models and improved charging infrastructure. Bimba cited plug-in hybrid vehicles as “the most dynamic new car segment in the U.S.” and pointed to the BMW i8 and Mercedes-Benz S500e. He also noted the potential impact of the Model X all-electric SUV from Tesla, which is aiming to woo customers away from their Porsche Cayennes and Range Rovers.

“The electrification of the drivetrain is not a temporary phenomenon; it is the future of mobility,” says Gorden Wagener, the chief designer at Mercedes-Benz, which has plans to offer 10 plug-in hybrid models by 2017 and recently announced a new policy requiring top managers to drive electrified, as opposed to gas-powered, company cars.

In addition to offering more environmentally friendly models, luxury carmakers may begin adding sustainable materials to their vehicles’ cabins. “People on the top level of society—our customers—sooner or later won’t order a Bentley with 20 hides, because as a, say, vegan person, they will not accept it,” says Stefan Sielaff, director of design for Bentley Motors. “On the other side, they are not going to accept artificial leather, because it is oil based, so you really have to start experimenting with alternative, organic materials, such as textiles made of animal-free protein leather, silks, even stone.” Bentley is already offering stone veneers, made of rocks sourced from quarries in India, in its Mulsanne models.

The transition to autonomous-driving vehicles could have an even more profound effect on car design. “Maybe in the future, the car is a sitting room, a living room, a conference room, and you use the time in the car in a different way,” says Sielaff. “It becomes like sitting in first class of an aircraft.”

In BMW’s Vision Next 100 self-driving concept car, the steering wheel and center console retract so that the driver and front-seat passenger can turn toward each other. Another autonomous-driving vehicle, the Mercedes-Benz F 015 research car, is described as a “luxury lounge,” with chairs that can rotate to form a club-style seating arrangement.

The Balance Equation

Our own health is as important to many of us as the planet’s, and fashion and hospitality brands, along with hospitals and medical practices, are responding accordingly. Fashion labels are designing their own Fitbit devices (Tory Burch), activewear (Zegna), and connected clothing. Ralph Lauren’s PoloTech shirt works with an iPhone or Apple Watch to put real-time workout data in your hand. A smart suit or necktie that could advise the wearer on heart rate and body temperature may not be far off. “Living a luxury lifestyle isn’t just the dream of having a better life,” says David Lauren, executive vice president of global advertising, marketing, and communications at Ralph Lauren. “It’s also how technology can help you live a healthier, better life now.”

The country’s leading hospitals have long offered executive health programs that work with patients on preventive health care, nutrition, and stress management. The programs were initiated in the 1960s to protect C-level managers and board members considered valuable assets by corporations. “But now, the real growth segment has been in individuals motivated toward this kind of health-care surveillance,” says Dr. Benjamin Ansell, the director of UCLA’s Executive Health Program, which provides personalized, in-depth evaluations. Private practices offer similar programs.

Craig Venter, one of the first people to map the human genome, offers an executive physical at his latest venture, the La Jolla, Calif.–based Human Longevity. For $25,000, the company will sequence your DNA and run a full complement of tests to determine your risk for heart disease, melanoma, dementia, and other ailments. “Having the ability to control health and life outcomes is the ultimate luxury,” he says. (Some experts argue that genome sequencing alone may not be sufficient to detect health risks, and that further research is needed.)

Venter’s company is focused on advanced preventive care; others provide exclusive treatments. Champions Oncology is among the companies offering a mouse avatar to cancer patients. For a price starting at $10,000, Champions will remove a portion of the patient’s tumor, inject it into the mouse, and have the animal undergo different treatments to determine which will work best for the patient. (Doctors disagree on the efficacy of such practices when compared to human clinical trials.)

In the hospitality realm, hotels and resorts are providing health and wellness services that go far beyond facials and massages. The comforts of home on the road now include nutritious foods, fully equipped workout facilities, yoga, and spin classes. “It’s a luxury to have normalcy when you travel,” says Michael Newcombe, general manager for the Four Seasons Los Angeles at Beverly Hills. He oversees all 38 Four Seasons spas in the Americas and has partnered on services with local fitness professionals, dermatologists, and medical providers.

Health retreats offer increasingly sophisticated medical services, such as Alzheimer’s prevention through cognitive stimulation, sleep recovery programs, and couples counseling. “The old-fashioned notion of going to a health spa involves weight loss and plastic surgery,” says Alejandro Bataller, a vice president at the SHA Wellness Clinic near Alicante, Spain. “But now, it’s so much more.” The SHA experience includes classes at the clinic’s health academy, where visitors learn how to manage stress and cook healthy meals. And Bataller is working with a Spanish university to develop an app that will keep track of guests’ progress after they leave. “We are going to be able to support you through technology wherever you are,” he says.

But for all the ways luxury companies are employing new technologies to meet your demands and enhance your life—providing instant access to the latest fashions or seamless service at resorts and hotels or cutting-edge wellness programs—their ability to forge relationships with you and other clients may ultimately determine whether they succeed or fail, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a research organization in New York. “What wealthy people want is empathy, trustworthiness, the emotional elements of humanity,” he says. “It’s not a points program or Champagne when you walk in the store that matters. It’s doing little things that mean so much more.”

Accordingly, Pedraza says, the luxury industry is paying particular attention to women, and not just with marketing initiatives such as Bergdorf Goodman’s Right from the Runway. “[Women’s growing influence] is a big trend in luxury,” he says, citing Gucci’s Chime for Change charity campaign, supporting girls around the globe, and the LVMH-owned Champagne house Veuve Clicquot’s Business Woman Award as strategic outreach programs.

“Women have the say and the money,” he observes, “and we will see that grow as more millennial women get into higher levels of corporations. How will it manifest itself? Maybe a nicer world.”

Certainly that would be the most welcome change of all.

Source: http://robbreport.com/sports-leisure/future-luxury-now-heritage-brands-meet-new-demands#sthash.dNjDZXhF.dpuf

April 12, 2016

Travel Professionals Identify 15 Luxury Travel Trends For 2016 And Beyond

Travel Market
By: Harvey Chipkin
April 12, 2017

Luxury travel buzzwords like authentic, local, curate, and, of course, experience may be overused, but they have become buzzwords because of their phenomenal staying power. While some trends fade with time, some just seem to resound with customers from one year into the next. Here’s how a group of luxury travel professionals and other experts see the trends shaping up at the high end of the market for the rest of this year and into the next.

1. Doubling down on local
“Travelers want to be with locals,” said Jack Ezon, president of Ovation Vacations in New York. “They want to be immersed in a destination. Instead of guides who know a lot of facts, they want insiders who can really give them the lowdown. Or they want a nightlife host who can take them to the coolest bars and nightspots and tell the story from their own perspective.”

At The Nines Hotel in Portland, OR, director of sales and marketing Laura Van Daal said, “Everyone in the hotel is a concierge and a local expert. They are trained to listen to the specifics of what a guest likes or is looking for, because everyone wants a different experience. We have contacts all over the city, so we can get to visit the rare books department of Powell’s Books, or we can get people into the Nike or Adidas employee store where they can get great discounts.”

Milton Pedraza, CEO of The Luxury Institute, said, “It’s not just about getting a table at the best restaurant, but it might be getting the right table. There’s a popular restaurant in Paris where all the tourists are on the second floor and the locals are on the first floor. If an agent knows a concierge, he might be able to get the client to a first-floor table.”

2. Authentic, but maybe not too authentic
Authenticity can be taken too literally. Said Ezon, “You really have to be clear with clients about what they’re getting. When they say they want a ‘sense of place,’ that really means they want to be in a hotel they can use as a springboard from which to see their surroundings. If guests get to a ranch and there’s no air conditioning, they might not be happy.”

3. Personalization: It’s the little things that count
Personalization doesn’t have to be a big deal. Ezon said he had a couple going to Africa for a honeymoon. After a long week of travel, they arrived at their camp and entered their tent to find pictures of their family on the “walls” and their wedding song playing. “They couldn’t believe it,” said Ezon. “It’s the agent’s job to provide that kind of information to the people on the ground.”

Matteo Della Grazia, owner of tour operator Fuoritinerario — Discover Your Italy, said, “We are seeing increasing demand for local and authentic experiences that allow clients to create their own local product. For instance, they can work for a day at a top Tuscany vineyard with a wine- maker to create a personalized wine, which will then be aged, bottled, and shipped to them. We call it Adopt A Barrel. We have a similar program for perfume.”

4. Hip at the high end
Hotels brands like Ace prove that travelers will spend more to be around people and things they perceive as hip. Still, said Van Daal, while “hip and real luxury can go hand in hand, being hip is not enough. You still need great service to truly be luxury.”

5. Whimsical wandering
It may be a generational thing but there are travelers who like to arrive at their destination without any plans beyond their first hotel stay. Ezon, for example, has a couple spending $100,000 on their honeymoon and doing it day by day, consulting with him continuously about what to do next.

6. Speaking meaningfully
“Access is one thing,” said Susan Farewell of Farewell Travels, “but an experience that satisfies a greater sense of purpose is the ultimate luxury.” Farewell is putting together a trip for a family of five going to southeast Asia, for example, that will include an elephant encounter, though they are not interested in anything that exploits the animals for tourism. “They are interested in a non-profit ethical elephant experience, where they see the animals but are not riding them or enabling any exploitation of them.”

7. Unexpected pairings
Travelers are combining destinations and experiences that are very different from one another. Farewell is working on one trip where the couple is spending five days doing a cooking program in Tuscany and then moving up to Lake Garda for a few days of sailing lessons.

8. Fun with food
Everybody talks about cooking lessons or meeting the local chefs, but some want to go further. Farewell notes that in Ho Chi Minh City, you can take a Foodie Tour by Vespa, where a driver takes each traveler from one food venue to the next. It’s a high level of curated street food options, coffee houses, etc. The experience is off-the-charts fun but also informative and delicious.”

Della Grazia said some clients visit local homes where they cook and eat with the residents; sometimes those hosts act as local guides to explore the neighborhood.

9. Long-term trip planning
“I work with clients long term,” said Farewell, “seeing their travel needs in terms of five-year chunks. We develop a five-year travel plan for them, which we revisit every year. So I get questions like, ‘Where are we going this summer?’ They assume I have already thought it through for them based on their past trips, their kids’ ages, and the five-year plan we designed.”
 
10. Destination roulette
While everybody tries to figure out the “hot destinations,” sometimes it’s just random or based on a magazine article or news event, or even a shift in currency. Douglas Easton, managing partner at Celestielle Travel, said, “Maybe a new hotel will open or there’ll be an article in a travel magazine and suddenly bookings will come in. We had not a single Namibia booking last year and suddenly had four separate ones. That’s why you just have to be prepared for what comes up.”

Also, it’s long been known that even the wealthy like to get the best possible value in their vacations, and one way to do that is by staying on top of exchange rates with the dollar. Said Ezon, “If your client is going to spend $40,000 on a trip and there’s a big swing in the currency, they could save a third or more on that. That is why Europe has remained popular.”

11. Exotic emerges
Pedraza noted that younger travelers are heading for more exotic places, like Cambodia and Bali. “They have already been to the more traditional destinations so there is a real opportunity here.”

And Scott Wiseman, president of Cox & Kings, said, “Whether it’s requesting tickets to a sold-out baseball game in Japan, taking a motorcycle journey through Patagonia, textile shopping in remote India, or taking a private polo lesson in Argentina, today’s travelers are limited only by their imagination.”

12. Convenience is king
Luxury clients are flocking to buy ancillary services that make their travel experience easier. He Ezon said that over the past three years Ovation has had a 37.4% increase in ancillary travel products including: luggage shipping, airport greeters (to assist with connections, arrivals, and departures), and park guides (VIP guides in amusement parks to help deal with lines, logistics, etc.)

13. The human touch
“Even young people don’t just want to be digital beings,” said Pedraza. “They want to engage with other people—whether it’s tour guides, people on the street, or other travelers. It’s like when electricity was invented. You would flick the switch on and off because of the novelty. Now the novelty of digital has faded and people want emotional connections.”

14. It’s nice to share
The quality of sharing accommodations—whether it be Airbnb or sharing options introduced by hotel companies—is improving, said Pedraza. “This might lend itself to the local trend, as well, “because your sharing host might for a small fee become your local guide.”

15. Art is the new cuisine
While food has taken a central place in luxury travel, said Ezon, so too has art. “So many properties are recruiting an artist-in-residence and turning their public spaces into evolving galleries from local artists,” he noted, with revolving art exhibits. The new Faena Hotel in Miami Beach kicks up the art theme with a whole art district, art programs for guests, and a children’s art immersion experience where local artists inspire kids to create their own masterpieces. The Ritz-Carlton Toronto has an in-house artist who designs plates for the hotel’s restaurant and works with guests to design their own.

Source: http://www.travelmarketreport.com/articles/Travel-Professionals-Identify-15-Luxury-Travel-Trends-For-2016-And-Beyond

April 1, 2016

Heritage brands must amplify tradition of innovation to reach today’s consumer

Luxury Daily
By: Forrest Cardamenis
April 1, 2016

NEW YORK – Understanding the relationship between heritage and innovation is the key to appealing to today’s new consumer, according to panelists at the FACC Luxury Symposium on March 31.

Heritage brands have been successful for decades or centuries because within the heritage is a history of innovation around a core group of principles. While touting history could suggest to younger consumers that a brand is “old and stodgy” or the brand of their grandparents, focusing on innovating with products that appeal to today’s consumers will let the puzzle pieces fall into place.

“If we are heritage and brands that means we have stood the test of time, and we have stood the test of time because we have a tradition of successfully innovating,” said Trent Fraser, vice president Dom Pérignon, LVMH Wines & Spirits.

“We don’t make things that are required to sustain life; we have to find ways to fulfill people’s dreams and make them fall in love, and this requires innovation,” he said.

“Innovative companies ought to aspire to be heritage brands, because heritage brands have a history of innovation.”

FACC Luxury Symposium was organized by the French-American Chamber of Commerce.

Past and present
Before the commencement of the “Strong Heritage Brands: Artisans, Ateliers & Métiers” panel, a poll of the luxury executives in the room revealed that 81 percent believe the millennial attitude toward heritage brands is considerably different than their predecessors.

dom perignon.atelier bottle tasting
Dom Pérignon

“It’s not that surprising, but I think one of the most important things is desirability, not just in terms of millennials but for everyone,” Mr. Fraser said. “ One of my greatest challenges when I first joined was that there was this history and tradition of the brand’s story that needs to be told, but sometimes what comes with that is ‘old and stodgy, that’s my grandfather’s drink.’

“Telling that story today is quite difficult but we really need to bring it to life,” he said.

For Dom Pérignon, that story has been revitalized for younger consumers through the “Power of Creation” platform, which partners declared vintage wines with creators in different fields, bringing a fun, edgy and modern twist on the Dom Pérignon story.

For Baccarat, the sea change came on the level of how the product itself is marketed with “Everyday Baccarat,” which encourages consumers to extend their day by drinking from the brand’s crystal for breakfast and after dinner, not just for weddings and special occasions.

Baccarat Harcourt
Baccarat tumblers

“I was walking home on my first day, and it occurred to me, ‘We all have designer shoes, we all have designer handbags that we use everyday, yet we’re afraid to chip our glass so we don’t use it,’” said Jim Shreve, president, USA at Baccarat. “But look at the bottom of my shoes. Look at my watch with all the scratches – and these cost much more than some of our products.”

Everyday Baccarat appeals to all consumers, but with millennials being particularly skeptical about buying a product they will use infrequently, the proposition of crystal for everyday use could sell them on the brand.

The focus on the product is particularly important in fashion and jewelry, where brands must not shy away from being different or departing the norms.

robb.dec2014 chanel jewelry
Chanel jewelry ad

“Chanel as a heritage brand has been supported and carried by Mademoiselle Chanel through one word, for me, which is ‘disruptive,’” said Olivier Stip, senior vice president fine jewelry & watches, Chanel USA. “We are always trying to find what is the right balance between creation for the sake of the creation and the creation for a use for the customer.

“Heritage brands are the best place to be innovative,” he said. “When creative comes first and the marketing follows just to do the orchestration, that’s how you can create the blend, the innovation, and communicate the proper way.”

When telling a heritage story, brands must remember to keep the history on the present. The goal is not to sell consumers on a past success but rather on a tradition of quality still visible today.

For Van Cleef & Arpels, a museum exhibition must build a bridge between past and present.

Van Cleef & Arpels TEFAF 2016
Van Cleef & Arpels TEFAF 2016

“We go to a museum, we organize an exhibition, but the whole point is to prove craftsmanship is a living art and it doesn’t stay stuck in time,” said Alain Bernard, president and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels Americas. “Many people, many brands organize exhibitions in museums where they show pieces without any connection to what’s happening now.

“We need that heritage – the branches of a tree are never longer than the roots, so you need to have strong, deep, long roots before branching out – but the whole point of the exhibition is to show the evolution,” he said. “What we do today, what we do everyday, is inspired by what we have done before, and the exhibition shows that.”

Even in the service industry, where the ability to sell a consumer on an experience rather than on a product they don’t strictly need seems different, the principle is the same. Across all sectors, brands must adapt, whatever their service is – whether it is providing a place to stay or providing clothing and jewelry of a high quality that will last a lifetime – to the contemporary mindset.

“At Ritz-Carlton we absolutely believe exceptional service is timeless, it never goes out of style,” said Tina Edmundson, global officer of luxury and lifestyle brands, Marriott International. “What that actually means continues to evolve.”

Ritz-Carlton Chicago Deca Restaurant
Ritz-Carlton Chicago Deca Restaurant

Rather than fear these changes, whether it is mindset about what qualifies as a desirable product, a different purchase journey or something else entirely, brands selling either goods or services must find the proper blend of change and heritage. To that effect, 71 percent of executives in the room believe that brands should communicate CSR guidelines in an explicit manner to connect with millennials.

Shifting emphasis
In the case of personal luxury goods, another balancing act is the one between online and in-store channels. More than half of polled executives say that with new business models and a new generation of luxury consumers, the retail store is more important than before.

Despite the continued importance of the bricks-and mortar store, they are still generally operating in an out-of-date fashion, creating obstacles for sales staff, according to the Luxury Institute.

The consultancy conducted a focus group with 40 store managers who oversee multi-brand, premium and luxury stores, and found that there are a number of improvements that companies could make to help their in-store staff be more productive and effective. From updating technology and CRM systems to reallocating employee resources, there is room for improvement that needs to begin at the top (see story).

By the same token, some brands should opt to play up heritage, especially as they make a move to enter the new market. In these situations, connotations of datedness or stodginess will be displaced by curiosity about national heritage.

British brands looking to gain a foothold in the United States would do well to emphasize their “Britishness,” according to panelists at “GREAT Britain on Madison Avenue” held on Nov. 5.

British identity is wrapped up into ideas of elegance, heritage and wit. Brands venturing out of the United Kingdom into the U.S. or other countries need to find ways to inform consumers not just of the brand but also of the significance of its home country (see story).

“The challenge for our brand is the challenge for any brand – to continue to evolve based on the environment,” said Alex Bolen, CEO of Oscar de la Renta. “We need to evolve around a core set of standards and principles that should remain unchanged, but how those are expressed will change as our environment changes.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/heritage-brands-must-amplify-tradition-of-innovation-to-reach-todays-consumer/

March 7, 2016

Luxury Institute finds 7 improvements luxury retailers can make right now to improve sales

Luxsell
By: Victoria MacDonald
March 2, 2016

In the excellent article “Luxury Institute Reveals 7 Major Improvements Store Managers Recommend to Drive Sales Performance Right Now,” Milton Pedraza, CEO of Luxury Institute, LLC, shares results of an intimate focus group he conducted with  store managers of premium and luxury brands and shares their best practices and recommendations to improve sales.

“…luxury and premium retail store management today is configured for rigid Industrial Age operational efficiency, rather than highly-adaptive, relationship-building effectiveness.”

– Milton Pedraza, Luxury Institute

The seven improvements include:

  1. Store teams desire to be more relationship-centric and want to be freed from back-office tasks.
    The suggestion is to separate back-of-house and customer-facing staff. This way your sales associates can do what they do best – build relationships with your customers.
  2. Select and maintain the right-sized team to drive superior results.
    Managers shared that 40% of their employees are poor performers. Make sure you’re hiring the right people! When I worked at Tiffany & Co., we moved away from hiring associates based on their experience in the jewelry industry, to using a pre-hire assessment to find those associates who best demonstrated the personality traits and behaviors we valued.
  3. Better, smarter, and faster ways to manage inventory and client data are needed right now.
  4. Teaching fundamentals once a year is great, but what is really needed in stores is coaching on a much more frequent basis.
    Learning is a process, not an event. Managers must become part of the training process in order to support, encourage and sustain the learning. But that means managers may need help in developing their coaching skills. Take a look at a simple coach-the-coach program I outlined in an earlier post.
  5. Use social media and other tools to connect with millennials and drive them to stores.
  6. Empower local innovation since store teams know clients better than anyone else.
  7. Compensation is fair, but the goals are sometimes not.

Though luxury store results thus far for 2016 may be less than outstanding, the collected wisdom from these store managers can help you refocus, revamp and revive your store’s approach to luxury sales.

http://luxsell.me/2016/03/02/luxury-institute-finds-7-improvements-luxury-retailers-can-make-right-now-to-improve-sales/

Saks extends associates’ knowledge, expertise to curated online service

Luxury Daily
By: Jen King
March 7, 2016

Department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue is personalizing its online shopping experience to transfer the service received in-store to anywhere consumers wish to shop.

In recent months, omnichannel strategy has taken hold over retailing, with brands coming to execute programs that enhance the relationship between in-store shopping and that conducted online. As such, the luxury industry will benefit from increasing personalized interaction online as a reflection, and continuation, of the experience while in a physical store location, thus offering its consumers a consistent presentation and level of service regardless of the platform.

“When it comes to luxury shopping, there is no substitute for the personalized experience offered by a knowledgeable Saks Associate,” said Joe Milano, senior vice president, general manager, digital retail and ecommerce at Saks Fifth Avenue, New York.

“Providing our customers with the same high-touch Saks experience and store environment online will not only help us strengthen relationships with existing customers, but also allow us to connect personally with the saks.com customer,” he said.

“Saks Fifth Avenue prides itself on the relationships and experiences built between its associates and customers. With this new technology, Saks has the ability to provide all customers the same 1 to 1 personalized experience no matter the channel.”

Personal shoppers online
Saks’ latest endeavor introduces a consumer offering that brings the retailer’s in-store experience directly to its online shoppers. Through the initiative, consumers can connect with Saks Associates around the clock, every day of the week, to reap the benefits of its personalized services.

For the online service program, Saks teamed with retail technology firm Salesfloor. As a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform, Salesfloor works to connect local retail sales associates with online shoppers to create a personalized experience.

With quick integration that melds easily with a retailer’s existing CRM and client software, Salesfloor can be customized to fit with a retailer’s specifications. According to Salesfloor, retailers that partner with its SaaS platform see a tenfold lift in online conversations, and up to a 75 percent increase in average order value.

“In today’s world we have omni-channel customers, therefore associates in the store need to be omnichannel as well, so they can serve the customer even after they have left the store,” said Oscar Sachs, CEO of Salesfloor. “Salesfloor redefines the role of a sales associate so that they can directly drive the online business as much as the in-store business.

“With Salesfloor, retailers can empower associates to develop relationships at scale with customers and to personalize the online experience with curated product, content and live service,” he said.

Using Salesfloor’s SaaS, Saks now has the ability to create customizable saks.com boutique pages with the help of its team of dedicated Saks Associates. Each customized online boutique will be personally curated by a Saks Associate to include an assortment of merchandise and will be easily found through a dedicated URL.

Similar to a favorite in-store associate, consumers can continue to refer to the dedicated URL that houses their curated merchandise picks based on their personal taste and needs. The program also gives Saks Associates another way to connect with new and established consumers in the online space.

Connections can be had over hand-picked merchandise, styling expertise and industry knowledge. Further adapting to how the consumer wishes to shop, the Saks Associates can be reached via live chat, email or through scheduled appointments.

Additional touchpoints include the Saks Associate’s ability to showcase their online storefronts to consumers through email and social media tools built within a mobile application.

“Luxury brands depend on creating relationships with their customers and offering a high level of service,” Mr. Sachs said. “In-store, luxury brands do a great job at differentiating themselves from the competition through store design, sales associates and merchandising.

“However online the differentiation is much more narrow and retailers are struggling to maintain loyal online customers, which is increasingly becoming a large part of the retail business,” he said. “With Salesfloor, retailers can now leverage their trusted associates to better serve the online customer and to personalize the online experience.”

Furthering experience
The human element is going to be the top differentiator among luxury brands going forward, according to the CEO of Luxury Institute at Luxury Interactive Europe 2015.

As consumers increasingly experience the world through screens, they will come to crave the now-rare human connection. Here is where luxury brands can help themselves stand apart by outperforming their peers at relationship building and delivering a worthwhile personal touch (see story).

For instance, department store chain Neiman Marcus is changing the apparel shopping experience for consumers with a new digital mirror that remembers users.

The Memory Mirror takes a 360-degree video of a client modeling a particular outfit, allowing them to see clothing on themselves from all angles as well as save and share the visual. This interactive digital touchpoint will alter the in-store experience for Neiman Marcus’ consumers and further empower sales associates to provide customer service (see story).

Also, retailer Nordstrom expanded its mobile commerce capabilities with a new feature that enables shopping via text message.

The retailer claims its TextStyle is the first of its kind for a department store in the United States, allowing for a secure, one-to-one buying experience between a consumer and a sales associate. Consumers are constantly connected to their phones, so this enables Nordstrom to serve them in a personal way no matter where they are (see story).

“Retail’s landscape is changing –customers demand a seamless shopping experience across all channels,” Saks’ Mr. Milano said. “To capitalize on this, Saks Fifth Avenue found a digital solution that combines our highest trafficked channel with our highest converting channel, our stores. Now, Saks Associates can connect directly to customers 24/7 via this new technology.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/saks-extends-associates-knowledge-expertise-to-curated-online-service/

March 2, 2016

Retail store system is broken: Luxury Institute

Luxury Daily
By: Sarah Jones
March 2, 2016

Bricks-and-mortar retail is still generally operating in an out-of-date fashion, creating obstacles for sales staff, according to the Luxury Institute.

The consultancy conducted a focus group with 40 store managers who oversee multi-brand, premium and luxury stores, and found that there are a number of improvements that companies could make to help their in-store staff be more productive and effective. From updating technology and CRM systems to reallocating employee resources, there is room for improvement that needs to begin at the top.

“Currently, stores are designed to be points of sale rather than relationship building centers,” said  Milton Pedraza, founder and CEO of Luxury Institute. “Stores need to be redesigned aesthetically and digitally to be spaces that make clients feel special and inspires them to buy.”

In-store solutions
Store managers frequently find themselves off the sales floor as they work to fulfill organizational tasks in the back of the house, such as sorting inventory, generating reports and communicating with the corporate office. This time they spend in their offices takes away from time they could be spending creating a relationship with customers.

In addition, sales associates may run into the back to open boxes, leaving them frazzled and potentially dirty when they return to meet clients on the sales floor.

Apple, for one, has changed this division of responsibilities, separating the functions of operations and consumer engagement into different positions. In place of the store staff, a specialized team could take care of back of house operations for a small region.

Hugo Boss New York Fifth Ave store 400
Hugo Boss store on Fifth Avenue

This frees up sales staff to focus on client retention, data collection and conversion, which will add up to sales in the long term. In this environment, Luxury Institute found store managers would feel more comfortable having higher sales goals set.

More than half of managers said they have absolutely no control over hiring and firing their employees, and none have complete control, creating an environment where up to 40 percent of workers are underperforming.

While they do not have the ability to build their teams to their specifications, store managers are still held accountable for the results generated by their employees. These managers would like corporate to enact educational outreach to train managers and associates in employee selection, helping them to assess a candidate’s fit for the job outside of their skills and experience.

Size of staff is also a concern, as the managers polled agreed that just raising their employee number by 10 percent could boost sales by 25 percent.

Most managers appreciate the annual meetings that bring together store employees and corporate representatives to discuss products and store challenges. However, most feel that this one-time meeting is not enough, preferring a biannual schedule or a meeting per new season.

Gucci_Store_ Montenpoleone_handbags
Gucci Montenapoleone store

Managers are also concerned about their coaching of employees, something that many say they never received any training on. The efficacy and frequency of coaching from a manager to a sales associate can have a great impact on sales.

Corporate should also give store-level managers a certain level of freedom to respond and react to opportunities in their local market to drive growth. This may mean sharing best practices with a non-competitive brand or using insights to innovate the store experience.

Typically, corporate chooses to dictate down to the stores, allowing minimal room for flexibility.

In-store technology has not caught up to today’s omnichannel shopping patterns. Retailers could be missing out on 10 to 20 percent of sales by not sharing inventory across channels, as they are unable to offer another option to purchase an out-of-stock item in their store.

Another investment that would change client engagement is the implementation of a customer relationship management platform. Many retailers have no CRM system in place, choosing to store data gathered at point of sale in clunky spreadsheets, and only half have a CRM that they like.

DFS shopper3
DFS shopper

CRM platforms allow associates to access data more easily, helping them to spot opportunities for client engagement. Technology is a big deal to staff, and stores without upgraded platforms may see their top performers leaving to join a competitor who does have the necessary technology to help them be more successful.

“Brands have spent millions of dollars on the best technology and digitization in their stores, yet are seeing no return on investment due to low usage of the technology,” Mr. Pedraza said.

“However, these tools cannot help the associates increase their effectiveness if they are not actively engaged in using them,” he said. “Training and education dramatically increase the probability that the front line will use these tools to build client relationships and drive sales.”

Another step toward retaining staff is through compensation. Bonuses, which can be anywhere from 15 to 20 percent of a base salary, are hinged on reaching what are often considered unrealistic goals, particularly in the face of turbulent economies.

Instead, managers suggest incentives based on exceeding the previous year’s results.

Millennial mindset
Millennials are growing into luxury shoppers, but despite having the same income levels as their boomer parents at their age, the more youthful set are saddled with more debt. In addition, this group favors experiences over things, making for a tougher sell for those marketing hard luxury.

One of the engagement tools that managers feel is underused is social media. Often, they are not empowered to use Instagram or Pinterest to communicate with a potential client by letting her know about new products or by sharing inspiration.

Consumers social media
Millennial consumers turn to social media for research

Social media has opened the world up for millennials and for the first time has allowed luxury brands to directly interact with tomorrow’s affluent consumers.

During Luxury Interactive 2015’s panel “Millennial Marketing — Tapping Into the Social-Obsessed Segment” on Oct. 15, executives from brands not typically associated with the millennial consumer discussed the importance of reaching out to this demographic while they are young to establish a connection and cement a bond that will mature as they age. Social media has emerged as the driving force behind these connections as various platforms allow the creativity and personalities of millennial consumers to flourish as they share and embrace their interests and passions (see story).

Leaders feel they do not have the resources or time available to effectively court millennials, either through special events catered to them.

“A common misconception is that millennials do not want human interaction,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Like other generations, millennials value relationships with those who prove to be experts on the product and are empathetic, trustworthy and generous. Luxury brands need to drive consumers to the stores through social media, outreach and events.”

Source: https://www.luxurydaily.com/the-retail-store-system-is-broken-luxury-institute/

February 25, 2016

Affluent men most apt to recommend Isaia, Loro Piana to close connections: report

Luxury Daily
By: Sarah Jones
February 25, 2016

Being popular does not always lead to strong word of mouth, according to a recent survey of affluent men conducted by the Luxury Institute.

The top five brands listed in the men’s consideration sets were not the same as the five they would be most keen to endorse to family and friends. With luxury consumers, particularly those in emerging markets, becoming more sophisticated shoppers, smaller boutique labels have the opportunity to expand awareness by leveraging the recommendations of existing clientele.

“With technology and information at the tip of everyone’s fingertips, customers are becoming much more aware and interested in the boutique and ‘in-the-know’ brands,” said Milton Pedraza, founder and CEO of Luxury Institute. “The customer is better informed not only about the product, but also every aspect of a company’s brand values down to the supply chain.

“The most recognizable brands still have a major advantage, but with the customer’s ability to access product and brand information like never before, these companies are held under a microscope and their clients are willing and able to move to another brand at any moment.”

Luxury Institute’s latest Luxury Brands Status Index polled 3,900 affluent men from the top seven wealthiest nations about 42 menswear brands. Individuals had annual household incomes of at least $150,000 in the United States; 60,000 pounds in the United Kingdom; 50,000 euro in France, Germany and Italy; 1 million yuan in China and 150 million yen in Japan.

Public perception
Consumers were asked how much they agreed with four statements about each brand in question: “This brand delivers consistently superior quality,” “This brand is truly unique and exclusive,” “This brand is purchased by people who are admired and respected” and “This brand makes its buyers feel special across the full customer experience.”

The resulting LBSI ranges from one to 10 and represents an average of all respondents’ scores for the label.

According to the study, Isaia is the most effective at making consumers feel special across the entire purchase experience. The brand is perceived as being a label respected, admired men wear and buy.

While the Italian label is not widely known, with only 3 percent of those surveyed aware of the brand, the relatively small population that is familiar feels very strongly about the brand’s quality. Seventy-five percent of those who know Isaia would recommended it to other consumers.

The top five brands based on status were all small Italian designers with comparably limited awareness. Besides Isaia, men are most willing to endorse Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Loro Piana Gstaad illustration
Illustration by Loro Piana

On the opposite side of the spectrum is Calvin Klein, which men were most likely to have purchased in the past year. Despite its popularity among affluent male shoppers, Calvin Klein’s LBSI score is lowest among the brands studied.

Next in popularity is Ralph Lauren, which topped the list of brands considered for the next apparel purchase. Rounding out the top five most well-known and frequently purchased labels are Hugo Boss, Burberry and Giorgio Armani.

When it comes to high prices, affluent men feel that Hermès, Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna and Loro Piana are the most worthy of premium price points. Armani, which came in fifth, was the only brand ranked at the top of the list for price justification and purchase intent.

“Quality, while extremely important, is only one factor that contributes to the success of a brand,” Mr. Pedraza said. “While Loro Piana and Gianluca Isaia scored highest in the Superior Quality LBSI score, they were also among the lowest ranked in Brand Familiarity.

“The consumers’ considerations for next purchase coincide closely with brand familiarity, likely because customers want certainty in their purchases, especially in a downward economy,” he said. “The trusted and familiar brands provide that.”

A similar Luxury Institute survey of affluent women yielded complementary results, showing that both male and female clientele may have more esteem for the labels they are not currently buying from (see story).

Spreading word
Affluent consumers still care about a brand’s rarity, with less common labels having better appeal.

Exclusivity and desirability go hand in hand for China’s wealthy, with the same brands ranked in the top five for both characteristics in a recent study by Promise Consulting and BNP Exane.

Hermès takes home top prize for exclusivity, which measures the consistent quality of goods, the brand’s prestige, the valuation of the brand’s customers and its ability to justify a high price point. Chinese consumers are generally becoming more sophisticated luxury consumers, making for tougher competition between labels for their attention and affection (see story).

For brands with a strong, loyal following, social media makes it easier for word-of-mouth recommendations to spread. Particularly among luxury consumers, a referral can have a large impact on purchase decisions.

According to a recent report by The Future Laboratory, the luxurian demographic relies heavily on the recommendations of friends and family. Many respondents shared that they ask for information and opinions of their peers before purchasing a luxury good or service.

Overall, 23 percent of respondents refer to peers when contemplating a purchase, showing that word of mouth remains powerful in the luxury goods sector (see story).

“Isaia has an incredible opportunity to increase recognition and awareness through relationship building at the front-line level, referral programs and word of mouth generation,” Mr. Pedraza said. “Using social media platforms to appeal to millennials and producing information for customers to review will draw in new consumers.

“Because of their exceptional ranks in quality and customer experience, they have an advantage that will allow brand referrals to spread quickly.”

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/affluent-men-most-apt-to-recommend-isaia-loro-piana-to-close-connections-report/

February 24, 2016

What Are The Best Luxury Brands?

Luxury Institute 2016 Global Survey Utilized Those Who Know, Voted – Affluent Men From Seven Countries Rank 42 Luxury Fashion Brands, Rate Each on Multiple Criteria

Pblicty
February 24, 2016

The New York-based Luxury Institute surveyed 3,900 high-income consumers from seven countries who met the following income thresholds in local currencies: United States ($150,000); United Kingdom (£60,000); France, Germany, Italy (EUR50,000); China (1 million CNY); and Japan (¥150 million).

Interestingly, “smaller brands now more than ever are finding it easier to make a big impact on the fashion industry in a relatively short period of time as they use the latest technology to bring their designs to a global stage,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “In this kind of landscape, both bigger and smaller fashion houses need to monitor the degree to which their brands resonate favorably with their target customers.”

Respondents rated 42 men’s fashion brands (0-10) on quality, exclusivity, social status, and self-enhancement. In addition, affluent shoppers weighed in on whether they are willing to recommend specific brands to family and friends. They also indicated which fashion brands are worth the premium prices, and which brands they are most likely to consider for upcoming fashion purchases.

Luxury Brand Status Index scores range from 0-10, and are an average of respondents’ degree of agreement with each of the following four statements:

- “This brand delivers consistently superior quality.”

- “This brand is truly unique and exclusive.”

- “This brand is purchased by people who are admired and respected.”

- “This brand makes its buyers feel special across the full customer experience.”

Worldwide popularity does not equate to higher brand status. In fact, each of the top five men’s fashion brands are smaller Italian designers with which only a very few affluent men were familiar.

Gianluca Isaia is a worldwide standout for being purchased by people who are admired and respected, and was also named the best brand at making buyers feel special across the full customer experience. In addition, 75% of men who are familiar with the Isaia brand would recommend it to others. Despite being held in high esteem by affluent travelers, Isaia is not a well-known name, identified by only 3% of men surveyed.

Calvin Klein is the brand that men around the world are most likely to have purchased in the past year, even though Calvin Klein ranks last in overall LBSI score among all brands evaluated. Ralph Lauren is the brand most likely to be considered the next time a fashion purchase is made, and it is among the three most popular brands along with Calvin Klein and Brooks Brothers among affluent U.S. men.

Worldwide, the top five fashion brands with which affluent men are most familiar, and most likely to have purchased in the past year, are Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Burberry, and Giorgio Armani. Armani is also one of the top five brands that affluent men from around the world view as most worthy of premium pricing. The top four are Hermès, Brioni, Ermenegildo Zegna, and Loro Piana.

The willingness of affluent shoppers to recommend a brand to family and close friends may be the best overall measure of satisfaction. On a global basis, wealthy men are most likely to recommend Gianluca Isaia, Loro Piana, Brunello Cucinelli, Brioni, and Ermenegildo Zegna.

Below are all 42 men’s luxury fashion brands under consideration in the 2016 LBSI survey:

1. Alexander McQueen

2. Balenciaga

3. Bally

4. Bottega Veneta

5. Brioni

6. Brooks Brothers

7. Brunello Cucinelli

8. Burberry

9. Calvin Klein

10. Canali

11. Dior Homme

12. Dolce & Gabbana

13. Dunhill

14. Ermenegildo Zegna

15. Etro

16. Faconnable

17. Salvatore Ferragamo

18. Giorgio Armani

19. Gianluca Isaia

20. Givenchy

21. Gucci

22. Hermes

23. Hugo Boss

24. Jil Sander

25. John Varvatos

Source: https://www.pblcty.com/article/12645/what-are-the-best-luxury-brands

Dollars & Ssense

A Montreal computer engineer has built one of the world’s most successful designer fashion platforms. Marina Strauss goes behind the scenes to learn how Ssense’s Rami Atallah coaxes shoppers into $860 sweatpants

The Globe and Mail
By: Marina Strauss
February 24, 2016

In Montreal’s shrinking Chabanel garment district where businesses increasingly struggle to stay afloat, an unlikely fashion player has emerged. Fast-growing Ssense (pronouced “essence”), which stocks hundreds of luxury brands ranging from the established Alexander McQueen to up-and-coming Vetements, is headed not by a fashion professional but a computer engineer. Rami Atallah, its chief executive officer, caters to a global clientele by selling goods mostly online (he has one store in Old Montreal), while many tony rivals have been slow to embrace e-commerce. In doing so, he is set on shaking up the estimated $396-billion international luxury fashion segment, one pair of $860 sweatpants at a time.

“[The luxury market] is definitely changing,” says the slender Atallah, clad in black Saint Laurent jeans – a label he favours for its slim fit – and Eytys sneakers. He’s sitting at a sleek marble boardroom table at Ssense’s expanding head office, where large windows provide an unobstructed view of the city centre and Mont Royal in the distance. “There is a shift from pure luxury to something more experiential. There has to be a strong message, at the end of the day. It has to bring an added layer to the conversation that is happening around fashion.”

Ssense’s customers are big spenders like marketing executives, musicians and athletes who don’t think twice about dropping an average of $900 on a piece of clothing (its priciest sale to date was a $30,000 black limited-edition Rolex). Though its roots are in men’s wear, Atallah is predicting that women’s apparel will soon dominate.

Less affluent shoppers buy single items – a $375 Marc Jacobs sailor blouse, perhaps – and mix it up with lower-priced staples, he says. Only 18 per cent of the clientele is Canadian, his figures show. Almost half live in the United States and 10 per cent in China (others are in places as far-flung as South Korea, Australia, Hong Kong and Japan). And almost 80 per cent are coveted millennials, between 18 and 34.

Contrary to the merchandising strategy of many other luxe outlets, the product selection at Ssense prioritizes statement pieces over everyday basics. Recent arrivals include looks by (from left) Sacai, Yeezy, Roksanda and Vetements.

 

Contrary to the merchandising strategy of many other luxe outlets, the product selection at Ssense prioritizes statement pieces over everyday basics. Recent arrivals include looks by (from left) Sacai, Yeezy, Roksanda and Vetements.

At just 33, Atallah shares a demographic with his customer. He got the e-commerce itch as an engineering student in the early 2000s when he bought a $200 pair of Diesel jeans and sold them on Ebay. They fetched $350, so he bought more posh denim and made $15,000 in a month. He was so enamoured with the process that he decided to build an e-commerce platform as his engineering thesis. His brothers, Firas (who now serves as chief financial officer) and Bassel (chief operating officer) joined him in launching the business. His family, who immigrated from Syria when Rami was 15, invested tens of thousands of dollars in the company.

Founded in 2003, Ssense stands out not only as a Canadian player in the luxury e-commerce field, but also for its fashion-forward merchandise mix. Spring’s women’s-wear selection includes Sacai’s contemporary lace pieces, Yeezy’s moth-eaten knits and tailored streetwear by Acne Studios. Ssense’s influence on suppliers is such that it can work directly with a label like Vetements – whose following includes Rihanna and Kanye West and whose creative head, Demna Gvasalia, recently took the reins at Balenciaga – to develop exclusive capsule lines. “Ssense are great partners and our most important account as of today,” says Vetements’s CEO Guram Gvasalia.

The website’s edgy, anti-fashion tone sets it apart in a competitive marketplace where retailers struggle to make a profit while vying with big brands that increasingly sell from their own sites.

Ssense started with a focus on men’s wear and still sells a good chunk of its inventory to fashion-forward guys. Its new campaign features Majid Jordan – the producing and recording duo signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label – photographed at the University of Toronto wearing minimal sportswear by labels such as Miharayasuhiro, Calvin Klein, Lanvin and Reebok Classics.

 

Ssense started with a focus on men’s wear and still sells a good chunk of its inventory to fashion-forward guys. Its new campaign features Majid Jordan – the producing and recording duo signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label – photographed at the University of Toronto wearing minimal sportswear by labels such as Miharayasuhiro, Calvin Klein, Lanvin and Reebok Classics.

“It’s a tough business,” says Darrell Kopke, foudner of business accelerator Institute B and former CEO of Kit and Ace, a high-end casual-wear chain. “Young people who are willing to buy a brand online that they haven’t previously experienced are not into luxury fashion.”

The online market is dominated by Net-a-Porter, which was bought late last year by e-commerce titan Yoox. But even Net-a-Porter had been in the red. Other consolidation has hit the industry in a bid to boost the bottom line. In January, Hudson’s Bay Co. snapped up Gilt.com for $250-million (U.S.), a far cry from the $1-billion valuation it received following a 2011 round of funding, while a few years earlier, Nordstrom swallowed HauteLook.com. Fashion e-tailer Nasty Gal recently cut about 10 per cent of its staff.

“There will continue to be consolidation among all these players and some will go under,” predicts Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute in New York.

Atallah says privately owned Ssense has enjoyed 82-per-cent compound annual sales growth since its inception, with a projected five million monthly visitors by the end of 2016. Industry estimates suggest its total annual sales are in the nine figures. What’s more, Ssense turns a profit, pouring only the money it makes back into the business rather than investing more by raising venture-capital or other outside funds, as rivals do, he says. With more than 200 full-time employees today (more than double the number it had two years ago), the company plans to expand to more than 300 this year.

Atallah used his computer engineering background to build the e-commerce platform.

 

Atallah used his computer engineering background to build the e-commerce platform.

What is key for Atallah is collecting data on shoppers who come to his site, tracking their habits and responding appropriately. For instance, the faster Ssense ships an order, the more likely customers are to shop again, he says (the site offers free next-day delivery in Canada). He’s also found that those who read the site’s extensive editorial content are more likely to eventually make a purchase.

Atallah recently hired Joerg Koch, a Berlin-based fashion guru and founder of the indie magazine 032c as the website’s first editor-in-chief.

Koch’s mandate is to focus not on touting products so much as ideas to reach the sensibilities of Ssense’s young, well-heeled customer – some of the stories are provocative. In a profile on Ian Connor, a member of Kanye West’s creative team and, purportedly, the pop culture icon’s style muse, the 22-year-old liberally uses the F-word and other potentially offensive language as he holds forth about the power of social media and creativity, while a photo shows him pensively smoking.

Kopke gives Ssense high marks for taking risks with its content. “That is the attention-grabbing headline you need to cultivate a tribe of followers,” he says. “It has to be divisive.”

Janet Bannister, a venture capitalist who was the CEO of online fashion startup The Coveteur, says Ssense is being bold by combining content and e-commerce. Many e-commerce players have tested marrying the two but abandoned it because generating editorial content is relatively expensive, she says. The content “does not necessarily result in incremental e-commerce transactions unless it is very tightly integrated with e-commerce.”

“It’s about earning the trust of the readers so they don’t perceive you as an advertisement but as media,” counters Atallah. Ssense’s data shows that consumers who click through editorial content spend 7 per cent more on their orders and return to the site 300 per cent more often than those who don’t.

Perhaps, surprisingly, Ssense’s growth strategy also involves upping the cachet of its physical stores. Currently, it operates a single flagship in Old Montreal (hanging on the rack during a recent visit: a $670 men’s camouflage T-shirt by Valentino). By next year, Ssense will move to a nearby six-storey building that’s eight times larger than its current shop. It has hired award-winning, London– based architect David Chipperfield to design the new outlet. More flagships in key international markets will follow.

Says Atallah: “We have really big ambitions.”

Source: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/fashion-and-beauty/fashion/the-montreal-company-shaking-up-luxury-fashion-one-pair-of-860-sweatpants-at-atime/article28845855/

February 23, 2016

Chanel defines house style in haute couture vocabulary lesson

Luxury Daily
By: Sarah Jones
February 23, 2016

French couturier Chanel is schooling consumers on its design lexicon in the latest edition of its Inside Chanel series.

“The Vocabulary of Fashion” flips through an imagined dictionary of Chanel terminology, which includes notable codes such as pearls, the camellia and tweed. Throughout this video, the brand documents the details that both house founder Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and present creative director Karl Lagerfeld incorporate in their garments and accessories, providing proof of Chanel’s enduring, timeless aesthetic.

“In the process of recounting the elements of Chanel’s vocabulary, the brand allows for a direct juxtaposition of Coco Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld,” said said Thomaï Serdari, Ph.D., founder of PIQLuxury, Co-editor of Luxury: History Culture Consumption and adjunct professor of luxury marketing at New York University, New York. “This is not intended as a comparison against a scale of success but rather as as reminder that Coco, the creator of the language, catalyzed the creation of a brand, within which Karl Lagerfeld creates today.

“It shines equal quality and intensity of light on both designers since they both address cultural imperatives of their own time,” she said. “This is where Chanel maintains its advantage today: Lagerfeld’s creations incorporate cultural intelligence that resonate with contemporary society, a trait that has been prominently celebrated in each one of his fashion shows. The brand gives him the tools that Coco put in place and he helps advance the brand in a direction that ensures its longevity and future.”

Ms. Serdari is not affiliated with Chanel, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

Chanel was unable to comment directly.

Branded definitions
Chanel’s video was published to social media as well as the brand’s Inside Chanel microsite.

The fourteenth chapter begins with a sketched shot of Chanel’s buildings on Rue Cambon. Zooming in, the camera takes the consumer inside of an upper floor, where a book lays on a table.

As if by magic, the animated book opens by itself, and a voiceover begins to read text as it appears on the page. First, the female voice explains that “Chanel is a vocabulary, a set of cannons, a discipline. A grammar.”

Flipping to the definitions, the book first explains “the handbag.” Inspired by the saddle bags with straps used by the military, Chanel made her own version of the “essential” lined with grosgrain, eventually adding the now-iconic quilted pattern and a chain-link strap in 1955, creating the 2.55.

As the voiceover talks, the video sketches the article of clothing or accessory mentioned, illustrating the signature look.

Next is the little black dress, which the virtual encyclopedia explains was fashioned after nuns’ habits. This new style, which freed women from corsets, lives on to this day and is reinterpreted by Mr. Lagerfeld in textiles such as jersey or silk.

Costume jewelry, which is defined as “the illumination of Gabrielle Chanel,” incorporates gemstones and crystals. These take influence from Venetian and Byzantine eras along with bygone days in England and Russia.

The camellia makes an appearance in many Chanel designs, as Coco Chanel selected it as her emblem. This scentless flower depicted in white serves as a brightness to the black attire popularized by Chanel.

Chains are used liberally as belts or jewelry, reinterpreting the metallic links with the addition of leather or embellishments. A chain is positioned at the bottom hem of Chanel jackets to perfect the form.

The inspiration behind the two-tone shoes is then revealed, as the narrator explains how beige lengthens the leg while black hides spots. The two colors also break up the foot, making it look smaller.

Much like the camellia, pearls serve as a light against Coco Chanel’s preferred black, and she would not go to her workshop without a strand as her fashionable armor. Mr. Lagerfeld continues to experiment with pearls in his design, making them a “shimmering signature.”

After seeing the Duke of Westminster’s hunting garb in tweed, Ms. Chanel was inspired to work with the traditionally Scottish textile. Made into women’s suits, the narrator says, “The tweed jacket never goes out of style.”

The parting note of the glossary is a quote from Ms. Chanel, who opines, “Fashion passes, style remains.”

“With its latest video, Chanel is re-establishing its own brand,” Ms. Serdari said. “This is a very straightforward message articulated at the opening of the video with the phrase: ‘Chanel is a vocabulary, a set of canons, a discipline, a grammar.’

“What Chanel is, in other words, is a well-defined brand,” she said. “This is extremely important, not only in the context of the previous 13 chapters that spoke to individual elements of Chanel’s mythology and heritage, but most importantly in the context of today’s fashion world and the challenges a lot of fashion brands face as they try to preserve their heritage while also move into the future.

“This is a delicate task and is best accomplished when the set of rules are clear, when the DNA can be broken down to specific elements and when the grammar set in place allows the creative director to speak the language of contemporary fashion rather than an antiquated and tired reworking of elements from times past. Chanel, the brand, has evolved from specific points of departure but continues to explore their relationship with contemporary culture proposing creations that are both recognizable as Chanel staples and innovative applications of the original.”

In a brand statement, Mr. Lagerfeld explains, “Mademoiselle Chanel handed us down a style. And the style she advocated never dates. Chanel’s success was knowing how to get across the elements of her identity. Timeless music built around five notes by which women instantly recognize the essence of Chanel: luxury and refinement.”

Inside look
The Inside Chanel series, launched in 2012, takes a detailed look at elements that make up the Chanel brand. These explore both the label’s history and the life of its iconic founder.

Chanel previously shared the personal inspiration behind its color codes with a social video.

The label’s “The Colors,” the eleventh chapter of Inside Chanel, focuses on the shades that appear as a common theme throughout the label’s fashion, accessories and beauty lines. This video helps Chanel showcase the consistency it has maintained, even with multiple designers at the helm (see story).

Chanel’s efforts to open up its brand to the world have had measured impact on its desirability and positioning.

A recent Luxury Institute study surveyed affluent women from seven of the world’s wealthiest nations to gain insights on which brands hold the most clout in terms of quality, exclusivity, social status and overall ownership. Chanel and French leather goods maker Hermès were ranked as the two fashion houses most worth their premium asking prices, followed by Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Prada.

Chanel was also ranked the most desirable luxury brand among wealthy Chinese women in a Promise Consulting survey, largely due to the label’s dive into its heritage through exhibits across the country.

“Let’s not forget that the audience in this case is varied,” Ms. Serdari said. “These videos are produced both for the audience at large but also for in-house consumption. It is extremely important for brands to update their own archives. Speaking of archives, let’s think of them in their most abstract meaning.

“This series of videos itself is a digital archive that has already incorporated material from the original paper archives, has enriched them with a narrative, storyline and contemporary graphic design and has released them to the new generation of customers but also fashion designers who can learn from them,” she said.

“Exploring a brand’s heritage for the sole purpose of flaunting it is a useless exercise–arrogant at its worst. To reflect on a brand’s heritage, update the format of its archives and draw lessons that can be useful within and without the brand is a test of the brand’s respect towards its audience, internal and external.”

Source: http://www.luxurydaily.com/chanel-defines-house-style-in-haute-couture-vocabulary-lesson/

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