Luxury Institute News

October 21, 2014

Luxury Institute Introduces Luxcelerate, an Empirically Proven Method to Drive High Performance in Building Client Relationships

Marketwired
October 21, 2014 80763_LuxcelerateLogo

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Oct 21, 2014) – Today, the New York-based Luxury Institute announced the launch of Luxcelerate, an enhanced version of its innovative successful 7-Step Customer Culture process. Luxcelerate is designed to accelerate sales performance via a proprietary methodology that focuses on empowering the customer-facing online and offline associates, helping brands to improve both client relationships and sales exponentially.

Presently, top brands are struggling to both expand and retain their client base. Top brands have a conversion rate of 10-15%, a data collection rate of 30-40% (approximately 25% of this data is unusable) and a first time buyer retention rate of 10%.

Luxcelerate encourages the individual sales associate to learn and execute the best practices in client relationship building. The process is designed to improve sales performance via an exclusive methodology that focuses on relationship building, while improving a brand’s conversion, data collection and retention rates.

Luxcelerate’s proprietary methodology is based on shared relationship values and standards that are designed by a brand’s front-line teams, and is therefore customized to fit the unique DNA and culture of each brand. Custom education programs use empirically proven learning principles to drive retention of critical knowledge. Measurement and reinforcement methodologies are then deployed individually to guarantee consistent daily execution. The outcome is humanistic, effective client relationship building that leads to sharp increases in sales.

Luxury Institute’s CEO Milton Pedraza developed Luxcelerate’s 7-step methodology. Mr. Pedraza established this innovative methodology after being inspired by best practices from education, medicine and aviation. Using this process, a number of top-tier luxury brands have doubled, or tripled, the accurate collection of critical client data, and have significantly increased client conversion and retention rates. Luxury Institute has worked with the top brands of major luxury groups, well-known brands owned by private equity firms, and small boutique brands, to drive sales at rates of 15-30% per annum.

“The Luxury Institute was invaluable in helping Malia Mills define and implement our clienteling process. The first quarter that we implemented our program we increased sales by a significant amount.” — Carol Mills, Co-Founder, Malia Mills

“Since embarking on this project, we have seen double digit increases in data collection, conversion and a significant acceleration in retail momentum.” — Claudia Poccia, President and CEO of Gurwitch, Owner of the Laura Mercier brand

References are available upon request. For more information please email luxinfo@luxuryinstitute.com or fill out a contact form at www.luxuryinstitute.com

Source: http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/luxury-institute-introduces-luxcelerate-empirically-proven-method-drive-high-performance-1959706.htm

October 14, 2014

WEALTHY AMERICANS RANK PREMIUM WINES, DIVULGE SPENDING AND DRINKING HABITS IN NEW LUXURY INSTITUTE SURVEY

Market Wired

NEW YORK, NY — (Marketwired) — 10/14/14 — More than two-thirds (70%) of wealthy U.S. consumers, under the age of 50, drink wine at least once a month, and they’re willing to pay premium prices for preferred vintages — an average of $48 per bottle at retail and $64 at a restaurant. These are among findings of the New York-based Luxury Institute’s just released Luxury Brand Status Index (LBSI) premium wines survey.

Consumers 21 and older from households with income of at least $150,000 a year evaluated 20 premium domestic wine brands on the degree to which each embodies the four “pillars” of brand value: superior quality, exclusivity, enhanced social status and an overall superior consumption experience. Respondents also reveal which wines are worth paying premium prices, which they would recommend to people close to them, and which brand they will buy next.

Based on overall 1-10 LBSI scores, Ghost Pines (7.65) earns top honors, and it ranks the highest on all four pillars of value. Known for California winemaker Michael Eddy’s multi-appellation blends of grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Monterey and San Joaquin counties, Ghost Pines is also the brand consumers deem most worthy of a price premium, even though many of its bottles sell for less than $20.

Other highly ranked premium domestic brands include Mount Veeder (7.39), Meiomi (7.30), Bridlewood (7.16) and Edna Valley (6.90).

“Winemaking is the quintessential luxury business in many ways,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Brand value begins with the best-quality raw materials and grows with fine craftsmanship and a relentless focus on execution and consistently delighting customers.”

Contact the Luxury Institute for more details and complete survey data.

Visit us at www.LuxuryInstitute.com and contact us with any questions or for more information.

The Luxury Institute, LLC
luxinfo@luxuryinstitute.com

Source:

http://www.einnews.com/pr_news/229093149/wealthy-americans-rank-premium-wines-divulge-spending-and-drinking-habits-in-new-luxury-institute-survey

October 6, 2014

La Jolla among tops in US for luxury home sales

San Diego Source
Daily Transcript Staff Report
October 6, 2014

San Diego is among the top 10 cities with the highest number of luxury home sales, according to a report by Coldwell Banker, with La Jolla high on the list.

San Diego saw the sale of 927 homes valued at $1 million-plus from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014. The Luxury Market Report was prepared by the Coldwell Banker Previews International marketing program.

Topping the list was San Francisco with 2,485 luxury homes sold — up nearly 57 percent from the previous year — followed by Los Angeles with 2,170 and New York with 2,145.

The report included three price points: $1 million, $5 million and $10 million.

Two of San Diego’s ZIP codes saw high sales of luxury homes.

La Jolla’s 92037 ZIP code had closings on 348 homes valued at $1 million or more, the third highest of all ZIP codes in the country at that price tier; 269 homes sold in Carmel Valley and Torrey Pines in the 92130 ZIP code.

Four homes valued over $10 million closed in La Jolla, which ranked 16th, the report said. The most $10 million homes, 58, sold in New York.

The U.S. high-end residential real estate market remains strong, with 48 percent of all wealthy consumers indicating they plan to buy a luxury home within the next 12 months, according to the companion survey of wealthy U.S. consumers with a net worth of at least $5 million, conducted by the Coldwell Banker Previews International program and the Luxury Institute.

Younger buyers are the most motivated to buy; an overwhelming 81 percent of affluent people younger than 35 plan to buy a luxury home in the next year.

Source: http://www.sddt.com/News/article.cfm?SourceCode=20141006cze&_t=La+Jolla+among+tops+in+US+for+luxury+home+sales#.VDQEJSldXDQ

October 4, 2014

Williams-Sonoma returns home to celebrate heritage

SFGate
Janet Fletcher
October 4, 2014

The store that introduced America to food processors and copper fish pans has returned to its Wine Country roots.

For many decades, Williams-Sonoma thrived by being one step ahead of its customers, selling them housewares they didn’t yet know they needed. But with this weekend’s opening of its newest venue, in Sonoma, the trendsetting company is looking back to celebrate its 99-year-old founder and recall its humble debut.

The project also reflects the Boomer-fueled brand’s efforts to woo a younger generation — Millennials, who aren’t exactly rushing to buy homes and stock kitchens.

This retro Williams-Sonoma, at the site of the original store, re-creates the look of the shop that Chuck Williams opened in 1956, down to the black-and-white checkerboard floor. “It’s going to be a total doppelganger,” said Wade Bentson, one of Williams’ first employees, who helped with its design.

With a 12-seat cooking school showcasing local talent, an edible garden, vintage merchandise and museum-style kitchenware exhibit, the store is opening in a town famously hostile to chains. But the billion-dollar retailer, for the most part, is being welcomed like a hometown hero.

“I’m totally excited about it,” said Sheana Davis, a community activist and proprietor of Epicurean Connection, a nearby cafe and cheese shop. “If you’re looking for opposition, I’m not it.”

Williams, who celebrated his 99th birthday this week, operated his store near the historic plaza for only two years before decamping to San Francisco. But his later success made Sonoma itself an international brand.

Visitors still inquire about the chain’s birthplace. “I’ve been introduced as his son several times,” said Steven Havlek, who owns Sign of the Bear, an independent kitchenware store on the plaza.

Re-creating the original

When the site at 605 Broadway became available in 2012, the retailer swooped in. The property included both Williams’ original 570-square-foot shop and an attached home and garden that he had shared with his mother.

“We found enough pictures and enough from (Williams) to rebuild the store exactly as it was,” said Janet Hayes, president of the Williams-Sonoma brand. The restoration includes original signage and the clean-lined open white shelving that became the stores’ trademark.

The new Sonoma store includes an exhibit of ingredients and tools that Williams popularized, such as Fini balsamic vinegar, Maldon sea salt, Le Creuset cookware and French mandolines. Williams’ restored home, attached to the store, has been repurposed as a design studio and showcase for Williams-Sonoma Home furnishings. The store is not all retro; the made-over garden boasts an outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and lots of merchandise from the company’s new Agrarian line, launched in 2012 in keeping with a younger generation’s fascination with urban farming.

The DIY cheese-making kits and high-end chicken coops that Williams-Sonoma is betting on today were definitely not in the mix when Williams began his retailing career. The society matrons who patronized Williams-Sonoma in the late 1950s were lured by the gleaming copper saucepans, Pillivuyt porcelain and fluted tart tins that Williams discovered in France. Jackie Kennedy and Julia Child were about to make French cuisine the epitome of chic, and Williams was poised to profit.

Cooking to entertaining

Urged by his affluent customers to move the shop to San Francisco, Williams listened when one of them suggested a spot near Elizabeth Arden, the high-end salon on Sutter Street. “In those days, women had beehive hair that required a lot of attention,” recalled Bentson, who began working for the store in 1961. “It wasn’t unusual for them to go to Arden’s two or three times a week, and they went right by our store.”

Women from Hillsborough, Piedmont and Marin would have their ball gowns shipped to Williams-Sonoma, drop their dogs off at the store, and then go and have their hair done, recalled Mary Risley, who founded Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco and is a longtime friend of Williams’. They bought Christmas presents and wedding gifts at Williams-Sonoma, especially after the merchant — again nudged by a customer — created a bridal registry to compete withGumps and Tiffany.

Child’s popular television show, which debuted in 1963, also fueled Williams-Sonoma’s sales. If Julia used it, “people beat the way to our store to get it,” Bentson said. San Francisco cooking teachers like Risley andJoyce Goldstein sent their students to the store for quiche pans, flan rings and souffle dishes — equipment that department stores of the day did not stock.

“Everybody was either taking cooking lessons or giving cooking lessons,” recalledJacqueline Mallorca, an early customer and ad agency employee who persuaded Williams that the store needed a mail-order catalog. Begun in 1972 and, for years, written by Mallorca, the innovative full-color mailer put Williams’ finds and favorite recipes within reach of all Americans.

Today, the recipes have migrated to the company’s website, and the catalog copy is far more clipped and concise. The September issue still includes Le Creuset and All-Cladcookware but also features packaged mixes for Bundt cakes, quick breads, waffles and breakfast bars — a shift noted unhappily by the culinary doyennes of San Francisco.

“There’s an awful lot of tableware,” sniffed Mallorca, an Englishwoman whose polished manners don’t conceal her dismay. “People today are not so interested in cooking as much as entertaining.”

Positioning for future

Goldstein, who later collaborated with Williams on several cookbooks, concurred. “At some point, Williams-Sonoma made the shift from being an educating store to being a lifestyle store, with tablecloths, napkins and pottery,” she said.

The publicly traded company’s other concepts — among them, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids and West Elm — are thriving, but the net revenue of the Williams-Sonoma brand has been stagnant in recent years and the store count is down. Branding experts and trend forecasters see both opportunities and challenges for the chain as it positions itself for the future.

Many affluent young consumers aren’t hurrying to buy homes, they say, and are more inclined to spend on experiences than on stuff.

“I’ve been invited to buy wedding gifts at experiential websites,” said Kara Nielsen, culinary director for Sterling-Rice Group, an advertising and branding agency in Boulder, Colo. Nielsen and others also point to a minimalist trend, a preference for smaller, less cluttered homes and simpler lives.

“A lot of Millennials believe in access but not ownership,” Nielsen said, pointing to the success of businesses that enable consumers to share cars or rent special-occasion clothes.

Building in diversity

Like other retailers, Williams-Sonoma needs to respond to changing demographics, marketing experts say. “Diversity has to be built into their product range and into their staff,” said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a consultant to high-end brands. Pedraza points to his own multicultural family, which includes Colombians, a Jewish lawyer from Long Island and a Hindu doctor.

“We make samosas for Thanksgiving with turducken and Spanish rice,” he said. “And we’re not atypical.”

Marc Halperin, a food and beverage consultant with San Francisco’s Center for Culinary Development, believes the chain is still a tastemaker and sharp observer of trends. The Agrarian line dovetails neatly with the urban homesteading wave, Halperin said. And the shift toward offering tableware, juicers and other appliances that have little to do with cooking may also be wise.

“There’s clearly a huge understanding of the consumer,” Halperin said. “The number and variety of espresso machines they’re selling is mind-boggling.”

Janet Fletcher is a food writer and cookbook author in Napa. E-mail:home@sfchronicle.com

Company milestones

1956: First Williams-Sonoma store opens on Broadway in Sonoma.

1958: Chuck Williams moves his thriving cookware store to Sutter Street in San Francisco.

1972: Williams-Sonoma mails its first cookware catalog, with a print run of 10,000.

1973: Williams-Sonoma opens its second store, in Beverly Hills. Chuck Williams introduces the Cuisinart food processor, a revolutionary French appliance.

1978: Chuck Williams encounters balsamic vinegar in Italy and begins to import it.

1983: With its initial public offering, Williams-Sonoma becomes a publicly traded company to raise money for expansion.

1986: Williams-Sonoma releases its first cookbook, starting a hugely successful publishing program.

1999: Williams-Sonoma starts its e-commerce site.

2006: Debut of Williams-Sonoma Home, a furniture and home decor collection

2012: Williams-Sonoma starts Agrarian, a line of products designed for urban homesteaders.

2014: Williams-Sonoma opens its240th store in Sonoma, at the site of the original store.

Source: http://www.sfgate.com/homeandgarden/article/Williams-Sonoma-returns-home-to-celebrate-heritage-5800000.php

October 1, 2014

Exclusive: Wealthy Consumer Survey 2014

Previews Inside Out
Coldwell Banker
October 1, 2014

You may picture wealthy Gen Y and Millenials as iPad-toting jetsetters who aren’t anxious to tie up their cash in a home. But they are among the most active players in luxury real estate, according to a new survey of ultra-wealthy consumers by Coldwell Banker Previews International® and the Luxury Institute.

“Young affluents recognize the value of real estate,” said Ginette Wright, vice president of marketing for Previews®/ NRT.  “And they are often bullish when it comes to real estate—they own more properties and tend to spend more on average. Their outlook on long-term appreciation is also more positive.”

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The survey found that 73% of wealthy consumers under the age of 35—the most out of any age group—are considering a purchase of additional residential real estate in the next 12 months for personal use. These buyers also expect their home to appreciate by an average of 16% in the next five years, compared to 13% for buyers ages 45-64 and 11% for buyers 65 and older. Additionally, they are among the biggest spenders, as they paid $7.8 million on average for their last home, compared to $6.8 million for buyers between 35 and 44 years of age, $2.7 million for those between 45 and 64, and $1 million for buyers 65 and older. One reason for the price difference could be due to the kinds of homes they desire. Nearly three-fourths (72%) of respondents younger than 35 said that buying a move-in-ready home is important.

“Our agents in cities like Los Angeles and Miami tell us the same thing: new construction is king right now,” added Wright. “Younger luxury buyers are not looking for a project—they want everything turn-key, right down to the décor and furnishings. All of which, of course, adds to the home’s overall price tag.”

While location and price remain the most important elements in the decision making process for the majority of ultra-wealthy buyers, younger affluents are less inclined to choose a property based on geography. Thanks to convenient travel options and the ability to work from anywhere becoming more widespread, just 25% of the under-35 group reports that location dominates their search criteria, but 75% say that lifestyle considerations drive their choice of which home to buy. At the other extreme, 88% of buyers 65 and older say that location is the most potent driver of their next property search.

Younger affluents are also interested in different home amenities than their seasoned counterparts. Safe rooms (37%), home theaters (36%), pool (34%), outdoor kitchens (33%) and “green” or “eco-friendly” amenities (29%) remain at the top of the wish list for buyers under the age of 35. Compared to the 65+ demographic, those same features ranked far lower: 7% wanted safe rooms, 12% wanted home theaters, 16% wanted a pool, 17% wanted a pool and 10% wanted a “green” home.

To find more interesting comparisons between the age groups, download the complete Wealthy Consumer Survey: http://www.previewsinsideout.com/2014/10/exclusive-wealthy-consumer-survey-2014/

Statement Sweats Have Proved Their Staying Power

October 1, 2014
By Ruth La Ferla

Rita Ora was traveling quasi-incognito when she was snapped this year at Los Angeles International Airport wearing outsize shades, a blush-tone carryall, Air Jordans and a cushy sweatshirt, its hood pulled seductively over her brow.

Olivia Wilde recently strode the same passageways, the picture of ease in a biker coat … and sweatshirt, as did Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, who sallied toward the airport lounge wearing a dark fedora and … hey now, you know the refrain.

At the airport, a hub for the paparazzi, who tend to treat its fluid corridors as a makeshift red carpet, off-duty models and Hollywood A-listers have been flaunting their sweatshirts with careless élan, wearing versions embellished with eye-catching slogans, cartoons and jewels and pretty florettes or, alternately, opting for standard issue, raglan-sleeve varieties meant to signal, one suspects, that the wearer is just like you and me.

Clearly civilians relate, which may be why this cozy insignia of slacker chic, once reserved for furtive cigarette jaunts to the 7-Eleven or late nights on the sofa, binge-watching “Revenge,” has become the would-be style-setter’s trophy of choice, an item for all seasons — and occasions.

Its transition from nondescript wardrobe standby, the fashion equivalent of mac and cheese, to luxurious fashion mainstay now seems to have been all but inevitable. “The world of luxury has gone somewhat casual,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a consulting firm. “A lot of people don’t see sweatshirts as basic items anymore.”

Conversely, Mr. Pedraza noted, “a lot of basic items have gone premium.” He may have had in mind the sumptuous interpretations of this humble item that appeared on fall runways and are sold at Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom and Barneys New York and on upscale websites. Prices veer from $30 for an orchid-printed top by Altuzarra for Target to more than $4,400 for a Fendi version ornamented with fake fur, felt, swaths of mesh and crystal, but then, who’s counting?

Such gussied-up sweats can still play down one’s wealth while conferring enough raffishness to suggest that the wearer is too young, too prodigiously gifted or simply too chic to go in for a conventional 9-to-5 uniform. Indeed, these days the only thing inelegant about this once unexceptional garment is its name. And even that has had an upgrade.

Statement sweats, as they’re known in fashion-speak, emerged on the runways over two years ago, making their debut on the runway at Givenchy in the form of a photo-collage sweatshirt, followed last fall with a Bambi-print variation that became an instant fashion hit. The look gained traction in the spring with the parade of high-end sweatshirts at Theory, Kenzo and Alexander Wang, whose white shirt, cheekily inscribed with a “Parental Advisory” legend, was a fashion editor’s favorite.

Photo

Rita Ora moved through Los Angeles International Airport in fashionable sweats and accessories.

Sweats were reprised for fall at Rag & Bone, where a satin shirt was paired with paint-splatter jeans; at 3.1 Phillip Lim, with burnt-orange leather hoodies; and at Isabel Marant, where a lustrous camouflage shirt was shown with baggy fatigues. Surviving yet another season, they emerged for spring 2015 in a boxy version with cutoff sleeves at Jil Sander, covered in multihued sequins at Dsquared2, in a sunburst design at Fausto Puglisi, in silver at Norma Kamali and as a sleeveless top with an extravagant bow and as an evening dress at Bottega Veneta.

Like biker jackets, sneakers and skinny jeans before them, statement sweats have proved their staying power.

“Today it would be a misnomer to use the word ‘trend’ in reference to the sweatshirt,” said Tomoko Ogura, the senior fashion director at Barneys. Ever-evolving, it is now cut in sophisticated fabrics, including but by no means confined to cashmere, chiffon, organza, leather and lace, and offered in varying textures and shapes. So lavishly garnished are some that they are hard to place as sweatshirts at all. Yet consumers are responding, Ms. Ogura said, “because, while the designer’s hand is apparent, their utility is not compromised.”

Their utilitarian provenance is a talking point, indeed a boasting point, among luxury consumers who like to wear their shirts subversively with tuxedo pants or furs or, conversely, to throw on a sequin-encrusted versions to lend dazzle to their leggings or jeans. It’s like wearing a Casio watch with your Brunello Cucinelli cashmere pullover, suggesting a kind of inverse snobbery. “Like you’re playing the game without quite really playing the game,” Mr. Pedraza said.

In some quarters, sweatshirts, like sneakers, remain the great fashion leveler. Paraded this summer in men’s shows as diverse as Bottega Veneta, Neil Barrett and Lacoste, they seemed intended to mask distinctions of class and income or to render them obsolete. “Turns out,” as Guy Trebay noted in a New York Times fashion review, “Mark Zuckerberg didn’t need to outgrow his hoodie and shower shoes.” (Which is not to neglect those 99-percenters repurposing their gym togs as everyday wear in apparent deference to Gap’s recent injunction, in a series of fashion ads, to “dress normal.”)

“Sweatshirts flourish because they work for every demographic and every retail category — men’s, kids, junior contemporary and designer,” said Sheila Aimette, a vice president at the trend forecasting company WGSN. “They are cross-generational and cross-gender.”

Madeline Alford, a digital editorial assistant at Luckymag.com, has incorporated sweats into her workday regalia. Taking her style cues from the Lucky fashion staff, she may, on any given day, combine her black tubular jeans or leather midi-skirt with an oversize sweatshirt. “Instead of a chunky sweater, you could definitely wear a fleece,” she said, “something still warm and efficient.”

Function trumps showiness among Ms. Alford’s priorities. Fashion, she noted, has been gradually turning its back on the flamboyant extremes of street style in favor of a more accessible look. “Much as we love all that crazy, out-there style, it’s not for everybody,” she said.

Sweatshirts, on the other hand, merit her unstinting approval. “They’re what real women wear all the time,” she said.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/02/fashion/statement-sweats-have-proved-their-staying-power.html?_r=0 

September 25, 2014

Social network aims for country club status

StarTribune
September 25, 2014
By Katie Humphrey

It could be a story from “The Onion”: Join an online country club for the elite, memberships starting at $9,000.

Except it’s true. Last week, a Minneapolis man launched Netropolitan.Club, a social network for the rich and exclusive. Forget the commoners on Twitter and Facebook. Netropolitan founder James Touchi-Peters bills his site as “a place to talk about fine wine, fancy cars and lucrative business decisions without judgment.”

Its Sept. 16 launch got so much buzz — mostly of the snarky variety — that Jimmy Fallon mentioned it on “The Tonight Show,” imagining posts about firing the gardener and the caviar bucket challenge.

The site’s landing page got so many hits it was slow to load. Then the hackers descended. On Sunday evening, Touchi-Peters, who used to conduct the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra, pulled the site down for security upgrades.

“We were aware that people would try to hack the Netropolitan Club, but we were not prepared for the overwhelming amount of attacks,” he said in a statement posted on the Netropolitan Club’s Facebook page. (Because, apparently, even elite social networks need Facebook.)
He said it would be back up by the end of the week.

But will it catch on? We may never know. Touchi-Peters won’t say how many members have joined the site, or give any hint of their backgrounds. He also won’t give anyone a peek at the advertising-free network — unless they pony up the whopping membership payment.

“The attraction is that it’s private,” he said. “So far it’s exceeded our wildest expectations.”
Still, it could be a tough sell.

Privacy is valuable to the wealthy, but so is value, said Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, a New York City research firm specializing in data and insights of high-net-worth consumers.

“I’m a bit of a skeptic,” Pedraza said of Netropolitan. “What are the benefits?”

Previous attempts to create elite-only networks have mostly fizzled, Pedraza said. One that is still active, ASmallWorld, is focused on jet-setting young adults, offering travel perks and hosting parties around the world. Membership, by invitation only, is $105 a year.

Touchi-Peters, a musician who travels frequently, said Netropolitan is aimed at like-minded people who may not have time to socialize in person, a group he calls the “working wealthy.” Or, he said, it could also appeal to rich people who live in rural areas and don’t have access to traditional social clubs. Users create profiles and can post on message boards organized by interest.

“Most people are going to join to meet other people,” Touchi-Peters said.

More specifically, people who can afford $9,000 upfront and the subsequent $3,000 annual fee.
So much for the idea of an open, egalitarian Internet.

That was a myth, anyway, said Seth Lewis, assistant professor of digital media and journalism at the University of Minnesota. Even Facebook started as the digital playground of Ivy League college students.

“It’s almost like [Netropolitan is] trying to put the genie back in the bottle,” Lewis said, referring to the site’s exclusivity. “The proposition is interesting. It’s hard to see how it succeeds.”As for the name Netropolitan, Touchi-Peters said, it’s a play on the words “metropolitan” and “Internet.” He wanted something that spoke to a cosmopolitan crowd, but the title “Cosmopolitan” was already taken.

“Netropolitan does not stand for ‘net worth,’ ” Touchi-Peters said.

But you’d better be worth a lot if you’re going to get past the virtual gate.

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/blogs/277098901.html

September 23, 2014

Luxury Institute Survey Of High-Income Travelers from Europe, China and Japan Reveals Brand Status Ranking Of World’s Top Luxury Hotels

NEW YORK) September 23, 2014 – The New York-based Luxury Institute has released findings of its 2014 Luxury Hotels Brand Status Index (LBSI) survey of affluent overseas travelers who shared detailed impressions and evaluations of 37 global luxury hotel brands.

LBSI scores (1-10) are based on each brand’s perceived quality, exclusivity, social status and overall guest experience. In addition, affluent consumers weigh in on whether a hotel deserves premium pricing, if they would recommend it to people close to them and how likely they are to stay at a brand’s property on their next trip.

Here are the top five brands as rated by wealthy consumers from each region, with Europe including the U.K., Germany, France and Italy.

Europe:Small Luxury Hotels of the World (7.96), The Ritz-Carlton (7.95),Armani Hotels (7.88), Mandarin Oriental (7.86), Leading Hotels of the World (7.77)

China: Leading Hotels of the World (8.62), Oberoi (8.57), The Luxury Collection (8.54), Firmdale Hotels (8.53), Raffles Hotels and Resorts (8.50)

Japan:Aman Resorts (8.19), Oberoi (7.83), Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts (7.80), The Ritz-Carlton (7.73), Orient-Express Hotels (7.68)

“The luxury hotel industry is growing in potential, but also in the dramatic number of brands that have top tier offerings,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “The winners are those who can consistently provide remarkable guest experiences, as rated by the clients.”

Respondents reviewed the following hotel brands: Aman Resorts, Armani Hotels, Banyan Tree, Club Med, Como Hotels and Resorts, Conrad Hotels and Resorts, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Firmdale Hotels, Four Seasons, Grand Hyatt, InterContinental, Jumeirah, JW Marriott, Kempinski Hotels, Le Meridien, Langham, Leading Hotels of the World, Loews Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Mandarin Oriental, Oberoi, Orient-Express Hotels, Pan Pacific, Park Hyatt, The Peninsula Hotels, Raffles Hotels and Resorts, Regent, The Ritz-Carlton, The Rocco Forte Collection, Rosewood, Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Sofitel, St. Regis, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, W Hotels and Resorts, and Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts.

Contact the Luxury Institute for more details and complete rankings.

Visit us at www.LuxuryInstitute.com and contact us with any questions or for more information.

September 17, 2014

Can Apple Watch Win Over Swiss Luxury Giants?

By Sarah Mahoney
Marketing Daily
September 17, 2014

Talk about the clash of the titaniums: For centuries, nothing has said “Master of the Universe” as elegantly as a five- (or maybe even six-) figure watch. Yet for status-seekers who pride themselves on being early adopters, sporting the neighborhood’s first Apple Watch will be a big deal. (Especially since the tech insiders over at CNET are speculating that while Apple’s entry-level watch will be priced at $349, gold ones might sell for as much as $5,000.)

While Tag Heuer has said it’s working on its own smartwatch (and has already developed a smartphone), most luxury watch brands seem confident that the old-world chic of the Swiss will outlast any Silicon Valley buzz. And why shouldn’t they be? Sales of luxury timepieces are strong, and online interest for luxury watches is up 7% in the second quarter of this year, compared to the same period a year ago, according to the World Watch Report. In the U.S., that growth is relatively faint. But in the developing world, curiosity is rising fast: Online interest in these watches soared 23% in China, 22% in India, and 20% in Saudi Arabia. (Rolex is by far the most search-for brand, it says, followed by Omega, Cartier, Tag Heuer and Patek Phillippe.)

“The Apple Watch is a product that is not useful if you don’t own an iPhone,” says David Sadigh, CEO of the Geneva-based Digital Luxury Group, which publishes the report. “It’s a product that has been launched to bolster iPhones sales and put a first foot in the door into the smartwatch market. It won’t have a dramatic impact on the Swiss watch market at this stage, as the majority of the market is composed of brands at a luxury level,” he tells Marketing Daily in an email.

For now, watch brands seem to agree, and are ignoring the onslaught that so many techies are predicting. Piaget, for example, is unveiling a new “Perfection in Life” global advertising campaign, which positions its sexy timepieces in some of the planet’s prettiest places, including Geneva, Paris, “La Côte d’Azur,” and Los Angeles, and could have been taken straight out of a1960s jet-set travelogue. Shot by photographer Maud Rémy-Lonvis, they make each piece a hero: The world thinnest automatic watch, the Piaget Altiplano, for example, towers above the Manhattan skyline, while the Piaget Limelight Gala, with white gold set with diamonds, sparkles over the Hollywood Hills.

And just to prove it’s not completely unaware of the digital age, the company describes the effort as a “360° brand concept,” supported by social media. Consumers can post pictures of their own favorite cities to Instagram, hashtagged #Piaget and #PerfectionInLife, the submitted photos will be entered into a contest. A special Piaget jury will select 5 winning photos from the 50 that receive the most likes, and says they will be displayed in Piaget boutiques worldwide.

What the designers of smartwatches and wearables are missing, says Milton Pedraza, CEO of the Luxury Institute, “is that smartwatches like the Apple Watch are accessories. They’re functional, but they’re not emotional. Luxury watch buyers see their timepieces as art, an adornment, made with true artisanship. So they’re missing half the equation. Smartwatches don’t have the personality that luxury watches do.”

And while there will doubtless be luxury consumers who already own classic timepieces and who buy smartwatches too, “there’s only so much real estate on the wrist.” That means there a tremendous opportunity for tech companies to partner with luxury watch marketers, “to move beyond the generic, dramatically improve the aesthetic, and increase the appeal.”

For now, though, says Sadigh, “folks at Vacheron Constantin, Rolex and Patek Philippe can still sleep well at night.”

http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/234357/can-apple-watch-win-over-swiss-luxury-giants.html

August 20, 2014

Corruption and cognac: China’s crackdown hits luxury

By: Jacqueline Nelson
The Globe and Mail
August 20, 2014

Cognac has become the latest casualty in China’s war on corruption, a nationwide crackdown that has squeezed the country’s once-plump luxury goods market.

Shipments of the French brandy to Asia, in particular China, have fallen sharply in the past year. Both the volume sold and the total value of shipments dropped around 20 per cent, according to French-based trade group National Interprofessional Bureau of Cognac (BNIC). The Chinese slowdown played a major part in an overall decline in global sales of cognac, with shipments down nearly 7 per cent in the past year and total value falling 10 per cent, the BNIC said. And that came after three years of record sales.

President Xi Jinping began clamping down last year on the spendthrift ways of the country’s government workers, from military officers to politicians and civil servants. The crusade has put the kibosh on giving flashy gifts such as high-priced cognac or leather goods from Louis Vuitton, which had commonly been offered by officials to sweeten deals.

The fallout has slashed the sales growth of many luxury goods to low-single digits, and China is expected to keep this “lacklustre” pace of growth for the rest of the year, according to a recent report from Claudia D’Arpizio, a partner at consulting firm Bain & Co.

Ms. D’Arpizio projects the luxury goods market in China will grow by 2 per cent to 4 per cent in 2014, which is in line with Europe and a slower rate than North and South America. It’s a major change from China’s 20-per-cent increase in market size between 2011 and 2012.

“The corruption crackdown is still reducing sales,” the report said, noting that the stricter regulations were especially impacting gifting.

It’s a tightening spigot that one of the world’s largest luxury companies has seen first-hand. In its most recent quarterly results, Paris-based LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA, maker of Hennessy-branded cognac, cited heavy destocking of French brandy in China. The company attributed this to “anti-extravaganza measures” – a term used to describe the Chinese government’s limitations on extravagant spending. The company’s Louis Vuitton fashion line also saw softer sales in China in the quarter.

The financial results of other cognac-selling companies, such as Rémy Cointreau SA and Pernod Ricard SA, have also shown the Chinese market is a challenge. Fashion house Prada Group, and luxury giant Compagnie Financière Richemont SA, owner of Montblanc, Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels SA brands, have also been showing similar signs of strain in China.

“This famous gifting issue has impacted our business in China especially for most of our brands, because most of our brands were the most regarded and offered as a gift,” Richard Lepeu, co-CEO of Richemont, said on a recent earnings call.

It wasn’t long ago that China was seen as the future for luxury goods, as incomes there rose while Western shoppers pulled back because of the recession.

But now the region has cooled off and the world’s luxury market is entering a more mature phase. Retailers are reshaping their strategies in China from lengthening store hours to offering discounts in order to entice more customers to spend as growth slows down.

Some luxury producers are navigating the headwinds better than others. Burberry Group PLC’s past quarterly results showed double-digit sales growth in mainland China and Hong Kong. The company’s chief financial officer, Carol Fairweather, attributed this in part to targeting younger consumers and connecting with them digitally. The retailer is still betting on Asia to help drive growth and opened its first flagship store in Shanghai earlier this year.

Even more important than these strategic changes will be maintaining a reputation for quality. “Consumers are so much more discerning now in China,” said Milton Pedraza, chief executive officer of research and consulting firm Luxury Institute LLC. Brands such as Hermès, Bottega Veneta, Chanel and top-tier liquors are standing out with the Chinese consumers because they are truly unique and exclusive.

Tariffs and other charges often make luxury goods more expensive in China than abroad, leading many Chinese to buy their leather goods and other luxe products on trips. This is one area Canada benefits, as wealthy tourists flock to Toronto and Vancouver to shop, Bain’s report notes.

Unless a housing bubble or debt crisis threaten the Chinese economy, luxury brands may have seen the worst of the slowdown.

“I think by the end of the year we’ll be in a different mode. I think the government will have flexed its muscles, it will have made its point,” Mr. Pedraza said. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand out there.”

The government could risk encouraging a larger black market for goods if its purchasing limitations go on too long or become too stringent, he added.

And industry heavyweights such as LVMH are also betting the government sanctions will ease up in the future. The company is building out its cognac-production capacity in anticipation of future growth. “This will help the brands be in a good position when the destocking in China subsides, although this is expected to continue through the second half of the year,” said Chris Hollis, director of financial communication, on a conference call.

http://m.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/international-business/corruption-and-cognac-chinas-crackdown-hits-luxury/article20146104/?service=mobile

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